Your life is about you. It’s not about people, it’s not about readers or your family, it’s about YOU. Your life is about you and your freedom of expression.
Let’s be clear; however, people DO matter.
The readers matter, your spouse, kids, siblings, others matter. It’s hard for them not to matter. Life is interdependent. You can’t ignore that aspect of life, no matter how much people scream for and seek independence. Life is much bigger than you. Life happens when you step outside yourself. Life… is… out…THERE!
We move along a hierarchy, from dependence to independence and finally to interdependence. We no longer depend on mom or dad, get our finances and mind set up right-hopefully- and become a better vehicle to make a meaningful contribution to society- again, hopefully. Not everyone makes it to interdependence or even independence. By being your best you and through your creative expression, you’re helping others. You inspire others to realize and reach for their highest potentials. Helping and benefiting others, you in turn help yourself and everything comes full circle. So when you serve the world, you in turn serve yourself and vice-versa.
But why value another person’s opinion, expectations or pleasure more than you do your own? Why place your loyalty, trust and commitment in another person anyway? Why strive to make someone or something else so fickle, finicky and wishy-washy your major commitment? We’re here to express ourselves, freely. My aim as a writer, actor, or whatever the medium, is to express myself FIRST. Everything else is secondary.
A lot of times when you go to untemplate- this word is quickly catching on- your life, your people- being friends, family, siblings, kids, etc.- may be the very ones holding you back.
In reality though, it’s never the people. It’s your values. You place the value of their love, acceptance, approval, opinion or whatever it is that you want from them, higher than you do your own expression.
Doing this really boxes you in. Subscribing to a religion, tradition or any established train of thought can have the same effect. It’s not freeing at all.
So let’s forget thinking or stepping outside of the box. Why put yourself in a box in the first place? Screw a box. Besides, it’s all about circles and curves now, anyway.
People are always growing and changing. Identity is a tough thing to describe. People usually like to identify themselves by their dominant positive traits. Very little is constant about is.
Change is constant. Value Something Constant and Timeless
When I was really young, I used to try and please people. I got pretty good at it, but couldn’t get perfect at it. How could I? I’d have to please everyone which is pretty much impossible. I may have managed to please someone one time, but the next time I wasn’t so lucky. Matter of fact, it got harder each time. The more and more I tried, it got very harder, and if you want to consider their acceptance as pay, I was working harder and harder for less and less.
What the hell did I really want from these people? For them to like me? Love me? I wanted for them to like me for whatever reason, though it was most likely because I didn’t like myself so much. Trying to get them to like me was very dis-empowering. I was giving them power over me and it was coming back against me. And you can forget trying to get some “love” from them. Love is unconditional. You’d think it is naturally given but some people are fortunate enough to get love from their parents these days!
Luckily, I was always one of them. My mom always managed to have love for me, no matter what I did. Sure, she never cared for the dumb random crap I would do with the rest of the guys, like when we would set fires in vacant houses outside in the winter to stay warm, because we were having such a great time outside that no one wanted to go inside. Or the times when I’d get into fights with siblings or with someone at school. But her love has always stayed pretty much unconditional. I’ve never had to concern myself with ever losing her love.
The main reason for that is that, she’s always trusted my judgment. She knows that I’m growing and that nothing about me will be constant, BUT she knows that if I’m headed in one direction, it is growth. That’s all she has to know about me. She trusts that everything can and will change about me, but she can always count on my commitment to growth and for the better.
Breaking from my most of my family’s traditions: the traditional American diet, Christianity and the safe career path that I was on didn’t seem to scare her one bit, because of that one fact about me.
Are Established Ways or Beliefs holding you back?
Sometimes that’s the case for some people. Family tradition, religion, culture or whatever it is.
I have a lot of people come to me interested in my lifestyle as a vegetarian. I tell them of the many benefits I gain from it. One thing I constantly hear from people is, “ooh, that sounds nice, but I couldn’t do it. That’s not the way my family is.” It’s either that or some other variation.
“It’s not my culture.”
“Black people don’t eat that. We eat chicken and soul food.”
“Men don’t watch those types of movies.”
“I’m cool. Cool people don’t read, fool!”
Can You Stand Alone?
Sometimes the penalty for breaking away from established ways are great. I remember having a friend get excommunicated from his church for having premarital sex. But you’re born alone and you’re going to die alone. Remember that. People are going to like and dislike you if you give them the power to do so. Why put put your self-worth and respect in something so unstable?
I value growth and change because they’re timeless and pride myself on bringing myself into greater alignment with them. I don’t have to trust people. I once read in a great networking book that you wouldn’t be able to become a great networker if you didn’t trust people, so you must learn to trust people. The author then went on to explain that you ultimately trust people because of a deeper trust in yourself. A trust in the fact that you’ll be able to deal with anything that comes your way.
What are your values? How are they empowering you? Find your own principles and ideas that you value and commit yourself to them.
Excellent post, Robert. Keeping one’s integrity is a vital part of our life – and it feels like you’re walking with a hole in your breast without it.
It is hard to feel whole without integrity. Hard to respect oneself. Thanks for the love Brett.
David - How to Not Screw Up Your Life says
Spot on, in many ways. I think it is so helpful to really try and separate the things that actually give you fulfillment from the things that just gain you the acceptance and approval of others, and the warm-fuzzies that go along with that. I’ve been going through this process for at least 8 months now, and I have found out, sometimes painfully, that I have been doing certain things for a long time purely because of the approval and acceptance other people gave me for doing them. One of the interesting and encouraging things I’ve discovered is that often those people didn’t really care if I did those things to begin with; they are my friends no matter what I do or don’t do. I am now clearly aware of the true value of those relationships, and I am more productive and happy as a result. This post was a great start to my morning. Thank you!
It is certainly helpful to seperate those two things. Sometimes, after doing something for too long, we’re just doing things and lose sight of why.
Also, you’re right, most times, people don’t care if we do them or not.
Glad you enjoyed the post, David!
Edward - Entry Level Dilemma says
It’s not interdependence if you are giving something and not getting anything in return. That’s co-dependence. True interdependence is when there is a give and take between the parties involved.
Yes, unfortunately we will have our moochers.