Mama, Sometimes You’ve Just Got to Create Your Own Joy

On November 25th, I was “mom-shamed” for the first time.

I posted a picture on my Instagram that was sponsored by a car company. I was holding my Starbucks out the window, celebrating fall adventures including visiting our month-ish old daughter in the NICU, where she had been since her premature birth on October 17th.

A comment on the post read, “I just don’t understand how you can be so happy and make all these posts with your child in the NICU. Any time my kids were in the hospital I never left their side. Are you okay?”

…I know.

SO many folks so kindly and professionally jumped into supportive mode, exactly like any good girlfriend would, and for that I was SO thankful. This Monday Mantra is not to rehash any of that absurdity if being questioned for being “so happy.” This Mantra is about JOY. Because later on in that same comment thread, Negative Nancy commented again to say that “the overwhelming joy in each post is disturbing,” referring to the joy that I apparently exude through my content.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Erica Ligenza Gwynn // PHILLY (@ericaligenza) on

Girlfriend, the world can be a rough, tough place sometimes. Oftentimes. So I’m here to tell you to create your own joy.

Create your own joy.

Create your own opportunities to become more joyful in life. Stop waiting for joy to fall into your lap. I heard the coolest quote on happiness once that said, “Happiness isn’t served to you; it’s earned. It’s created.” Think about that.

Happiness is earned. Joy is EARNED.

Meaning, it takes intentional action to achieve.

Happiness isn’t just something we magically stumble upon on the sidewalk. Joy isn’t something we luckily sit next to on the subway. Sure, we might witness someone ELSE’S joy by sheer happenstance, but to absorb that and carry it onward for ourselves? That takes some effort. It can be HARD to find joy in some circumstances. Heck, maybe even downright impossible. But nothing is impossible with God. And the only way that we’ve gotten through what we had up to that point was through the sheer power of prayer, and by intentionally choosing to create our own joy every single day—to recognize and celebrate the good things and little victories instead of dwelling on anything less.

Create your own joy.

When you want to become smarter in something, what do you do? You study.

What about becoming stronger? Whether that’s at the gym, or in the mind? You practice.

You take control of the one thing that you always can control no matter the circumstance: your perspective. When you put your perspective in check, the pieces start coming together to form a better, brighter picture that more closely resembles your end goal. When you study to become smarter, you’re setting yourself up for success by doing everything in your power to know more tomorrow than you do today. Same when you’re working out—you do 10 push-ups today so that you can do 15 push-ups tomorrow. Do more today to be more tomorrow.

So you wanna feel more joy in life? What are you doing today to be more joyful tomorrow? Are you filling your moments with things that make you happy? Are you focusing your mind on positives instead of negatives? Are you shifting your perspective to the good instead of harboring on the not so good? If we sit and sulk, we can’t blame anyone but ourselves for our lack of happiness. Heck, if anything, we made our own moods MORE sucky by sulking and sitting in that feeling of “everything sucks” rather than TRYING to brighten the day with something sunnier.

Create your own joy.

Here’s the real deal. Yes, our situation—in many ways—“sucked.”

It sucked having our daughter nearly two whole months early because of unexpected medical complications that put both her and my own life in danger.

It sucked being on magnesium sulfate, and it sucked being catheterized in the vagina. (Yup, that happened.)

It sucked living at the NICU for months, feeling helpless as I worked by her bedside as she slept, just to distract my mind.

It sucked even more when she got mysteriously sick and required an immediate emergency transfer to a bigger, better NICU…an hour and half away from our house.

It sucked commuting every single day to see her instead of snuggling her by the Christmas tree whenever for as long as we want (and it sucked having her first Halloween, Thanksgiving, AND Christmas in the hospital).

It sucked having to watch her from a camera in the moments when we couldn’t be physically with her during the day.

BUT. There’s a WHOLE LOTTA LIFE to live, and a whole lotta life that can feel pretty darn sucky at times. Every coin has a head AND a tail. Some things in life are obviously joyful. Like being personally serenaded by Justin Timberlake or winning a prize in Bingo (hollah!). Other things in life might not be just joyful—finding the joy in the moment can be like finding a $20 bill in a pocket when you’re up to your elbows in dirty clothes on laundry day.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Erica Ligenza Gwynn // PHILLY (@ericaligenza) on

Joy comes from perspective. While there was so much “suck” in the situation, there was still JOY to be found and celebrated in the peanut that is Olivia Grace, who just so happens to be the best thing on planet Earth. (Even though we had NO idea when she would pull through and be discharged from the hospital). Sure, to someone who refuses to choose joy and/or can’t create her own, being joyful in our current situation might seem absurd—downright delusional. But at the end of that day, I feel sorry for folks like that. Because when you can’t create your own joy, your life lacks a whole ’nother level of happiness that no one is responsible for but yourself. Girlfriend, it’s time to stop b*tching about your own life if you’re not actively working to change it. Of course, some things like mental illness or a lack of privilege pose legitimate roadblocks on the journey towards a joy-filled best self. This isn’t to ignore that—it’s to simply hold yourself responsible for as much as you reasonably and realistically can, in creating joy within the context of your own everyday life.

We all have “those days.”

Those days where you just feel like you’re being pulled in seven different directions too many, and you’re on the brink of either doing something awesome or falling hard.

Those days where you can’t decide whether you’re really, really excited and on top of it or really, really scared and three steps behind the pack.

Those days when you just wish you had a personal assistant that could keep track of life for you and pass you Fudge Shoppe cookies and force you to hit the gym afterwards and then take over for the night while you kick back with some champagne.

Here’s the thing: those days will come.

The days of feeling insecure, stretched too thin, uncertain, and scared don’t add up to a bad life or a bad person or a bad business or a bad anything.

They’re just those days.

In the end, there’s one key to make it through those days: create your own joy. Don’t just take it from me—take it from good ol’ Albus Dumbledore. “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light.”

Create your own joy.


This is an excerpt from Caffeinate Your Soul: 52 Monday Mantras, available May 5, 2020.

All 52 readings in Caffeinate Your Soul are anchored in mantras— truisms to be savored and unpacked, such as: It Gets Better; The Grass is Green Where You Water It; and Why the Hell Not?

An ideal way to kick off the new workweek routine, a virtual book club conversation starter, or a sitdown-and-finish-it-all Sunday afternoon read, the book offers real-world wisdom in bite-sized portions.

Erica Ligenza Gwynn
Erica Ligenza Gwynn is a one-woman blend of millennial chic, big heart, and savvy inspiration. As the founder of hit lifestyle blog Coming Up Roses, the Philadelphia-based business owner, mom, and wife covers every angle of modern young womanhood, from fashion and beauty to relationships and entrepreneurship. Determined to share what she’s learned, Erica also created BossPitch, an accessible online course that guides aspiring bloggers and social media influencers through finding and maintaining the right brand partnerships. Erica also dives into tactical tips to help others not just survive but thrive in life during her weekly THRIVE PODCAST. A motivational, hilarious, candid voice that hundreds of thousands of followers trust daily, she pushes women to see their true worth, take action, and savor their lives. Erica’s first book, CAFFEINATE YOUR SOUL: 52 Monday Mantras, is out May 5, 2020.

Related Posts


Recent Stories