Do you want to live your life based on your terms or do you want to let people make decisions for you?
Easy to answer right? But not as easy to actually live it.
The problem is we almost live in other people’s heads. We act based on what other people will think of us.
We don’t ask questions because we’re scared people will think we’re stupid. We don’t speak up at work in fear that we will come across entitled or that we’re not a team player.
I know even in Arab and Asian cultures like the one I come from, we even choose our careers (the ones we are going to spend our whole lives doing!) based on the opinions of others. All because our true passion would be seen as inferior.
And that makes us feel unworthy. Not enough.
Raise your hand if you’re familiar with these scenarios, whether it’s your experience or someone you know:
Not travelling as a single woman because – “What will people say? No man will want a loose woman.”
Not studying psychology or history at university because – “What will people say? You have a useless degree.”
Not marrying someone because of the colour of their skin – “What will people say?”
It extends to what we should or shouldn’t wear. Not pretty enough, not fancy enough.
If you choose to work part time. You’re lazy and unambitious.
If you have a night out with your girlfriends and your child is at home. How could you leave your child? What a selfish mother.
We’ve all heard the comments people have, the judgements and the pressure to act according to what they say.
Societal, cultural norms and maybe even religious customs (or rather people’s own projections of what is deemed to be religious norms) will go on forever if we let them.
And we are left feeling inauthentic and unfulfilled by our lives. We are limited, restricted and feel we can’t make a move of our own without that sense of fear or judgement of others. Even the people we care about and who care about us.
To what end?
I’ve experienced almost all of those scenarios more than I’ve heard my own name being called. So if you have too, then know that I understand.
But we have to stop making decisions and basing our whole life around people’s opinions, instead of our own. Instead of our true beliefs.
We become miserable because we feel we are living a life that isn’t ours.
We’re controlled by others. By people.
They become our master. And years and years of our lives will go by, just like that.
And when we look back, believe me it won’t be worth it.
you think you will gain by ‘keeping the peace’ or ‘going with the flow’, ‘staying
within the community’ will not be enough for you when you regret all the things
you should have done. It won’t make up for the life you could have had but
Now, I choose to live on my own grounds.
And here’s how you take back control of yours, make your own decisions and simply stop caring about what people think or will say:
This means knowing your values, your beliefs and where you stand. Nothing could convince you otherwise if you know exactly who you are without hesitation.
If someone tells you to eat a peanut but you have a peanut allergy, it wouldn’t matter who they are or what they say – you simply would not care about their opinion.
You know the consequence for you if you ate it. You know what’s right for you and that’s how you will act. Have the same attitude in all that you want to do in your life – full confidence and belief that it is right for you.
Base your decisions and actions on your own set of guidelines
Most people won’t walk around the streets butt-naked because it’s not something that is accepted in society. It is shunned and people would be outcast for it and of course there’d be repercussions.
Society dictates us to a certain level to keep us in check, in good manners and behaviours with others and our environment – like not walking around naked, so it’s a great thing to have!
But it could be that tomorrow, it is perfectly normal to walk outside naked. What would you do then?
If you back up your decisions based on grounded, definitive values, then when people around you or the world shifts in a direction that seems wrong or against you, you will still know what to do. It will be true to you and in alignment with who you are.
Base your decisions on what makes sense to you. It can be law, morals, values, your cultural background, your own family’s upbringing, God’s way, whatever it is, that’s your call. You have to have some sort of system in place to which you live your life.
For me, I choose to walk around clothed because my Master dictates it. My Creator.
Ultimately, it’s His guidance, demands, norms, etiquette for decisions, choices and actions that I try to follow, regardless of what my current ‘society’ and ‘people’ say. For anyone who believes in God, it’s the best compass and support for our decisions.
People’s opinions have nothing to do with you
Their thoughts and opinions are based on their upbringing, their own likes, dislikes, their past, their world views, their optimism or pessimism, their outlook that has been shaped by their surroundings up until this moment.
They project this on you because that is what they know. It is what makes sense to them. But it doesn’t mean it applies to you.
It’s okay to receive their opinion, that’s their business. It only becomes your business if you are affected by it.
You can listen, respect it but still decide to go another way.
If they are unhappy with it, that’s their business. It’s not your responsibility to change how they feel or think, only how you feel and how you act.
Find your people
We want to fit in, we want to be a part of something outside of us, a family, a group, a community. To be accepted, we follow the general norms of that group. And that’s okay.
But when it is not in line with our values and who we are, it is okay to step away. It’s okay to go against the grain.
Even if it’s our own family, even if it’s people who want the best for us. At times, even though that may be their intention, it may not truly be what is good for us.
But we also don’t have to leave them, we don’t have to separate from people who think differently to us or choose different lifestyles. We can still live in harmony as long as we respect each other’s choices.
However, if you’re too affected by those around you, what they say and their pressures on your life, then it would help to also have people in your life who do have similar thoughts and values. People who base their lives on similar grounds. This is your tribe. These are your people. They will be your support when others aren’t.
Be independent and own your decisions
When you make decisions with full conviction, regardless of what people say, you then also have to be okay with your mistakes.
You have to be the one to face the backlash that comes from them.
People may be ready to tell you ‘they told you so’, but you have to believe that the decision was right for you at the time, based on what you knew of yourself.
It is exactly what you should have done and you’ve now learnt something new about yourself or perhaps that in that particular instance, that ‘someone’s opinion’ was in fact fair.
Either way, own your decisions and know that you will deal with both the good and the bad.
As long as you care about people’s opinions, what they will think and what they will say, then you will be a prisoner.
Think about what would be worse –
Living your life to please people and avoid judgement but never achieve the life you want?
Displease a few people by going against the norm but live a meaningful and fulfilling life.
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All that you want is already within you. Reflect, know yourself and create the best version of you and the life that you want.