It’s easier said than done.
We grow up having people tell us to be more or less of ourselves.
And for many at a young age you follow the words of those older than you. That’s fine when it comes to things like eating a balanced diet, doing your homework and being kind to people.
But on the flip-side when you’re being told to what career path to pursue or who you should be, I think that’s a problem.
How are you ever going to figure out who you are and be yourself if you’re always listening to other people? Sure this person might mean well and think they’re being helpful but they could also be projecting.
You’ll get told not to pursue something creative because it’s risky, to get a job in a particular sector because it’s more stable, to dress in differently… the list goes on. But often this advice has nothing to do with your happiness or life goals, it’s about conformity, a lack of belief, other peoples discomfort or even control.
And if you listen to all these voices and follow along with what you’re told you slowly start being less and less yourself and therefore less happy.
It’s not much fun living your life as an actor and allowing everyone else to direct.
And so in order to ‘simply’ be yourself you have to let go of all that stuff and be okay with other people being frustrated that you won’t do what they say.
In exchange for that, you get to be you.
I’m starting to wonder whether struggle has to be apart of every ‘success story’.
There’s this thing about the struggle, going as close to the brink as possible but managing to find a way to make it. That story is celebrated it’s the ‘rags to riches’ story and one of the most well known examples is Cinderella.
Her mother died, her father married a woman with 2 daughters who all treated her poorly and then her father died but in the end she married a Prince!
But I sometimes wonder if life really has to be that way. Constantly hearing of peoples struggle on the road to success ingrains that narrative in our minds and makes us think that the struggles we face will lead us to greatness.
Like my life is super crappy now but in 10 years time whilst I’m counting my big bucks I’ll tell people about how I slept on my friends couch, had to sell my car and most of my possessions just to get by but look at me now.
I currently work an office based 9-5 and I’d like to think I can do more beyond that in my lifetime. But I don’t want a Cinderella type struggle and I don’t want my hard times to be the justification for any good stuff that comes my way.
What I’m realising though is that there’s a big difference between working hard and going through hard times.
So no, I don’t think the struggle is necessary in order to succeed but I can’t deny it adds some pizzazz to the how I got to where I am today story.
Can you remember where you were at in life 3 years ago?
Did you have a job?
Where did you work?
Were you happy?
How were you spending your free time?
Where did you live?
What were you reading?
What were your life goals?
Who were your friends?
Who were you dating?
A lot can change in 1000 and something days and in a ‘Go, go, go!’ society it can be easy to overlook just how far you’ve come.
Maybe you went from working part-time in a cafe, pretty happy with life, reading sci-fi and dating a dreamy guy who took you on picnics and twirled you to beautiful music.
But now you work full-time in HR, you’re not particularly happy, you have live in an expensive apartment in the city and don’t make time for the things you enjoy.
Things could be better, worse or maybe just different.
And if looking back makes you realise you’re not happy with where you’re at, why not do something about it.
Can you guess what book I’ve been reading?
Over a year ago (on my other blog, wordsbygemm) I wrote a post about my job.
Looking back, knowing what I now know I kind of regret my words.
Here’s what I wrote: Maybe, it’s strange that I sort of like being a cog in a machine, doing my bit to support the bigger picture.
I didn’t know it at the time but I’d fallen into a fear based trap. I basically wanted a factory job that presented itself as something else because it was in an office and I was at a computer instead of a machine.
I’d go to work sit at my desk, check emails, read documents, chat with colleagues, write letters and occasionally make phone calls. That was all I did on a loop pretty much in any random order depending on the day.
But I’ve since seen the light, I suppose. Firstly my level of contentment with how I was showing up at work wasn’t what I thought it would be. I found myself wanting to more.
And so thanks to me choosing to read Seth Godins book linchpin, I’m understanding how I can be better at what I do.
I want to show up at work and add value not just follow instructions, anyone can do that.
When our dreams are greater than our present circumstances it can be easy to feel like it’s us against life as though we’re pushing back.
You might think you’re the only one with big dreams as everyone else just seems to get on with things without dragging their heels.
But if you take the time to speak to the people around you, you might find that they have dreams too. Talking to the right people will always be helpful and realising you’re not alone is a bonus.
Finding out that someone else in a similar position to you has dreams too is something you might not have even considered. That’s just one of many reasons to not make assumptions.
I think that in searching for stability you don’t give yourself enough room to explore and take risks. You align yourself in things that feel safe and reliable then convince yourself that it’s what you truly desire.
The pursuit of stability is often about fear and control. As human beings one of our core needs is survival which is linked to staying safe.
But in pursing something that doesn’t have outcome certainty it brings up risk of jeopardising safety and therefore survival.
Perhaps you wanted to make art for a living, but you chose to be a HR assistant instead. The idea of making and selling your work for a living has risk because it might not work. What if you don’t make enough money, you can’t pay your bills, you have to move back with your parents or move with friends, you get evicted, you have to sell all your possessions blah, blah blah
The inner monologue is amazing at getting carried away. You can go from one small inconvenience to thinking your entire life is over. And I think that there is a string need for an awareness for that so that we don’t end up listening to that voice.
You don’t want to end up wishing you’d taken a chance in your twenties, thirties or forties because you decided to live your life in search of stability.
But you don’t have to go in the opposite direction either. Go for what brings you joy, what you care about or what interests you.
When you’re a kid you think that 21 is grown up. You think that by that age you’ll have everything figured out, that you’ll have met your life partner and that you’ll suddenly be this proper adult with a career…
But then you get to that age and you don’t quite feel how you thought you would.
Is this what its like to be an adult?
That’s the kind of question you ponder regularly. You might even have a professional job in a fancy office but you still feel like a kid in a classroom. But you have colleagues, deadlines, meetings, projects, clients and a work phone with a company branded case. You have all that yet you still feel like you’re playing dress-up and pretending to be professional.
Perhaps some would refer to this as imposter syndrome but you can call it whatever you want really. Often the only way to cure this feeling/mindset is to tell yourself that it will go once you achieve a particular goal. Once you gain accreditation in your field or lead a project.
But moving the benchmark probably won’t work because it’s a mind thing not a physical thing. It’s about how you feel about yourself and your ability.
My advice would be (to quote Sinek) start with why. Why do you feel that way about yourself? Once you understand that, it’s just a case of implementing a new mindset.