How to stop living for others so you can start living for yourself.
In order to start living for yourself, you need to understand that other people's opinions don't define who you are. It's important to learn from others, but you don't have to accept what they say at face value.
For example, I once got into a heated discussion with someone close to me who was trying to get me to see things her way. When I realized I couldn't change her mind, it was like a weight was lifted off my chest.
I realized that what I was really doing was trying to gain her approval.
It was a small but significant revelation and from that point on, I knew that the only person I needed approval from was myself. That tiny yet mind-blowing revelation gave me permission to live life on my own terms.
When you stop trying to seek approval from others, it feels liberating. The need to seek validation outside of yourself, criticize yourself, judge others, and compare yourself to others lessens over time.
When you start living life for yourself and not someone else, you will be able to recognize the ways in which your limiting beliefs about yourself hold you back and affect your behavior in ways that don't contribute to your wellbeing.
You'll start to remember the times you were not living for yourself, but living someone else's life.
Eventually, you will discover who you truly are from the inside out and become more comfortable in your own skin.
Then you will develop a style, voice, and personality that is truly your own and your experiences will be that much more meaningful and joyful.
The road is not easy, but worthwhile. When you're ready to start living your own life, scroll down and check out my 7 tips to start living your own life.
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7 ways to start living your own life.
- Know yourself
- Be honest with yourself
- Find your purpose in life
- Practice mindfulness
- Try meditating
- Become more self-aware
- Create a plan
1. Know yourself.
Knowing yourself is about being aware of your emotions, thoughts, and actions. Understanding who you are is essential for living life for yourself.
It helps you decide what you want in life, and what you believe in. Getting to know yourself may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s something we often don’t make enough time for.
There are simple ways to get to know yourself better. One of my favorite ways is through journaling.
You can use a journal with prompts to get to know yourself better. I have a tool with journal prompts to help you know yourself better and discover your purpose in life. You can download it for free by clicking here.
Or you can journal in an unstructured way by writing morning pages. This is a technique created by Julia Cameron in her book, "The Artist's Way." This type of free-form journaling is exactly what it sounds like.
Ideally, you write as soon as you get up in the morning and fill up 3 pages without stopping to think, filter, or edit yourself. If 3 pages sound like a lot of work, you can also set a timer for 5 minutes and write whatever's on your mind.
If you do this consistently, you'll discover things about yourself that you may not have been aware of before. Things that were buried inside of your subconscious.
I recommend using a spiral-bound notebook if you're going to journal in free-form style because you can turn the pages on the backside and lay it completely flat on a table so you can easily write on it.
I also recommend getting a notebook that you'll love, with a design that makes you smile every time you reach for it to journal, such as this one.
Or one with a color that matches your personality, such as this one.
Find your likes and dislikes.
A simple and effective way to know yourself better so you can live your life on your own terms is to make a list of your likes and dislikes. What you like and don't like depends on your experiences.
They're shaped by those who raised you, where you live, and who you hang out with. But they're also shaped by your own unique personality, behavior, and interests.
You can check out this article if you want to see what a list of likes and dislikes looks like.
Take a trip by yourself.
Go on a trip by yourself to get to know who you are and get a taste of what it could be like to live life on your own terms. You don't have to spend a really long time away from other people.
Sometimes getting away for just an extended weekend is enough time to get to know yourself better without other people's values and beliefs getting mixed in with your own.
2. Be honest with yourself.
For the longest time, I was dishonest with myself. Sometimes I did it for my own good—like when I didn't tell someone about something that was important to me, so as not to hurt their feelings. But quite often I lied because I thought it would benefit me in some way and minimize hurting the other person.
When I was lost my passion after working in a job for 10 years, I couldn't admit to myself that my heart wasn't in it anymore. I justified staying in it for longer than I should have by how much money and time I spent training for it, how much money it brought in each month, and how it provided us a very comfortable lifestyle.
Thankfully, you don't have to wait another minute to live your own life because you can start by being honest with yourself. Honesty is not always easy though.
It's not easy because you may be afraid of finding out the truth, or you're afraid of hurting someone else, like a person who is close to you. Give yourself plenty of compassion and understanding and eventually you'll see the ways in which honesty is beneficial for you.
