Whose life are you living? Have you ever considered this question? If you’re not living from your most authentic self, you could be in danger of living someone else’s life.
As children, we are raised knowing the expectations of us from our families and friends. Adolescence is a time when we work extra hard to fit in with the group. And over our whole lives, our egos do a fine job of steering us toward the goal of fitting in, as well as keeping us on the “safe and narrow”. How many times have you heard the story of the frustrated artist whose father expected him to become a doctor or a lawyer? Or the woman who gave up her career because her mother thought she should get married and have children? How many times do we buckle under the pressure of what another person wants for us, only to a lead sad version of someone else’s life? These expectations become the “rules” we live our lives by.
Of course it doesn’t have to be that dramatic. It happens more often than not on a much smaller scale. We say “yes” because it’s expected when we really want to say “no” and run screaming for the hills. We give up little pieces ourselves all the time to please others. Women have an especially hard time with this, with so many people in our lives to care for—children, husbands, friends and relatives. I’m not saying to stop caring for others. What I’m saying is to be more conscious of what you choose for yourself and the consequences of your choices.
One way to do this is to learn to live from your values or what you truly want. Do you value, safety and security or freedom and adventure? Drama or balance? Solitude or community? Which value to honor is a dilemma we often face. Once we begin to explore what we really want or what feels best in a given situation we can begin to make choices for ourselves that will make us happy in the long run, that is, if you value happy.
I recently had such a dilemma. A friend asked me to help out at her daughter’s birthday party since my daughter would be attending the party. I was planning on having some precious “me time” on my quiet Sunday afternoon. But I said “yes, I’ll help,” because that’s what a “nice” person would do (Who made up that rule? Maybe a nice person would say “no” in favor of self-care so then they wouldn’t be grumpy.) However, I noticed I was beginning to feel resentful about giving up the time that I needed for myself. So, I weighed my values in the situation. Which value did I want to honor in this situation—quiet time for myself or helping a friend? Once I had my answer, I called my friend and explained to her that I could not help at the party. I had a much needed peaceful afternoon and was ready the next day to begin a new week well rested.
What would you have done in that situation? Would have said “no” in the first place? Would you have said “yes” and then felt resentful for giving up your “me” time? Would you have said yes and then changed your mind only feel guilty later? Noticing where you are on the continuum in your own experience and choosing what is most important for you is the first step toward creating a life you love.
It’s not always easy to live from our values. The more you get comfortable with breaking the “rules” and asking yourself “what do I really want to create in my life?” the happier you will be.