We discuss with our kids and teens the importance of thinking and acting for themselves. We remind them that they don’t necessarily have to wear whatever clothes may happen to be trendy at the moment… and that they don’t in fact have to listen to music that blows just because their pals do. ? We understand the value of encouraging them to think independently.
…But what about us? We adults may not be tempted to wear outfits such as this:
…however we buy approval from each other in much more subtle ways. And that has consequences.
Basically, if you are doing something you don’t want to do in order to keep the peace, you are buying approval. At the cost of your own integrity.
- “I hate handbag parties, but [insert gal pal] will be pissed if I’m not there.”
- “I can’t quit my job; my husband would freak out!”
- “No I never sleep enough; but I have to do X, Y, & Z for my kids before I go to bed!”
- “I can’t express how I really feel; people will think I’m overreacting.”
- “I have to work 7 days/week; my clients expect it.”
^^Notice that every single one of those statements puts your power in the hands of someone else.
I have had countless conversations with people who believe that they must run themselves ragged, or do things they despise so as not to “let anyone down.” Smiling and nodding, silent acceptance, or grinning and bearing it are what we do when we are afraid to ruffle feathers.
So let’s think through this logically for a moment….
If the people in your inner circle want you to do X but X makes you miserable, may I gently suggest two things? Either 1) your peeps don’t really want you to be miserable and would be open to you not doing X… OR 2) it’s true they don’t care that X makes you miserable, and it’s probably time to find new peeps.
If you don’t know if yours is case #1 or #2 above, the easiest way to find out is to, uh, yeah- just go ahead and do what you want to do. Your inner circle will sort itself out. We live in a gigantic beautiful world. If the people around you at the moment don’t happen to approve of you being you, chances are reallyreallyreallyreallyreallyreally good that you will find other people who do.
Think for a moment about the ratio between what you do for yourself and what you do out of obligation to somebody else. Everything from your facial expressions to your clothing choices to your social media updates to your habits to your lifestyle to your chosen relationships. I guarantee that the people who feel the most free and happy are the ones speaking their minds, taking action, and being “selfish” more often than not.
^^”Noooooo but Kristen, I can’t be selfish!!!! I want to make others happy! I love taking care of people! I am a peacekeeper! It’s just who I am!”
Ok, stick with me here….
Are you a better spouse when you are truly happy and freely expressing yourself OR when you are gritting your teeth, holding back your words, and pasting a fake smile on your face?
Are you a better parent when you are well-rested, exercised, and clear-headed OR when you are frazzled, under slept, and frantically racing around with no time to collect yourself?
Are you a better employee/business owner when you love your work OR when you have to fake your way through each day, smiling and nodding so you don’t piss anyone off?
Are you a better friend when you can have open and honest conversations, OR when you silently agree with and/or accept everything your pals say so as not to create an argument?
My friends, what good is it to keep the peace on the outside if your insides are in complete turmoil? That’s what martyrs do. That’s what victims do. And it’s a great recipe for misery.
Author Byron Katie alerted me to the fact that true love does NOT require us to buy the approval of our nearest and dearest, but to just show up for them genuinely as we are. You aren’t doing anybody any favors by telling them what they want to hear or doing what you assume they want you to do. Give them the chance to accept YOU. If they can, your relationships will be deeper and more solid than ever. If they can’t, then you can choose to keep your power and move on.
If moving on scares you:
- That’s normal and ok… I recommend acknowledging the fear. And then moving forward anyway.
- At the end of life, do you want to look back and think about how pacified you kept everyone? Or about all the cool things you did?
- Remember that plenty of people (including me) will have your back when you decide to go out on a limb. ?
Ok? Ok. Now, carry on being rockstars!