by Dr. Ilene Strauss Cohen Ph.D.
“You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”
– JK Rowling
Each of us has a unique and personal way of dealing with life that sets us apart from one another. Our personal traits vary and reveal themselves within our personal relationships, the decisions we make, and where we spend most of our time. Some of the ways we express ourselves include how we process emotions, how we deal with anxiety, and how we perceive our role within our relationships. While we all react and respond differently to different situations, it’s important for us to look inward and question whether our actions are congruent with who we want to be and how we want to live our lives. If you find yourself exclusively living for others, you might be putting your life on the back burner, ignoring your own needs.
It’s difficult to escape the pattern of living for others. But it’s important to make changes in order to actually live. I know you’re aware that life is short. We all know this; yet we continue to do things, make decisions, and live in ways that don’t fulfill us or make us happy. We think that if we just try a little harder, we’ll finally get the results we want. News flash: You can’t have the life you want by investing all the time and energy you have into other people. This is a guaranteed way to never get your happily ever after. It’s actually a surefire way to get the opposite of what you want. Sometimes you have to take a hard look at your life and at yourself. Most of the time, real change starts with you, because no one else is going to do it for you.
Are you tired of disappearing from your own life? Are you ready for change? Well first, you’ve got to have your own back. You’ve got to start being more realistic about the expectations you place on yourself. You aren’t a superhero, and you don’t need to rescue the world or the people in your life in order to be a fantastic person. You just have to show your true self and be you.
Looking Out for You
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently bad with wanting to do for others. However, it’s important to make sure that when you do want to please others, your actions align with what’s important to you. Pleasing becomes an issue when you stop living for yourself in the process of trying to make others happy.
It’s especially difficult to place your needs first when the people you care about, whose opinions you respect, might not agree with you. It may seem impossible for you to pursue what matters most to you. Remember that the drive for safety and security is ingrained in our brains for evolutionary reasons. Our human instinct is to stay alive, avoid danger, find food, and secure an attractive mate so we won’t become instinct.
The truth is, your loved ones are more concerned with your safety than they are with your happiness and passions.
Now that we, humans, no longer need to hide from threats to our survival on a daily basis, we get to choose how we want to live our lives. We can pursue a life that makes us happy, even if it goes against the majority. However, it’s easy to forget that we have this option when we’re caught up in efforts to win others’ approval.
So how can you give back to this world without losing yourself? What talents, strengths, and actions give you the most pride in yourself?
Most of the time, we’re stuck in situations that are uncomfortable for us or that might not make us happy. Many people fall into their careers as a matter of circumstance rather than passion. But instead of seeking ways to contribute to their own lives, they find themselves bored, unsatisfied, and more disconnected—not only from the type of work they do, but also from all the things they once enjoyed.
You Are a Long-Term Investment
Now is the time to figure out your values, principles, and long-term goals—the way you want to live during this one and only life.
Ask yourself, “If I had personal freedom, what would that look like? Where do I see myself in 10 years? What’s the smallest step I can take today that will move me in the direction of my goals? What does a life of value mean to me?”
Get busy living. Every day, take at least one hour to do something that gives you joy. Notice how it makes you feel. Challenge yourself to learn new things through reading and novel experiences. Take the things you learn, and put them into action.
The more time you spend making decisions that are aligned with your values, the happier you’ll be, the more successful you’ll become, and the more prepared you’ll be to make a true difference in this world.
What are some of your values? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.