Have you ever noticed that as we grow older, we spend more and more time doing what we “should” be doing, rather than what we want to be doing?
Obviously as our responsibilities increase, so do the demands on our time.However, for some people, they seem to spend their lives living according to anyone else’s rules but their own.Sometimes these “rules” come directly from other people: parents; spouses; or friends; but other times they can be less clearly defined and come more from an unwritten expectation or ideology that the person has themselves.These rules are more ambiguous – not necessarily articulated by anyone, but more a “sense” of what is right or wrong – even if it doesn’t align with what they truly want or need to live their life in a way that meets their needs.For example, people might resist following a certain career path because their parents don’t deem it to be “good enough”. Others might stay in unworkable relationships because their friends would judge them otherwise. Others might avoid relationships altogether because they fear what “might” happen.
Why do people do this? The most simplified reason is that sometimes people subjugate themselves, that is, put more importance in what others’ want (or what they think others’ want), rather than make those decisions that are right for themselves. In the short term this often maintains the status-quo and a sense of calm because we get to avoid all that unpleasantness that comes from potentially going against what others want us to do, or we avoid the apprehension that comes along with taking risks. But in the long term, how happy can we be if we only live for others? How will we ever get our own needs met?
Something that I have come to realise (later than I would have liked to) is that the only way to be truly happy, and to truly live life meaningfully, is to live your life according to your own values. This means doing what is best for you first, then worrying about what everyone else thinks later. This doesn’t always mean taking the easy road – sometimes it can be uncomfortable to act in your own best interests (i.e. cutting off an unworkable relationship), but ultimately this is how we achieve true satisfaction. Otherwise we can end up feeling short-changed, disappointed, and like we are missing out.
For people who have spent their entire lives subjugating themselves to others, it can come as quite a shock to those around them. This is because we have conditioned those around us to expect certain things from us.But if those things ultimately don’t align with our values, it is our job to shift those expectations.Whether those around us are accepting or not, this is completely up to them and out of our control.Their reactions may cause us to reassess these relationships and if so, again we need to move forward in these relationships in a way that best meets our own needs first.That way we are able to move forward with relationships that truly meet our needs, and get us close to where we ultimately want to be.
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