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Generally, we aren’t living our most authentic lives.
We’re constantly seeking approval, permission, and love from pretty much everyone around us. And therefore, we naturally take actions that form specific experiences, which ultimately create a life that we think other people will approve of.
I used to believe that this was all a load of bullsh*t, but a particular event in my life completely changed my mind.
While I was studying, I was constantly seeing articles written by people in their 20s who’d created massive businesses and making a sh*t tonne of money within just a few months of starting their business.
In my eyes, they had life in the bag. Everyone looked up to them, they had more money than they could spend, and they did whatever they wanted. I couldn’t imagine anything better, and without a doubt in my mind, I decided that was the path I wanted to follow.
So I listened and learned about everything they preached. Work 16-hours a day, hustle, f*ck university, and f*ck working for other people.
A few months later, I finished my studies and started my career as a freelancer full-time. I found myself working harder and longer hours than I ever had before—and with that came loads of stress and anxiety as my bank account hit zero every Monday morning at 10 a.m. when the rent went out.
I ended up borrowing money from my closest peers to keep me afloat, putting my most valuable relationships at risk, and I still got nowhere. It was a disheartening time where I lost a lot of confidence, motivation, and happiness.
Once I was on the brink of having to move back in with my parents, I was lucky enough to secure a part-time job. It was completely unrelated to what I wanted to be doing but at least it meant I could support myself financially for the time being.
Why did I allow myself to go through this?
I was completely underprepared, had no savings, and limited business connections. A smarter way would have been for me to secure a part-time job right away and slowly built up my business from there. Deep down, I knew this was a better path. But my ego got in the way.
I wasn’t creating my own unique story and I wasn’t really living for myself. I was living to impress everyone else. I wanted to be able to tell the story of dropping out of university and creating a huge business from nothing in the shortest possible time.
I was looking for attention, approval, and love from my peers and even complete strangers. I based my self-worth completely on how others saw me. Later, I learned that the more we rely on external sources to justify our self-worth, the less control we have over our lives. We’re basically allowing the outside world to decide how we’re going to feel each day.
It’s easy to be subconsciously persuaded by what you hear, read, and see on a daily basis…so much so that you start living your life in a way that builds on a false image of yourself. An image that you think will be appealing to the people around you. Maybe because in the past, people have indirectly suggested that this is who you need to be in order to receive approval and love from them—not intentionally, of course.
It was hard for me to wrap my head around this. First of all, I wasn’t convinced that I could be so easily driven and persuaded to do things that weren’t in my best interest just to try and please others. Secondly, the fact that I was doing this as a way to receive approval and love sounded pathetic to me at the time. Why? Probably because I was so focused on impressing others that I never spent any time to try and understand my own feelings.
I now understand that it’s normal to seek approval and love from other people and most of us do it without even realizing.
Thinking back to the early days of human life, imagine a whole bunch of small tribes living all across the world with huge distances between them. We wouldn’t have been able to survive for long on our own. We needed our tribe because it made it a lot easier for us to find food, build shelter, and be protected from danger.
We had to be liked by our peers, otherwise we would get kicked out of the tribe, have to survive on our own, and probably die in the wild within a few weeks. Naturally, people who put effort into being liked and loved by the tribe survived to pass on their genes. Over time, evolution has instilled this instinct deep within our subconscious.
So now we have the natural instinct to seek love and approval from our peers. However, it’s not really a useful instinct anymore. Yeah, we need to be able to work as a collective in order for society to work, but we don’t need to disregard our own wants and needs in order to be liked by others.
So how can we start living a more authentic life? Here are three things that have helped me along my journey that may help you with yours.
1. Question your decisions.
Now we understand that we instinctively take most of our actions to get that deeply desired approval from others. One way we can counteract our instincts is to question them. Next time you make a decision you should ask yourself:
Is this what I want?
Am I fearful of what others will think of my decision?
What would my decision be if no one knew what it was?
Does this change your decision? I tried it for myself and found that two out of every three decisions changed after asking myself these questions. It’s a simple way to start pointing your life in the right direction.
2. Give yourself courage by visualizing.
Living a more authentic life is difficult—it means that you’re going against the societal grain. It means presenting your authentic self to the world and hoping people approve.
To do this, you need to build your courage and keep it when times get tough. You can give yourself more courage by simply focusing on the end result rather than the obstacles you’re about to face. In this case, the end result is happiness, strength, confidence, and overall fulfillment.
Try visualizing the end result. What does your life look like? How much better is it and what makes it better? Visualizing the end result gives you a reason to take on the obstacles. It gives you a sense of purpose and with purpose comes courage.
3. Feel the fear but do it anyway.
You’re not the only one who feels fear in being themselves—most of us experience this. We all feel this fear of judgment. I’ve found a lot of comfort in knowing that we’re all in the same boat. We’re all trying our best. Reminding yourself of this will make it much easier for you to feel the fear but do it anyway.
Deep down, you know what you want, and you know what’s best for you. It’s just a matter of taking that step. The first few steps are always the hardest, but every step you take will make the next step significantly easier.
I became so much stronger, more confident, and happier by living a more authentic life. People around me started to feel a new energy in me which has given them the strength and confidence to do the same. In helping yourself, you’re helping others.
Take your life out of the hands of other people and start living your most authentic life. No one can get this 100 percent perfect, but giving it a good shot will be well worth it.