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What is Joy, Really?

Posted Joy Hartman on 4/18/2017 |


The Girls on the Run mission statement starts with, “We inspire girls to be joyful…” But what is joy, really? Thanks to the movie Inside Out, we may have a pretty adorable image of a spunky, energetic, blue-haired bundle of happiness as a permanent picture of how joy may actually look. But what is joy?

Happiness is based on what is going on around you.

Joy is described as what is happening within you.

Happiness is an outward expression of elation. Joy is an inner peace or sense of contentment, often associated with gratitude and feeling connected to another person. Watch any GOTR event and you will see happiness! You will see laughter, smiles, and tons of silliness – and all that happiness is really planting the seed for something far more valuable.

Through the laughter, through the smiles, through the silliness, girls are developing true joy. Joy is believing in yourself. Joy is knowing we will make mistakes, we will hurt someone we love, or we will fail at a task, but that we are still valuable and magnificent exactly as we are. Joy is knowing that laughter will lead us as we face difficult tasks. Joy is feeling the connection to each other.

Girls on the Run teaches girls that although the task ahead may be something she has never done, didn’t think she could do or is downright terrifying, she can accomplish her goals. Happiness is used to show girls they can look forward to their 5K with hope rather than dread and through that happiness, girls develop joy and can build on that throughout life. Joy is not in things, it is in us.

The character of Joy in the movie Inside Out is a great example of how happiness develops into joy. At first, Joy, the character, is desperate to keep the main character happy. She goes out of her way to ignore other emotions, push other emotions aside and battles to keep happiness. As the movie develops and as our girls develop through activities like GOTR, happiness begins to build joy. 

Happiness comes and goes and is never a guarantee but joy can be ever-present for our girls. During Girls on the Run, girls talk about comfortable and uncomfortable emotions. As a family therapist, I strongly encourage girls to feel all of the emotions of life, even the tough ones. Sadness, jealousy, and worry are a part of life and each girl will need to learn to manage those emotions.  Not one of us will make it through life without the tough emotions. 

Joy is knowing that in spite of the tough stuff, we are going to be okay.

Joy is being in the moment and being okay.

Joy is feeling good about yourself and about what you have to offer the world.

Joy is within every one of our girls!

Where do you see joy today?


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