As social creatures, we are wired to feel good when praised and validated by those around us. This is not inherently unhealthy, but putting our entire value down to the opinions of others is a surefire way to never feel truly comfortable or satisfied with ourselves. The social media revolution has only intensified this obsession with how we’re perceived, as we base our self-worth on the superficial representations of ourselves online.
Born to please?
Whether it’s over our looks, our professional achievements, or our relationships – even the most confident among us spend far too much time worrying about what other people think about us and how we present ourselves to the world.
A degree of this is natural, and I am by no means suggesting we all become self-absorbed recluses who never consider the thoughts of those around us (unless that’s what you’re into). However, many of us – especially women – focus so much on other people’s perception of who we are, that we lose sight of who we are to ourselves.
Admittedly, it’s easier said than done to break free from the confines of social pressure, but we must start living by our own ideas of what success and happiness are – and not those of our friends, co-workers, or even family members.
Mindful life choices
Most of us feel lost at some point in our lives. Usually, this is because we lose sight of our own goals, as we have spent too long basing our decisions on the expectations of others. Land that job, get that promotion, buy that house, and so on. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?
If there’s one thing you can do to feel more empowered and self-assured, it’s to really take a moment to reflect on what you truly want, how you would ideally like to spend your precious time and energy, what gets you excited.
Even if you aren’t sure of your end goal yet, pinning down what fuels and what suppresses your motivation is the crucial first step. Maybe it’s that living in the city makes you miserable and you would prefer to live by the beach, maybe it’s that you feel uninspired by the corporate ladder and want to become self-employed, maybe you need above all else to feel valued for your expertise in the workplace, rather than spending your days obeying orders or doing menial tasks.
Once you identify the source of your unfulfillment, be the architect of your own life by designing one that you truly want to live. Starting a new and daunting venture mindfully means that you can treat any setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. It may still not be easy, but at least you will be working towards something you find fulfilling.
Nowadays, we are led to believe we must choose between long-term success and short-term happiness. That we must either suffer our way up to the top or be content with mediocrity.
Of course, hard work and sacrifice are often necessary, whatever our dreams are. However, once you find your calling (or at least a path which inspires you for the time being!), despite the energy and effort you put into it, you will at least be fuelled by your own passions and goals – and not the irrational and shallow desire to impress others above all else.
As such, the journey in itself will become the ultimate form of self-care, as laying out your own path and chasing your own ambitions is surely the most loving thing you can do for yourself. Think of it in terms of nutrition: sure, the validation tastes sweet and gives you a rush, but it’s harnessing your own future and choosing your own challenges which give you nourishing and satisfying sustenance.
Take the front seat!
The bottom line is, valuing the opinions of others is not necessarily a negative thing – especially when they are people we trust and respect. However, if you don’t place value on your own personal ambitions, and turn them into tangible life changes, then who else will?