I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved a good makeover. Whether it it’s Melanie Griffith turning herself into a sophisticated career woman in Working Girl or Alicia Silverstone giddily dolling up the new girl in Clueless, a Trading Spaces transformation or a Fab Five total-life-turnaround on Queer Eye, there’s just something joyful about seeing someone transform their life for the better.
I love that moment when a freshly scrubbed and dressed makeover candidate steps out in front of their astonished family and friends. Their posture is straighter, their smile toothier than it was before. Maybe they even do an awkward dance, or strut a little bit for the cameras. They know they look good, but more importantly, they feel good. They may have spent their lives feeling like an ugly duckling, but in this moment, they know they’re actually the swan.
The thing about about makeovers is that though on the surface they’re about making physical changes like a haircut or more stylish shoes or getting a new sofa, more often than not, they’re a tool for getting at much deeper issues. Watch enough Queer Eye and you’ll realize that baggy clothes often conceal body image issues, that a messy fridge or bathroom may indicate someone hasn’t been caring for themselves all that well, that an unfurnished home frequently belongs to someone who doesn’t believe they deserve much in life.
Makeovers don’t automatically fix these issues. But by effecting a physical transformation, they give people a vision of what life could look like if they decided to change. The problem with a lack of self-worth, or loneliness, or any other form of misery is that it becomes a prism through which we view the world, and ourselves. And tangible, visible changes are one of the most powerful ways to break through this scrim and give someone a picture of what might be possible in their lives.
A makeover can sometimes seem like a slick, made-for-TV kind of thing, but it’s so much more than that. Makeovers represent the potential within all of us to change. They remind us that we all have agency over our own lives, that we don’t have to take our lives as a given, but that no matter what has happened to us or how life has knocked us down, we all have the ability to move toward a happier, healthier, better life.
This was at the heart of my inspiration for the Joy Makeover, a new free program that launches this Monday, October 7th. The idea has been brewing since February, when I was reflecting on just how much in my life had changed since I first began studying joy. I started researching joy in earnest in January 2009, and two months later, my then-boyfriend dumped me — on my birthday. The end of graduate school was fast-approaching and I had no idea what to do next. I scored an interview with my dream job and then for months, crickets. They just didn’t call me back. I had started that year thinking I had everything figured out, and then suddenly, I felt completely lost.
Slowly but surely, my research became the guidepost by which I built my life. I learned that joy lives in moments, so I started to maximize the moments I had. It was clear that I was not going to be married by 30 and a mom by 33 as I’d always hoped. Owning a home? Who knew when that might be possible. I couldn’t dictate when these big dreams might happen in my life. (I still can’t.) But what I did have were great friends, a sunny apartment in a city I loved, and a few more months of school in which to soak up every bit of knowledge I possibly could.
I got a bike and felt like a kid as I rode around Brooklyn, a big grin on my face. I took a flower arranging class. I went on bad blind dates in my most colorful dresses. I started a blog that connected me to thousands of like-minded people, many of whom have become real-life friends. I color-coded my books and read poems when I woke up in the morning. I bought a pair of yellow rubber boots and splashed around in the puddles on rainy days. And while I waited for the life I’d planned, I created a life I actually wanted.
Immersed in this research, the changes happened almost unconsciously. I read about something, I tried it, and if it worked I kept doing it. It didn’t have the big reveal of a makeover, but it transformed my life just the same. But I wondered: what if someone wanted to intentionally create a more joyful life? Could I look at each area of life in a focused way and identify those small but essential changes that could help them build that life, the way I had done for myself?
And so the Joy Makeover was born.
Just as a makeover show always calls in a team of experts who specialize in a specific area like fashion or culture or food, I decided to do the exact same thing. And maybe I got a little carried away because the Joy Makeover features eleven experts! These women (and yes, they’re all women) are at the top of their fields, and more importantly, each has done in-depth research or has firsthand knowledge of how to create joy in her area of expertise.
Now here’s where I admit that I’m a little selfish, and share my real reason for choosing these experts: I wanted an excuse to talk to them and hear their wisdom on joy for myself. Yep, as much as I like to think I have all the answers, the truth is that I still have a lot to learn. And as I thought about how I wanted to grow as a person and deepen my own joy, I imagined… How amazing would it be if these women were like my personal joy advisors, pointing me toward those kernels of wisdom that could help me live a more joyful life?
And now they’re your personal joy advisors too. Over the next two weeks, we’re going to tackle topics like how to find more time for joy, how to rekindle the joyful spark in your relationships, how to find more joy at work, and how to hone your joyful style. I left every single one of these interviews buzzing, wanting to immediately share what I learned. The things I’ve put into practice have already made a difference in my daily sense of joy and peace. Here are a few of the things I’m most excited to share with you:
- How productivity expert Laura Vanderkam juggles four kids (and another on the way), two podcasts, releasing a book (or sometimes two) a year, and still manages to find time for joy every day.
- The one thing relationship therapist Nedra Tawwab says you can do right now to make the holidays more joyful and less stressful this year.
- A simple question Gretchen Rubin asks whenever she needs to make a decision that makes the right choice instantly clear.
- Sarah Copeland’s brilliant secret to eating healthy while still having a treat every day.
- Why tech detoxes aren’t a good solution for finding balance with the technology in your life, and what works better.
- Style maven Carrie Colbert’s genius trick for finding colorful clothes when shopping online.
- Color Factory design director Erin Jang’s foolproof way to get out of a creative rut and get inspired.
I’m going to stop there, because this list could easily be 100 items long, and well, we’re only four days away from the Joy Makeover’s launch, so very soon you’ll be able to see for yourself.
You can join the Joy Makeover here. It’s completely free, and not only gives you access to the full series of videos, but also a 25-page downloadable workbook that is full of thought-provoking reflection questions, key insights from each interview, and checklists to help you turn ideas into action in your own life. It’s your guide to creating more joy, every day.
Makeovers are fun, and I hope this one will be too. But they’re also vulnerable. It’s a leap of faith to leave behind parts of your life that made you feel safe, like those baggy clothes or that ratty old sofa, trusting that something bigger and better lies on the other side. Growth may be expansive and thrilling, but it isn’t always easy, especially if life has knocked you down lately, or you’ve been stuck in one place for awhile. To embark on a makeover is an act of bravery, and it’s a badge of honor just to get started. To that end, you should know that the Joy Makeover isn’t going to expire or disappear at the end of the two weeks. I hope you’ll dive in with us next week, but take the time you need to absorb, rewatch, and make real change in your own life.
As much as I love the big reveal in a makeover show, my favorite part actually comes a bit earlier. It’s when the person being made over sees themselves in the mirror for the first time. It’s a moment of amazement, but also one of recognition. They are meeting themselves again, becoming reacquainted with some long-buried self that they may have believed was lost, or that they forgot even existed, but was always there. The wonder of a makeover is not that it transforms us into something else, but that it reveals what was underneath the whole time.
Join the Joy Makeover here.
What part of your life are you most excited to make over for joy? Share with me below in the comments, or on Instagram, where you’ll find me @aestheticsofjoy.