13 Apr Breaking free: 3 tips to start redefining your life, regardless of other people’s opinions
It’s all-too-easy to let everyone else’s expectations define you
As a woman, you’re trained from an early age to mold yourself into a shape that fits perfectly into the lives of the people around you. You’re taught to strive for certain identities (the nice girl, the achiever) and reject others at all costs (the complainer, the failure). You’re encouraged – and even celebrated – for being some kind of superwoman who excels at your soul-sucking job while you juggle your family, social and community lives.
And, if you’re like many women, you learn to define yourself according to the roles you play in other people’s lives: employee, wife, mother, PTA member, etc. The idea that you might not actually want some of those roles – or that you might want something more purely for yourself – never seems to enter the picture.
At least it doesn’t until you wake up one day and realize you’re miserable in the life you’ve fallen into by default.
Try these 3 tips to figure out who you want to be in your life
If you’ve hit that “wakeup” point, you’re probably feeling lost, frustrated, and uncertain of your next move. The first step after acknowledging who you don’t want to be is to figure out who do you want to be instead. Here are three tips that will help with that:
1. Recognize your right to define yourself
First, foremost, and – for some people – hardest, is simply to claim your right to choose who you want to be for yourself. Yes, other people have expectations about who you are and what you’ll do for them. But just because someone else expects something of you doesn’t mean you’re cosmically required to be or do it.
Your needs, wants and desires are every bit as valid as everyone else’s, and you have the right to figure out what they are.
2. Create – and practice – self-defining affirmations
Affirmations are positive, present-tense statements that can help to change negative, unhelpful beliefs by affirming new, positive ones.
To use them to help you redefine yourself, consider something like, “I am comfortable prioritizing my own needs”, or, “Each day, I’m getting clearer on who I am and what I want from my life”.
Make a habit of mindfully listening to your own thoughts, and notice the ones that undercut your right to prioritize yourself. When you find yourself thinking that you can’t do something because you have to fulfill someone else’s needs first, consciously replace that thought with your affirmation.
3. Reframe what you make your experiences mean
It’s a natural human tendency to want to make your experiences mean something. The trick is to realize that you can separate out the experience from the meaning – and then choose a different meaning if you want to.
For example, imagine you’re trying to live more creatively, and you show a piece of your art to someone who criticizes it. It’s tempting to make that criticism mean “I really suck as an artist”. A more empowering, positive meaning to choose might be, “Oh, OK. My style of art isn’t to my friend’s taste. Each to their own.”
Get personalized, one-to-one help to redefine who YOU want to be
For some women, the tips I’ve shared above will be enough to kickstart the process of deciding who they want to be from now on.
Someone who’s spent her entire life putting everyone else’s needs ahead of her own, however, will probably need a tad more. If that’s the case for you, it can really help to have a non-judgmental supporter to guide you through the process of figuring things out. Someone who’s taken the journey themselves, and knows how to get you from where you are now to where you want to be.