Do you remember what your life was like before you let society tell you what it should be?
Before you let anyone judge you for how you dress or what you look like or the the things you enjoy or the people you associate with?
I often have these beautiful moments of memories that pop into my mind for no reason. I was probably eight years old, and I was making a “movie” in my backyard. Of course, there were no camcorders or any other “actors,” but I was making my dreams come to life. I was going to be a star. Cher was always my idol because she could sing and act, and I thought I could do both fairly well, too.
My brother had a friend over and they were watching me out the window as I was being chased by an imaginary bad guy. I saw them watching, but I didn’t care. I didn’t know that I should care! Sure, they would make fun of me, but I had no reason to feel embarrassed. I was just being my weird self, and I was happy.
I would give anything to go back to the place where I truly didn’t care what anyone thought of me.
Someone called me fat once, so I stopped eating and became so thin that people started calling me gross and ugly.
I used to be called “bug eyes,” so I stopped making eye contact for years.
I was told I could never fulfill my dream of acting, so I worked my ass off and made it happen, only to be called arrogant, selfish, and a bad mother.
It seems we aren’t supposed to be proud of ourselves, so I let my dream slip past me because I couldn’t handle the things being said about me.
When it comes to relationships, I’ve come to the conclusion that literally every choice I make will be wrong. How could I date “so and so”? Why did I stay? I must be weak and stupid. When I try to move on, in my never-ending search for love, I’m “that” girl who goes from guy to guy. I’m this and I’m that.
Dude, stop. I, like everyone else, just want to be happy! But there will always be that voice whispering, “You’re doing it wrong.”
Four decades of life and I still don’t have it all figured out. But I do know that putting more value on others’ opinions, rather than what is best for us, will definitely not bring the happiness we’re longing for.
I know that no matter what, there will always be someone who judges us. We can donate to charity or find the cure for cancer, and there will be those who question our intentions or tell us it’s not enough. Our act of kindness will probably be met with someone telling us that we only want attention. Our motivation for becoming healthier and shedding a few pounds will soon turn into being told that we think we’re better than everyone else.
It doesn’t stop. It seems like we can’t win—so why are we trying so hard?
When we live for the approval of everyone else, we’re following someone else’s dream. Not our own. But it’s time we remember that there is no one more qualified to run your life than you.
Assuming we are all good people, I don’t think we set out to hurt others. The reality is that, sometimes, we do hurt people, no matter what precautions are taken. We are not mind readers and when we constantly try to live our lives in ways that please everyone else, we put ourselves on the back burner. If we analyze every move we make in order to avoid any type of conflict, we never get anywhere. And this is where I often feel stuck.
Living our best life can be a slippery slope. It sometimes feels impossible to let go of the control others have over us, the control we need to stop giving away. We forget that we are responsible for ourselves. We neglect to put ourselves in charge. I find the expression, “You can’t please everyone” to be quite underrated. I’m not saying we should be careless, selfish, or lacking empathy, but there is a balance to be found in our journey.
I’ve held myself back for so long—not wearing what I want to wear, staying in bad relationships so no one gets hurt, avoiding growth because it might make someone else uncomfortable. But life is about growth and trudging through the uncomfortable junk. I’m tired of wanting permission to be myself. Where is my sense of pride and accomplishment for doing anything if I’m always seeking validation for my choices? We shouldn’t have to miss out on any big leaps of faith because someone once told us we shouldn’t, or couldn’t.
Our life decisions are ours to make. Our lives belong to us.
I belong to me.
When society says we shouldn’t behave a certain way, let’s proudly hold up a middle finger and say, “Why not?” It’s time we stop sparing our own happiness for the approval of others. We will make mistakes, but those belong to us, too.
I miss that little girl who ran around inside her own weird, little world, beaming with excitement for the future.
She was bold and she didn’t care who tried to make her feel bad about herself.
She was free and limitless.
She was true to who she was because she simply didn’t know any other way to be.
She was happy.
She was naive.
She laughed at herself, a lot.
She didn’t know the world was going to try so hard to change her.
Somewhere along the way, she forgot that no one else can ever create her happiness. No one else can live her life, walk her path, or know her journey. Sure, life has stepped in and knocked her down a few times, but she’s still here. She loses herself when the outside noise becomes too loud, but she knows she can always find her way back.
She’ll always be there, running around with bare feet—waiting for me to catch up with her.