The more you practice it, the better you'll get at it, and the more you'll be able to live life for yourself.
3. Find your purpose in life.
Your purpose in life is your reason for doing the things that you do. It is important to know your purpose if you want to live your life on your own terms because it becomes your internal guide as you go through life.
It can help strengthen your resilience by getting you through tough times. Studies have even shown that having a purpose in life may help you have better health and even live longer.
When I was going through some health challenges, I knew that I had to find my purpose in life if I was going to live a life that was not only healthier but also felt more meaningful to me.
This allowed me to live life for myself, even if things are not the way I want them to be all the time. I know that I am living in alignment with what I value most in life and what makes life worth living.
4. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them as good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness allows you to live in the moment and awaken to your experience.
Research shows that there are many benefits to practicing mindfulness in our everyday lives. Here are just a few:
- Decreased suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Increased self-compassion and kindness toward yourself and others.
- Healthy cell aging and lower inflammation.
- Improved focus and concentration.
5. Try meditation.
Meditation is a great way to start living for yourself if you calm and center yourself so your mind can get quiet. This helps to shut off the distraction and noise from the outside world so you can think more clearly.
You simply focus on your breath to help you relax and clear your mind of everything that's stressing you out. The benefits of meditation are well studied by scientific research; studies have shown that regular meditation can help increase your concentration, lower blood pressure, and may even boost your immune system!
If you're not sure how to meditate, don't worry, you can get started with the many different popular techniques to choose from such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), transcendental meditation (TM), breathwork, or Yoga.
You can also find guided meditations on YouTube for any of these techniques and try them out for yourself. If this all seems like too much work, just try this simple technique:
- Sit in a quiet space with no distractions.
- Close your eyes and focus on one thing—your breathing—for at least five minutes.
- Repeat as many times as you need!
6. Become more self-aware.
Knowing yourself on a deeper level will allow you to behave and act more authentically and make better decisions.
Self-awareness is simply noticing what's going on around you. The best way to become more aware, in my experience, is to notice what is happening when you're interacting with others.
- What am I feeling?
- Where in my body am I feeling it?
- Why am I feeling this way?
- Why did this feeling come up?
- What outcome did I want?
- What is my intention?
Become aware of what is going on inside of you and around you to become more self-aware. This will allow you to know your strengths and weaknesses, your emotions, motivations, and values.
You'll better understand what makes you tick and the ways in which you tend to react to different situations. Become aware of how you communicate with others, the habits that interfere with your happiness, ways you block yourself from achieving your goals, and any unhealthy thinking patterns that might be holding you back from living a life that is truly yours.
7. Create a plan.
You can't start living your life without taking action. So now it's time to get some stuff done! Start by creating goals. Goals are things that you want to accomplish in life.
Begin by creating goals and writing them down. Then break each goal down into smaller, more specific tasks. I like to use the SMART method for making, which is:
- SPECIFIC: write down specifically what you want. For example, I want to read a book in one week and complete 2 chapters a day.
- MEASURABLE: keep track of your progress and milestones; celebrate your wins
- ACHIEVABLE: make sure you have the resources to complete your goal.
- RELEVANT: your goals ideally should align with your values and beliefs.
- TIME-BOUND: give yourself enough time to complete your goal; if it feels too big, break it down further into tiny goals.
If you don't have a planner, now's the time to buy one! Having all of your goals written out will help keep you on track and motivated as you begin making changes in your life.
One of the best planners I've ever used is by Day Designer®. It's the complete package when it comes to planners and it is beautifully made, as you can see in the photos below.
Live life for yourself because true happiness comes from within.
Hopefully, this article has encouraged you to become more self-aware, develop your own inner voice, and learn to live for yourself—rather than for pleasing others.
When you start living for yourself, you're less likely to seek validation from others, gain approval from others, and chase after unrealistic goals.
You're still going to run into problems and challenges along the way, but you'll eventually realize that life feels so much lighter and easier without the heavy burden of living someone else's dream.
Ultimately, living for yourself can feel liberating and empowering. It really is possible to stop living the life that others demand from you and start leading a life that makes sense for yourself.
The key thing is to practice self-awareness and self-love and to not waste time comparing or worrying about what anyone else thinks of you.