As a child you’re a sponge, constantly soaking up information from the people in your life; values, priorities, political views, religion. You need direction and boundaries, and adults give it to you the best way they know how. They tell you what is acceptable and what isn’t. They affirm you when you behave in a way that is aligned with their ideals and punish you when you don’t. They show you what success looks like to them and what they view as failure. Naturally, they assume a leadership role in your life and as you grow you continue to come back to them for direction.
As you age into the teen years and the opinion of your parents becomes less desirable, you begin looking to your peers for affirmation instead. Is this outfit cool enough to wear to the party? Is this guy hot enough to date? You are incredibly vulnerable to opinions at that age and it is crippling for decision making. It is easy to abandon your genuine interests and friendships in pursuit of what is ‘cool’. The age of social media has only amplified this phenomenon.
But when do you transition from a follower to a leader? When are you developed enough to begin having your own opinion and owning it? Is it when you finish high school? When you reach the legal age of majority in your country? When you get your first job? When you graduate from university? When you get married? Have kids? Nobody tells you.
Nobody gives you permission to start being your own person.
I guess that’s because an essential part of the transition is being confident enough to make your own decisions, but many of us miss it completely, and the result is identity crisis and unhappiness in adult life.
I was a perfectionist and a people pleaser, this was a dangerous combination. I wouldn’t just do what I thought would make the people in my life happy, I would pour my heart and soul into doing it as well as I possibly could.
I graduated from my business degree with the highest level of academic achievement available. I never considered other degree options. My parents told me this was the path to success and I never questioned that, I just made it work. I worked in my family business for over a decade before I was brave enough to quit and pursue my own career. I stayed in a toxic relationship years longer than I should have because I was told that real love was loyalty, and divorce was failure. I allowed my ex husband to control almost all aspects of my life because I needed to be guided. I was certain that his love for me was dependent on my ability to meet his expectations.
Looking back, I don’t blame any of the people who’s instruction I turned into word of law in my life. It wasn’t the fault of my parents, my friends, my Christian upbringing or even my ex husband that I lacked identity, it was my own. I flailed around, desperately seeking advice that I could follow to a T with the goal of being validated afterwards. The result was an unquenchable sense of emptiness.
I remember feeling worthless and writing in my journal that I had no personality. I didn’t know who I was. I struggled with mental health issues; crippling anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and thoughts of self harm. No matter who told me that I was enough, it didn’t fill the void inside of me. This brings me to my point – what other people think of you doesn’t mean anything.
I realized that the people in my life were just as human as I am.
I was putting them on a pedestal, like they knew better than I did, but they didn’t! How on earth would anyone know more about what is right for you than you would? It’s quite absurd when you think about it.
It occurred to me that it was foolish to agonize over my life choices out of concern for what other people might think because, in reality, if they think about your life choices at all it wouldn’t be for long. Whether their reflection is positive or negative, they will quickly abandon it to resume thinking about what is most important to them – their OWN life choices. Why do we act like other people are out there obsessing over us? It’s narcissistic. Even your parents don’t have all day to think about your professional choices, if you got your nose pierced or whether or not you decided to break up with you partner. They have their own stuff to do!
You’re not doing anyone a favor by following every piece of their advice either. If someone cares about you, they give you recommendations because they want you to be happy! If you become a dentist but you hate every minute you spend looking into people’s mouths, the person who suggested that career path for you isn’t going to fall asleep at night thinking “I’m so happy she’s a dentist!” If they do, that’s pretty messed up.
If you do something embarrassing in a public place and one or more complete strangers see it happen they may laugh in the moment but I can guarantee that ten minutes later they will be back to thinking about what they are going to eat for dinner later, or why their crush is taking so long to text them back.
The last, but possibly most significant epiphany was that any judgement I received had way more to do with the inner turmoil of the person making the judgement than it did with me.
People project their stuff onto you. It is natural.
We are all looking at the world through the lens of our own experiences, and while we should be open to learning from others we don’t necessarily need to take their judgments to heart.
These realizations, while obvious in hindsight, were incredibly liberating. I was doing myself a massive disservice by making my life about other people. I took my life into my own hands and positive change came quickly.
I stopped asking other people what I should do and started making my own decisions.
I realized I didn’t owe anyone any information about my life. I stopped feeling like I needed to publish a weekly newsletter on my step by step thought process.
I stopped accepting the status quo and began making changes. I left my job. I moved cities. I left my marriage. I sought professional help for my mental health issues. I overcame addictions and substance abuse.
The person I am today didn’t appear overnight, but she revealed herself overtime. Turns out I always had a personality, I was just suppressing it to try and be someone else. As I began to care for myself in a meaningful way I became healthier than I ever had been before; both physically and mentally. Finally someone was looking out for me first.
I had to relinquish any fear of judgement in order to allow my most authentic self to emerge.
I had to give myself permission to be completely unfiltered and uninhibited in the pursuit of my interests, expression of my opinions and interaction with the people in my life. I had to accept something that really triggered my inner people pleaser – when you are true to yourself some people won’t like you – and that is OK.
This journey is a process that requires work, reflection, self awareness, determination and a thick skin but the results are worth it: a deep sense of peace, intention, purpose, gratitude, happiness and an ability to be present in your life right now as it is happening.
So queens, the reason why other people’s opinions don’t matter is because at the end of the day they don’t care about you. No one cares about you the way you need to care about you, because they are rightfully busy caring for themselves.
SO GO DO YOUR THING BABE!
Don’t ask anyone else what they think you should do.
Trust your gut and follow your heart. They will never lead you astray.
This blog was written by Jillian Kruschell, Regional Vice President for Crowned for Success (Canada West) and Founder of Hype Girl Coaching, a Life Coaching Practice exclusively for females focused on empowerment, self love, and smashing goals!
Check out Hype Girl at www.hypegirl.ca or on IG @hypegirlcoaching