The Most Important (and Most Difficult) Lesson I’ve Ever Learned
Now that I’ve entered the decade of my twenties I think it’s safe to say I’ve learned a thing (or maybe even two). I was blessed enough to make a majority of my mistakes thus far at a younger age, shaping me into the somewhat mature young lady I am today, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now that I’m here and experiencing a sort of in-between season of life, I’d say it’s a good time to reflect on the important things I’ve learned in hopes that you can take something from it.
There’s no way around it: old me was a die-hard people pleaser. I spent the majority of my short life living for others and putting every single person around me before myself. I’d make decisions based off of what someone else wanted and largely kept my own wants and feelings to myself. Some may say this is a good quality to have as it is “selfless” and “caring,” but in my experience it was anything but that.
There is a huge difference between being considerate of others and straight up living to please others, and this distinction took me a long time to recognize. I used to say yes to everything, especially the wrong things, solely because I was afraid of hurting the other person; I didn’t want them to think I was being selfish if I had no “good excuse” not to do what they asked. Often times, I’d end up in less than ideal situations that only took from me when I easily could have avoided it and been a whole lot happier with the outcome.
After two years of living on my own and many toxic relationships, I finally realized that the issue wasn’t anything external; the only consistent factor to my problems was me (and, believe me, this one was REAL tough to accept). Sure, other people and circumstances offered the opportunities, but how I acted and reacted was never anyone else’s fault. I struggled with identity and rather than try to find it in myself, I started living a life based on what I imagined others expected of me.
You can only give so much of yourself before you start to feel a bit empty. My yoga teacher always says, “Self care is never selfish. If you don’t fill yourself up first, you’ll have nothing to give others,” and when I heard that, all I could think was, “YAS.” Constantly giving without receiving in return is absolutely draining and unsustainable; I’m amazed I was able to go for so long in my own experience before realizing that, hey, maybe there’s another way to live. But how did I come to terms with this and begin to change it?
The short answer is: I didn’t, really. I’m still learning and seeking to better myself in this realm and by no means will I ever arrive at a place where this doesn’t creep into my life. The longer answer, though? I guess one day I just realized that this way of living wasn’t cutting it for me anymore; I was tired all the time, I was unhappy and unable to find a solution to my problems outside of myself, so I decided to turn inwards.
I had cut many things out of my life to make space for things I had deemed more important such as building a social network and excelling in school. Yet little did I realize that the things I had cut out such as dance, yoga, cooking, and reading were perhaps the most important ones that kept everything else aligned when life became a balancing act.
I made the mistake of allowing other people to drive my actions and many times, I did things I didn’t really want to just because I felt I had to. I WAS SO WRONG. I internalized the belief that I was not worthy of receiving anything in return and so it became my reality. I believed things such as, “Nobody in my life will ever do for me what I do for them,” and, “I don’t deserve to receive the same things that I give,” and not surprisingly, this is exactly what manifested in my life. It’s shocking, really.
There’s the saying that your thoughts create your reality; I’ve experienced this to be true time and time again. When I told myself that the people in my life never give back, they never did. I told myself that I didn’t deserve anything better than I had, so nothing better came. It is amazing what the power of thought can do for you.
I changed my stories and realized that thinking small would only keep me small; I was ready to move forward, up and way out of this unfulfilling reality I had created for myself with years of negative thinking and believing that I wasn’t enough. I started acting like I already had everything that I desired and I reworded my thoughts to fit this new life I wanted to create.
“Nobody appreciates me” turned into, “All of the people in my life appreciate me,” and, “I can’t find anyone to relate to,” turned into putting myself in perhaps uncomfortable situations in order to meet the people that I COULD relate to. It took time, but my life began to change for the better and I was finally able to focus on myself before anyone else. I figured out what wasn’t working in my life and what no longer served me and replaced them with things that would fill me up or provide opportunities to keep moving forward.
I’ve realized that this post has been less about the lesson I’ve learned and more about me deciding to cut the crap and create a more meaningful life for myself. In the process, though, I learned the most important (and, yes, most difficult) lessons yet:
- Nobody knows you like you know you, so never try to live your life as their version of you.
- If you do decide to live your life based on other peoples’ desires and beliefs, it’s gonna suck.
- Just do what you want and create a life that rocks for you and only you!
Breaking free from old habits is never 100% consistent or linear, but doing the work is so worth it. You deserve to live a life that makes you happy and pushes you to consistently get better and if this isn’t the case, it’s your choice to decide whether you’re okay with it. Push your self-perceived boundaries, my friends, and you’ll be so surprised what could happen for you!