Do you ever feel like you’re being pulled in two entirely different directions?
On the one hand, you’re keenly aware of what your soul desires. But on the other hand, you’re constantly worried about what others want for you. You fear their judgments and you’re always wondering: “But what will people think?”
Not going to lie: one of the trickiest parts of my own healing journey has been determining the difference between what I genuinely want and what I’ve been programmed to want by my family, friends, and society at large.
And I’m not the only one with that struggle! It’s a question every single one of us must wrestle with.
The world will ask you who you are, and if you don’t know, the world will tell you.
– Carl Jung
However, it’s no wonder that so many of us live for others (and not for ourselves).
As children, we literally need the love of our parents to keep us alive and happy. That love should be given unconditionally, but many of us learn quickly that it isn’t. Our parents shine their light only on the parts of us that they approve of. So we quickly learn how to “mask” our not -approved-of (and therefore, not lovable) parts, in order to get that love.
Then we enter the school system. Schools were literally formed to train factory workers. They teach us to live life by the ringing bell, to eat at certain times, and to always defer to the voice of authority (even though definitely not all teachers have the best interests of children at heart!).
By the time we reach adulthood, is it any wonder that we feel a bit confused?
While we all crave validation and approval from the important people in our lives, as conscious adults, we must also take the chance that we won’t always get it when we pursue what’s important to us.
If we don’t take that chance, we will simply never live in authentic alignment with who we really are.
And I know you already know what that feels like: perpetual life dissatisfaction. Constantly judging yourself for not reaching your potential. If you go on for too many years without, you might even fall out of touch with your desires completely. But you won’t feel genuinely satisfied and happy with your life. Instead, you’ll feel empty, bored, bitter, or even straight-up angry at the world–even though you’re not really sure why.
Learning how to create internal validation instead of chasing external validation is the only way to break this cycle. So if you’re ready to live life for yourself (and not everyone else) here’s a simple five-step guide to help you do that.
How To Live For Yourself (& Not Others) | 5 Steps
Live For Yourself Step #1:
Get In Touch With Your Desires
Just like Allie in The Notebook, we only answer this question with “It’s not that simple” when we are busy wondering what the rest of the world thinks.
What will my parents think? What will my friends think? What will it look like on social media?
Trying to get ahead of all of those different ideas is exhausting. And frankly, leaves very little time to figure out what you actually want.
The more voices are in your head, the more difficult it will be to figure out what’s yours.
Here are a few things to consider:
No matter how hard you try, you can never fully predict how someone else will think about you. They are always going to have their own thoughts and beliefs, some of which are wildly unpredictable.
They are also on their own life journey, which means that they might have drastically different opinions now than they did in the past. Trying to guess what those opinions might be is like trying to hit a moving target. Sometimes you will succeed, but other times, you might try really hard to get it “right” and fail anyway.
Ultimately, it’s important for your decisions and actions to reflect your values. If you don’t get that part right, nothing else matters. If you don’t feel comfortable with yourself, all of those outside voices of approval simply won’t be enough.
To become truly happy, you need to approve of yourself first. Then if you get any other voices of approval along the way, they’re just icing on the cake.
Live For Yourself Step #2:
Advocate For Yourself
Now that you know what you want, the next step is to advocate for yourself. That means communicating those thoughts and desires (yes, to the people you know!). Because if you don’t learn how to get your own back, what’s the point?
However, I don’t mean broadcasting every last opinion to anyone who will listen. (My goddess, who has the time?) But speaking up for yourself when it’s important is a skill that will serve you well for the rest of your life.
- Choosing the restaurant (instead of saying “Oh you decide!”)
- Saying what you actually want (in job interviews, first dates, etc.)
- Saying what you feel when it’s important (ex. “I love you” even when the other person hasn’t said it first)
- Respectfully disagreeing with someone close to you
- Setting boundaries in general
Warning: if you’re not used to doing this, it will feel foreign and strange–or even straight-up bad. But being authentically you takes practice. Start with these small steps and it will get easier to advocate for yourself with time.
Live For Yourself Step #3:
If you’re a people pleaser, this one is tough. But eventually someone, somewhere is simply not going to approve of you, your decisions, opions, or actions. The important question is: how do you feel about that?
Remember, other people’s opinions of you are none of your business. Making them your business is a set-up for failure. Think about it: if you try too hard to control what other people think, you are actually trying to manipulate them–and that’s never kosher.
Instead of trying to force people to think a certain way, it’s so much healthier to just learn how to let it go. Let people have their opinions. Let them be “disappointed in you”. Let them project all their insecurities onto you if they want to. Don’t waste your energy fighting the inevitable!
If you feel truly insecure about those possibilities, please know this is your subconscious fear of rejection or abandonment–and no amount of external approval will fix those core issues. How can you approve of yourself? When you learn how to do that, you won’t need the outside approval quite so badly.
Live For Yourself Step #4:
Reassess, Adjust & Recalibrate
One key practice of personal growth is constantly taking the time to reassess and readjust. Our aim is to always make ourselves happy. However, we are creatures in a constant state of growth. What makes us happy will change and shift, just as we are always changing and shifting. In addition, we will always find ourselves as we encounter new situations in life. We learn a lot about ourselves through our own actions–and mistakes.
“Did that feel good or not?”
“Was that in alignment or not?”
“What can I do differently next time?”
Don’t expect yourself to have all the answers already. You are far too complex and unique for that and your life is happening to you moment by moment. If you try to hard to attach yourself to the values you had yesterday, you’ll miss out on your own growth. Likewise, if you get too upset with yourself about the inevitable mistakes you will make, you are just creating emotional chaos for yourself that’s needless.
Be flexible, curious, and forgiving. Only then can you let yourself blossom to your next level.
Live For Yourself Step #5:
As humans, we must find the balance between comfort and growth. On the one hand, we need security so our nervous system isn’t constantly triggered and we’re not always stressed out.
But on the other hand, we need the challenge of the unknown for novelty and continued growth. If we don’t, we are guaranteed to become bored or dissatisfied. Or we’ll simply lose touch with what we really want and end up settling for a life that feels less than spectacular.
It’s not always easy to go out and set bold new targets. It’s really hard to try new things and to fail (which you will inevitably do). But without those things, your wild curious inner spirit has no chance at expressing itself at all. You must push yourself to do go beyond what you have from time to time. A bold aligned and juicy life is guaranteed to come with some bumps and bruises from the journey. It can be no other way.
So tell me: do you find it hard to live for yourself? What steps from this guide do you need in order to ditch outside validation and approval and finally live life on your own terms?
Learning how to live life for yourself is the only true path to an authentic, powerful, and free life. Letting go of those outside opinions might seem terrifying at first, but it’s the one true path to freedom.
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