From the time I read the Liz Jones interview in The Stylist last week I’ve been riding a wave of slight bafflement. Did this interview with one of the UK’s most inflammatory, contrarian journalists strike a chord with me? I think so. Why?
It has something to do with the relationship between happiness and fulfillment.
Every article I’ve since read promoting Liz’s just published memoir, Girl Least Likely To, attempts to crack her journalistic facade only to realise there is no facade, just a woman who seems deeply unhappy, has been so from an early age, probably needs some form of help, fends off any true attempt to get it, and critically, is fuelled by an addiction to write controversially on any subject at any cost. And while Liz is adamant that she writes without frills to inform not for a thrill, her professional success is her poison and appears to have become her definition of fulfillment. She chases it with insatiable abandon, even though admittedly it impedes her being happy.
Then there’s me. I’m happy. I am lucky to have the things that matter to me the most: a loving family and husband, two wonderful children, fantastic friends, health and stability. In fact one of my downfalls is that when I relax and accept that I’m happy, I usually try to find something to worry about. It’s crazy. That’s something I love about young children, their boundless innocent happiness – you can’t put a price on that.
I think I do this because 1) I’m afraid something might go wrong (but as my mom taught me, you can’t live your life in fear!) and 2) while I’m very fulfilled in some areas of my life, I’m not as fulfilled in others that don’t involve relationships but merely myself. I’m talented at thinking myself into inaction, and feel I often feel that I’m stewing on untapped potential on unreached goals. And this does affect my happiness.
Unlike Liz, however, I (and I’d guess most people) don’t view happiness and fulfillment as mutually exclusive. They are not the same, but are deeply intertwined in an infinite dance of graft, passion and compromise. Maybe in order to reach some of my goals, to gain some additional personal fulfillment, I need to sometimes sacrifice something else that makes me happy. But on the other side of the coin, you don’t always choose to go after things that might make you fulfilled if their knock on effect might compromise your greater happiness.
That’s where I think Liz has got things so wrong. For her, it’s all or nothing. But it doesn’t have to be. You don’t get in life without doing, and Liz sure does do, but a little bit of compromise goes a long way for all of our mental health and it’s ultimately our choice to find that compromise, that balance.
Liz may claim she’s an example for women of “what not to be” that she’ll inspire from her mistakes….but I think that’s sad. Isn’t actually valuing yourself more inspiring? Isn’t working out the dance most important, even if it means a few topics are off limits?
Personally I think I need to work harder towards fulfillment in certain areas of my life but I won’t do so at all costs.