I am 38 years old, and some of those years have not belonged to me. When I think about how I want to do Life, it’s often through a shiny lens (I’ve always had a little bit of whimsy in my perspective), but that’s not always been my lived experience. Like everybody else in the world, I’ve acquiesced on countless occasions to do something I didn’t really feel like doing, or to be a person I didn’t really feel like being, to meet some kind of expectation or value system that didn’t really resonate with me in the first place. I haven’t always said Yes to myself. How does this happen to all of us?
There are countless opportunities in daily life to assert the person we are, but it can be anxiety-producing to do so when it’s clear that asserting that person might be uncomfortable, complicated, socially unacceptable, or come with a little pain. Avoidance is a relief valve for Anxiety, and so we busy ourselves with the Doing of daily things and push the self-asserting off for another day, telling ourselves that we are doing what we Should be doing, so everything is fine.
What would it look like if we suddenly stopped doing this? From countless conversations with clients, and my own personal experience, here’s some examples of saying Yes to ourselves:
- Initiating a move to a new career, even when the one you currently have is ok (but just ok). Your boss will find someone to replace you, and your coworkers will not hate you forever for leaving them (or if they do, good riddance to them anyway).
- Getting out of a relationship that you know in your gut isn’t working, even if it is providing a plus one at weddings and a warm bed at night.
- Choosing to be single, and maybe be single forever, and/or choosing to not have kids, and maybe not have kids forever.
- Ending a relationship or setting boundaries with a toxic friend or family member, even when it might hurt their feelings.
- Not smiling when your insides don’t feel like smiling, even if people are looking at you. Even if they ask you “what’s wrong?”.
- Being in an unconventional relationship that’s true to your sexual and personal preferences and values, even if other people don’t accept it as valid.
- Traveling alone when you really don’t feel like traveling with somebody else, even when it means you’ll have to have dinner alone in a restaurant and people will know that you are traveling alone.
- Skipping out on holidays or other gatherings/events because you hate holidays and gatherings and big groups of people make you anxious, even when you feel you Should go, because family obligation and all that.
- Venturing into a creative endeavor that is a little more vulnerable than you are used to being/shows a little bit more of yourself than you are used to showing, even though that is a Very Scary thing.
- Choosing to do less when we are pushed to do more, and doing so unapologetically, even if you are judged and labeled unkind things.
- Rejecting traditional markers of “success”, even when everybody else embraces them.
- Being open about struggles/insecurities/problems, because you deserve support and love, and because literally EVERYBODY has their version of stuff to deal with, even when everyone else is living in a Shame spiral and pretending their own baggage doesn’t exist.
When we float along with the status quo, we end up making very few intentional choices for ourselves. When we say Yes to the tiny callings inside us, it turns our life into Life. I am standing up on a small soapbox in favor of saying Yes to ourselves and our own choices, to our own unique quirks, to our own values, and to richer, more fulfilling experiences in this singular wild and scary Life. How about you?
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