What to do when you want to do the opposite of what society tells you.
When society (or maybe your family traditions) have things all mapped out for you, but for you to be happy you know that you basically need to do the opposite, how the hell do you navigate that?
Well let me show you.
Ooooh, this week's a goodun, and boy did I have some fun toying with this very predicament in my 20s. Before I delve into the stuff that I've learnt and want to share with you though, I just wanna do a quick re-re-wind Craig David-style to the early noughties, when I was cruising through early adulthood, oblivious to the adventure that was about to unfold.
If you've delved into my about page at all, you'll be somewhat familiar with my arguably 'hairy' experience with my quarter-life crisis. Before that point however, I genuinely thought I had it all planned out. I knew at about 13/14 that I wanted to be a graphic designer, and I made all the necessary education choices to get me that point over the following eight years. I was focused, driven and hellbent on achieving that goal. I was the only student in my group to get a design job straight out of university, I'd flown the nest at 22, bought my first home at 24 and I'd been in a committed relationship for 10 years that was going great. In my mind I was like "tick" "tick" "tick" on my to-do list. I'd attained everything I wanted to. Then like a frying pan over the head, at about 25/26 things just started falling apart and for some reason, things just didn't feel right anymore. I just wasn't happy and felt crazy-lost in my life. And not at first, but in time, it started to dawn on me that I hadn't achieved everything I wanted to, I'd achieved everything society wanted me to. I unknowingly had a prerequisite of society tickboxes guiding all my life choices. But sadly for me, I had to endure A LOT of pain to reach that conclusion and be able to take control, and I'm writing this for you to hopefully minimise your pain 💋
So what should you do when something in your gut just doesn't feel right? What's the best course of action when society's pressures to achieve certain things by certain ages just doesn't marry up with where your head's at, or where your life's at?
👉🏻 You basically have to take control. There's no other way.
You must must must listen to your gut.
I wholly understand that this is a tricky skill to master, in early adulthood especially. I mean how do you know what voice your head is, and what voice your heart is? Let alone what voice your gut is!? But believe me when I say, work on finding it darl, and listening to it, because it's soooo so worth it. Here's a few pointers to get you started;
- Your head is usually the voice of reason. It's the 'sensible' choice. It's very often your parents' voice in fact. It's the safe voice that's there to protect you and keep you out of harm's way. It's also the voice of fear and predictability that needs to keep you smack-bang in the middle of your comfort zone, never to grow or evolve or explore scary unknowns.
- Your heart is usually the voice of your dreams. It's the 'wild' choice. It's the one you hear when you feel something physically light up inside of you. Butterflies and stuff. It's the voice of possibility and excitement, where the potential to achieve something great suddenly seems achievable.
- Your gut is usually the voice of your inner compass. It levels out the head's chatter and the heart's natter and it guides you to making the best decision with the information you have to hand at any given time. If you choose to ignore this, and instead choose to follow guidance from outside influences, you will not. find. happy. Belee dat.
Listening to your gut will never serve you wrong. I promise you. Of course, things may not pan out as you'd hoped from time to time, that's just the beauty and upside-down-ness of life keeping you on your toes, and breaking news honey: you'll never get to control that. And sometimes you may very well look back and think, 'damn I should've listened to my head back then because then I'd still be xyz...' but that's not going to get you anywhere. The point is, your gut is telling you to make a certain choice at a certain time, because it's what you NEED at that point in time. If it's a mistake, it's because you need to make that mistake. If it's a risk, it's because you need to take that risk. Am I making sense? Whether it's identifiable as a good or bad choice in retrospect, they're still choices and/or mistakes that you needed to make for yourself at that time. Not for anybody else.
You've gotta stop looking for outside approval.
I think a massive part of the pressure to 'fit in line' and go with the flow and convention of society, all boils down to people-pleasing. You want your folks to be proud of you and your choices. Of course you do. You want your friends to approve or maybe even be envious of what you have or where you're going. I guess that's basic human nature in becoming an adult. And basically, you're just way too bothered about what other people think. But your craving for approval, whether you're aware of it or it's a sub-conscious thing for you, is strangling your potential my friend. And worst of all, it's limiting your happiness like you'd never believe. But how do you break out of this cycle of behaviour when you've done it your whole life up until now? How can you possibly just stop needing others' approval?
Luckily, it's actually quite simple, it's just not easy. You just need to make a bold decision all by yourself, all for yourself. Yep. Don't ask for other's opinions first, and don't wait for someone to give you permission either. When you make that decision and you see that the world still goes around, and people you'd originally sought approval from carry on with their lives quite happily, you'll get the bug for it and realise that a whole life of adventure for you and your own mind awaits! It's a weird phase of life to go from always having been told what to do, to then realising your life is actually your own to steer. It can be uncomfortable at first, carving your own path, but man is it essential. For me, I went hell for leather as I mention in my about page; ending a relationship, selling a home, quitting a job, running away and then moving country! But you don't necessarily have to go as extreme as me! 😂 I just knew at the juncture I was at, I'd people-pleased myself into such a deep depression, I needed to make some pretty drastic changes to be able to find who I was and what I actually wanted. And y'know what? It worked.
You have to stop aiming for perfection.
I saved this one for last as it's something that I only really feel I've gotten more of a grip of myself after becoming a mother last year (when I basically didn't have time to be perfect anymore!). But I did graft for 35 years in pursuit of perfection. [Read: exhausting].
So maybe society is piling the pressure on you to get serious about finding out your perfect career, then into finding the perfect partner, then it's piling the pressure on to buy the perfect home, then it's hellbent on you getting engaged and having the perfect wedding, then it's spreading on the pressure to start a perfect family. Gah! 😩 Society is one demanding lil perfectionist b*tch lemme tell ye. There's no time for, heaven-forbid, pressing pause for a moment and taking some time to find out who you actually are and what you want to create with your life. Messily. Imperfectly. Unapologetically.
Well I'm here to tell you, you can feck society's perfect model of life on its head and still be blissfully happy, wonderfully content and hugely successful. You can be all those things without being in the least bit perfect in society's eyes. (In fact, I'd go as far as to say, you're more likely to be all those things if you're brave enough to defy society's prescriptive perfect tickboxes). Do you wanna know why? Because you're choosing to be you, not 'them'. You're choosing to experiment, fall over, make some appalling choices, all in the name of finding your happy. And that in itself has massive personal rewards.
If you need a bit of help getting into the swing of making some mistakes and taking some risks, try out my free mistake log download. I promise you, after a few short weeks, you'll soon see the huge value in making your own mistakes and learning so much from them. So much so, you'll even be excited about your next opportunity to fluff things up! 😂
So I hope I've given you some food for thought when it comes to finding the balls to defy the blueprint society's laid down for you. In fact it's such an outdated blueprint at this stage, there should be some kind of petition that bans people talking about it or asking about how you're getting on fulfilling yours! Always just remember though, the sooner you commit to start learning about yourself and what you actually want, and executing on that, the happier and more successful you're going to be.
If you think a mate could do with reading this too, I'd be so happy if you shared it with them. I'm sure they'll thank you for it 💋