Following on from last week’s post about the dangers of giving too much, I thought it might be useful to cover broadly the same ground again but with a more positive twist. For me, finding the right balance between giving and taking is important in itself but it’s also part of a bigger quest to find out who I really am. I used to be a rock, an earth-mother, the big, strong, capable one who could always be relied on. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, as it became more and more apparent to me that nobody could be relied on to return the favour in my hour of need, I began to feel not only resentful but scared and lonely.
What has helped me enormously is to realise: you can’t please everybody, so just be yourself. This is easy to say and may sound rather trite but, when you really think about it, you can’t deny that whatever you choose to do or not do, there’s a chance someone won’t like it. If you let other people’s opinions guide your every decision, you’ll spend your life walking a tightrope and almost certainly feeling restricted and unfulfilled. I don’t know about you but I’ve made some essential, life-changing decisions based on what I believed people thought, without even checking with them to see if I was right. It was an unconscious process but it resulted in my becoming so confused and frustrated that I slumped into a depression that lasted many years.
It doesn’t matter what other people think! Now, I wouldn’t say that to everybody but, since you’re reading this, my guess is you care a great deal about what other people think and you’ll never turn into a selfish bulldozer. Of course it’s important to be polite, considerate and reliable, but this does NOT mean you have to subordinate your needs, wants and dreams to everyone else’s on a constant basis. Live your own life, plough your own furrow. Those who criticise will probably do so whatever you do, so you’ve got nothing to lose. And you stand to gain the life you want.
I’m still working on this but it’s been so liberating to understand that I can put myself first sometimes and the sky is not going to fall. I don’t need other people’s approval. Making my own decisions, doing and saying and being what I want to do and say and be without being crippled by shame afterwards is an absolute joy! And the strange thing is, nobody is treating me any differently from how they did before. Could it be they haven’t noticed how profoundly my life has changed? I suspect they see only that I’m much happier and lighter than I used to be.