Are you a serious person?
Is it hard for you to be playful?
You want to, but you just can’t let go. Like an old jacket you’ve been wearing too long, and the zipper is stuck.
Various upbringings lead to serious personalities. Maybe you had serious parents. Perhaps you were the only one taking care of things, and so you had to be serious.
If you never got to be a kid, and the world’s weight rested on your shoulders, it can be incredibly difficult to let go. It can feel impossible.
But by taking baby steps, it is possible. Just the act of wanting it to be possible moves you closer. That’s all you need to start.
Once there was a little girl growing up in a difficult family. Both her parents were alcoholics, (the booze for breakfast kind).
She had siblings that couldn’t take care of themselves, nor could her parents sometimes.
It was a role that needed to be filled, and so she stepped her little feet into shoes too big. She woke everyone for school. She cooked and cleaned. She made the coffee and drank it while other kids were still sipping their chocolate milk.
She got good grades. She was never in trouble. After all, life was hard enough. She was doing her best to hold it all together. She had a job at 14. She worked full time when she wasn’t going to school. Buying Christmas and birthday presents was a great joy to her.
She did all the right things and went to college and got a good job. Having had all the best demonstrations, she knew what she didn’t want for her life.
From the outside, she was doing so good, she had it all together and was on track. But she couldn’t relax, especially around her siblings. She’d helped raise them and needed to be on her guard all the time. They couldn’t see her being silly.
As she got older, she began to yearn for more joy in her life. To relax and play. Even play with her own kids was hard. It was foreign to her.
So slowly she began to try. Attention to the problem helped her find solutions. And this is how she learned to let go.
Have the Right Mindset
You see the problem. You’re too serious. On vacation you stress people out because you’re too worried about being everywhere at specific times and making sure everyone has fun. It’s so important to you, that you ruin the fun.
See the problem and start learning to help yourself.
Having the right mindset can do wonders. You’re doing this for the right reasons. You want to have fun, you want your family to have fun, you don’t want to pass this down to them.
So, focus on why you’re doing this, and how to do it.
If you know you’ll be stressed on vacation, have someone else plan it. Learn to let go of that. It might be hard at first. If so, start smaller. Go on a day trip that someone else plans. Someone you trust.
Work your way up to a big vacation. If you don’t have to be in charge, and know someone else is taking care of it, you can focus on the experience. Focus on having fun, on making memories with the people you love. Memories for yourself.
It doesn’t matter what you’re doing on the vacation. This vacation should be about having fun with the people you love. If the person planning it doesn’t take advantage of every tiny thing you could do in that town, that’s okay. It’s about the fun.
All that time you spent being so serious. You earned the right to play. It’s your turn. You’re not a kid anymore, but you can be on the inside.
Play Pretend with Kids
Play with your kids, or with your friend’s kids.
Kids hold the keys to joy. They don’t know life is so serious. They laugh, they imagine, they adventure. Be like the kids.
This will feel awkward at first. Even in a house with just you and your child, you might feel ridiculous. Breath through it.
Do it anyway. Make it up as you go. Your kid isn’t expecting an award-winning script, they just want to play. This is something they might remember forever. And they won’t remember how brilliant the story was, they’ll remember the fact that you played.
And it teaches you the fundamental skills to playing. The stakes are low. Nothing will happen if you aren’t good at it.
And the more you do it, the better you’ll get. It’s a great place to start.
Grab the action figures and play pretend, jump on the trampoline, go for an adventure walk, draw, color, or anything else your kid likes to do.
Scheduling time for this wouldn’t be a bad idea. You won’t feel like playing. That’s your brain resisting behavior it’s been taught not to do. Unteach it. Explain to yourself you’re safe now and you can let go a little.
Doing this in small doses while seeing it’s okay, can help you learn new patterns. New ways of thinking can be difficult to implement, but it gets easier as you go.
Be Silly with Adults
Maybe when you go out with friends, you watch the others be silly. You smile and pretend to be enjoying yourself. All the while, in your deepest heart, you wish you could be having as much fun as they are. You’re not, because you can’t let loose.
Letting loose doesn’t have to mean getting black-out drunk and dancing on tables. It just means relaxing enough to enjoy yourself without caring what anyone else thinks.
That goes hand in hand with being serious. You don’t want to look like a fool. You think you have to be perfect all the time. Spoiler alert, you don’t. And half the time no one will even notice or care.
After mastering play with the kids, play with adults is the next step.
My best tip for this is to hang out with someone new. It can take a while to be able to let loose with people that haven’t seen you do it before.
They have an idea of who you are and will definitely notice if you act out of character. So, act out of character with someone new.
Work your way up to it with the people that know you best. And tell them what you’re trying to do so they don’t make a big deal out of it.
Say “Guys, I’m trying to be less serious. I’m really trying to let go more. So, if I’m acting silly, just go with it.”
It helps them feel included on your journey and they’ll be less likely to make you feel weird about it.
You did what you had to at the time to survive. A serious mind was needed at the time. Because you chose to be serious, you were able to make it through, and probably help others as well. Without you, the story would have ended very differently.
Feel proud of that. Don’t wish to change it. But realize, it’s your turn to play. Enjoy the security you spent so much time building for others.
It can be a long road to un-learn all the things you learned growing up. Things you had to learn but are no longer serving you.
Growth doesn’t happen in one day. It happens slowly. As you invest time and energy into it, you’ll see changes.
I went from meticulously planning and heading the charge of every vacation and event, to letting someone else do it. They tell me what time to be ready to leave and what to bring. I focus on enjoying the moment.
It took a long time to get there, but I got there. And you can get there too.
As the mother hen, you tend to attract people that need mothering. Start paying attention and seeking out other responsible people. Make room for them in your life. It helps to have someone else you can count on to plan things and lead the charge. Makes it easier to let go of control.
Slowly start playing. Play with kids, play with adults, play alone. Schedule time for fun. Make room for it in your life too.
It’s really as simple as that.
Love your life and play within it. Life is too short to be serious all the time. Good luck on this journey. I know you can do it.
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