As far back as I can recall in my early adult years, I have based all of my decisions on the best interest of others. Now, I am not saying that you should not consider other people’s feelings when your decisions impact them. However, it is very easy to get caught in a pattern of people pleasing which ultimately will have a negative effect on your own life to the point that you forget to feel for yourself. A couple of examples in my life are quite small, however, some were major and created years of resentment. In my early 20’s I was my mother’s caregiver and worked full time in retail management in order to ensure that she did not need or want for anything. My dad had left her after she has a hysterectomy as a result of being diagnosed with cervical cancer (in case you didn’t know, cervical cancer develops from STD’s- thanks dad) My two much older brothers had decided that it was my job as the girl to take care of my mom and they went off to live their lives (karma has taken care of that). So I felt that the natural thing to do was to take care of her as I was not about to put her in a nursing home or leave her behind like everyone else. However, when it came time for me to settle some roots, I ended buying a condo that she liked, got the car that she felt most comfortable in, bought the furniture that she wanted, even continued to dress the way she wanted me to dress all to make her happy. This pattern continued on with my ex-husband. Throughout our marriage, I would base my decisions or limit my options based on what would make him happy. Where we would go out for dinner would be a matter of two restaurants that he liked. I wouldn’t dare suggest a new place that I would like to try in fear of him judging my tastes or choices and not to mention the tirade of verbal abuse that I would be subjected to. Suddenly one day, after going through my own battle with cancer, I realized that I was not going to spend any more time living the life that others want but instead my own. This process continues to evolve to this day but what I discovered was that layers of individuals peeled themselves away from me as I moved closer to making decisions for me. Very quickly, I realized that the people whom I once worked so hard to please, quickly turned to expressing their negative opinions of my choices. By choices I mean, going for a better career opportunity or getting a car that I really wanted. And let me not even start on the times that I decided to go to a new restaurant with my kids and left my ex at home because he refused to go where he did not agree. Oh well! It was amazing! The planet didn’t crack, the earth did not stop rotating, the birds did not stop chirping all because I made a decision to make myself happy. Imagine that!
This week’s post was inspired by the topic of what makes us happy. What does make you happy? Have you ever stopped to ask the question? Do you really know what brings joy to your heart? I am not referring to grand gestures of life’s meaning for you, although the point it to eventually get there. I am referring to small decisions that you hesitate on making because of the opinions of others or because we have put others needs as a priority. I am all too familiar with this. As a mom, it comes with the territory to put our kids needs before our own. However, I have learned that needs are very different from wants. I work hard and would like to buy myself a reward for achieving a personal goal. Is it wrong that I want to spend some money on a new pair of shoes instead of buying my son that video game that he has been begging me for? Guess what! It’s not. I have made the mistake of doing that throughout my entire life and as I look back I realize that I have not made very many decisions that make me happy. Instead, I always based my choices and actions on what others would think or what they would want. This type of behavior is what keeps us in a stalled pattern and can hinder us from achieving our potential. It keeps us from chasing a dream or living out our ambitions.
Fast forward 20 years from the scenarios I mentioned above and although I am still a work in progress as we all are, I feel more confident today than I ever have making decisions which make me happy. Such as, starting my own company, finishing school, buying a house that was a fixer upper (my daughter thought I was crazy) and this past weekend I got a tattoo! Now the last one is petty and it may seem a bit insignificant in today’s times but it was something that I wanted to do for quite some time. It was not the fact that I got a tattoo because to be honest I have a few already, but rather the placement of it. It is visible and present for anyone to see. That experience alone was so liberating. I did not have my self righteaous brother to judge me or the my mother’s voice making critical comments about what good girls do or don’t do or the voices of others whom have no impact in my life making comments or passing judgement onto me because of my decision.
These examples may seem very petty and insignificant in the big scheme of life. However, think about what decisions you have put aside or been too afraid of making because it would be frowned upon or because of fear of other people’s opinion. Do you want to write a book but are afraid that people will think you are wasting your time? Do you have an idea for a business and fear taking action because of the criticism you may receive? Do you long to change careers but hesitate to take action because of the unknown or what your coworkers may say? All I will say is that we have one life to live and it is far too short to be living it under someone else’s opinions. Be responsible, be kind, but be true to yourself and live your ambitions.