Are You Asking for Permission to Live Your Life?
The hardest years of my life were the ones where I felt like I needed (and thus became desperate for) validation on every aspect of my life….
In some instances I was actually saying the words “What do you think about….?” and then feeling stuck within the bubble of those answers. In others I would look at the world around me, make assumptions and judgments and create my own, equally stifling bubbles, and then plant myself, suffocatingly inside.
When my oldest child was 4 months old I used to go to a new mom support group. It was hosted by a local doula, in her basement and it was everything a new mom needed – validation, support, companionship and judgment free ears to listen. Mia was a very happy and very outgoing baby and I remember the woman saying to me once, “As this baby grows you should ask her ‘but how do YOU feel about xyz…’ often”. She was picking up on an easy going nature that could sometimes lend itself to losing yourself and being too adaptable. At some point, years later I wondered if she wasn’t actually issuing that warning to me and not the chubby cheeked baby I was holding.
Today, at age 38, I stand firmly and confidently in *most* aspects of my life. I don’t question my decisions, I don’t question my actions, I don’t question my parenting. And I don’t ASK QUESTIONS about my decisions, actions or parenting. There’s this vicious cycle that occurs when we feel self doubt about a decision, seek out validation and then get answers that feel impossible to live up to…. leading to more self doubt, the need for further validation and ultimately a downward spiral of feeling like we can’t do anything right, yet needing others to see our value.
I’m not saying I don’t second guess myself and I’m definitely not saying that I feel this rock solid belief in everything I do. But there are certain aspects where I do not seek outside opinions (yes, I do still send pics of outfit choices to my besties…), and the more I focus on living within these spaces, and even expanding on them, the more I feel confidently like myself.
I’m also not saying to assume you have all of the answers, you probably don’t – but you DO have the answer to how you feel about things, what’s most important to you, and what will get you to your goals. In the world of social media where we are hyper-aware of how others do it, of the carefully curated lives we see and aspire towards, it can be so easy to make assumptions and believe that the key to our own happiness is by emulating someone we perceive to have the things we want. But it’s not true. Social media is not real. Even if aspects of it are real, it’s definitely not the full picture.
I spent years of my life believing so many lies about what it meant to be a wife, a mother, a friend, a business owner… they were lies that permeated my mindset because I hadn’t yet established my own beliefs. When you are ROCK SOLID in who you are and what is important to you, you don’t need outside validation, you don’t need to ask the questions and you don’t need other people’s opinions to shape your life.
There are people in your life whose opinions will obviously be necessary to consider, and I’m not suggesting you walk around with a “my way or the highway” kind of attitude. What I am suggesting is that if you are clear of what you believe and on the person you are (and are striving to become), making decisions becomes exponentially easier. If you feel like you second guess yourself, compare yourself and constantly ask those around you “what do you think of …?” STOP. Take a step back and start asking yourself that question instead.
Chances are you don’t parent like the lady you follow on instagram. You probably don’t cook dinner like that blogger you follow or even like your neighbor or best friend. And that’s ok. THAT’S OK! You’re not supposed to. When you try to mirror the behavior that you think is the “right way” to do something or you try to emulate the things you assume you’re supposed to do as a wife, mother, etc…. you’re missing a huge piece of the puzzle. You’re missing the YOU piece. The part that says that you get to decide what you want your family to look like, your single life to look like, your work or business life to look like. Stop trying to make the pieces of your puzzle fit into someone else’s life – they don’t fit, because they don’t belong there!
This could definitely fall into that easier said than done category, not because it’s difficult, but because it’s SO much easier to simply NOT do it (same is true with most things in life)…
The first step to uncovering who you are and what you want is to journal. A daily brain dump. Not a Dear Diary, today I ate too many potato chips and wore my favorite jeans…. A brain dump of just letting it all out. Set a timer and try to make it longer than 15 minutes. You can usually get through most of the surface stuff in about 10-15 minutes and then once you’re in a rhythm, the words flow easier and you can get to the good stuff. Use prompts like WHO AM I? WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT TO ME? WHAT MAKES ME HAPPIEST? WHERE DO I WANT TO BE IN 5 YEARS? WHO DO I WANT TO BE IN 5 YEARS? WHAT DOES MY IDEAL DAY LOOK LIKE? Get specific and if you hit a snag or a mind-block, ask yourself, “why is this important to me” or “why does this feel so hard”. That last question can often lead to the things that are holding you back…. For example, you might write about wanting to be a blogger, having loved writing since you were a child, about wanting to reach people with your words, share a story that others might be inspiration or value in. And then when asked why it feels so hard you realize how terrified you are of putting yourself out there. How you feel like because you seem to have your sh*t so together in so many other aspects of life, would people realize, in reading your blog, that you’re a hot mess and don’t know anything?
Write. Find books that make you think about yourself, your life, your values, your direction…. write some more. And then do something!