6 Important Ways to Stop Living Someone Else's Life
This post on how to stop living someone else's life is taken from the new Becoming Who You Are course, Be Your Own Hero which is available now. This brand new e-course that gives you to the tools to deepen your courage, find your confidence, and be the creator of your own life. Find out more here.
How do I stop living someone else's life and start living based on my own needs, desires, and ambitions?
This is a question I've heard from countless clients and readers and one that I've faced myself.
I grappled with this in my early twenties when I had what Brené Brown calls a "
Breakdown Spiritual Awakening". I was in the middle of a degree I didn’t really enjoy, looking towards career choices that were motivated by a desire for status rather than a desire for a sense of meaning, trying to play along with other people's stories and expectations, and desperate to be accepted by someone. I was also pretty depressed, secretly self-harming and (not) dealing with a codeine addiction. Those were my consequences of not being authentic, and all signs that it was time to stop living someone else's life.
Shifting away from this has been a long process, and it could be a work in progress for years to come, if not a lifetime. But it is possible—the act of asking the question above means we’re conscious of what isn’t working and already part of the way there. Here are six suggestions that have helped me transition to living a life that is truer to myself, and I hope they help you too.
How to stop living someone else's life
Look for your inner "should"s
When we “should” ourselves, we’re arguing with reality. I’ve found when I question the things I’m telling myself I should (or shouldn’t) be doing, often these shoulds are coming from beliefs I’ve internalised from someone else or society in general.
The act of noticing and recognising doesn’t make the shoulds disappear, but it does enable us to make a conscious decision about how we respond to them.
Identify your values
Your key values in life and work are like signposts that influence your decisions and future goals. If you aren’t sure what your key values are, the simplest way to identify them is to look at a comprehensive list of values and note the ones that resonate with you as being important. Narrow this list down to your top 10 values, then your top three (if you're interested and would like to dig a little deeper into your values, I created a free workbook on this subject, which you can find in the Becoming Who You Are Library).
Once you’ve identified your most important values, write them down on a notecard and keep them in your wallet. Review them regularly and, with each decision you need to make, ask yourself: "Does this bring me closer to or take me further away from my values?”
Start keeping a life list
A life list is a list of experiences or achievements that you’d like to fulfill at some point during your life. This could include anything from visiting Asia, to trying skydiving, to landing your dream job.
A life list isn’t something you need to make in one go. It’s a list you can add to as and when things occur to you, and review regularly. Because it’s a long-term process, you have a chance to listen to your deepest desires, and review on a regular basis whether or not these goals are aligned with your values and long-term vision.
Build your boundaries
If we want to stop living someone else's life, boundaries are key. When we’re used to living our lives based on other people’s needs and preferences, changing that dynamic can be challenging to our closest relationships. If other people are used to us living according to their wishes, we will need to start setting boundaries with them in order to live according to our own. This is not easy, and books upon books have been written about this topic (I recommend this one and this one; I also hosted a class on boundaries here), but the more you practice, the freer you’ll become to live your own life.
Create a future vision
If we want to stop living someone else's life, we need to give ourselves space to dream and explore. Start allowing yourself to daydream around the question: Where do you want to be in five years' time and what do you want to be doing? You might have many different answers to that question, and that’s fine. Take a journal and set aside time to explore them in as much detail as possible. Remember with each idea, return to your values and ask yourself whether your dream will take you closer to or bring you further away from your values.
Notice what scares you
When it comes to identifying the path that is true to us, the answer often lies in the things we are most afraid to do (obviously I'm referring here to our big "someday" dreams, not things that are dangerous/unnecessarily risky/illegal).
In our interview for The Entrepreneur's Inner World, Tara Mohr described two different types of fear, pachad and yirah. Pachad is "Projected or imagined fear," the kind of fear we feel when we think our ego and emotional security is at risk. It feels the same as a physical threat (even though no one ever died from giving a TED talk). Yirah is the kind of fear we feel when our mind senses a growth opportunity and we have the chance to stretch our self-concept and our potential. It's “the fear that overcomes us when we suddenly find ourselves in possession of considerably more energy than we are used to, inhabiting a larger space than we are used to inhabiting."
With each big decision, we often experience a combination of pachad and yirah. As you contemplate your next move, focus on the yirah and that sense of tingly-growth-expansion-excitement that comes with it. Most of all, remember that just because you feel fear around doing something doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.
Once you start opening yourself up to life and giving yourself permission to explore the many opportunities and options available to you, you’ll realize just how much potential and possibility life holds.
Have you had this kind of experience and transitioning? How did you stop living someone else’s life and shift to living your own? Leave a comment and share!
Images: Jeff Sheldon & JD Hancock