When I decided that I was going to leave my career as a talent agent and go back to school to become a licensed psychotherapist, I faced a lot of criticism. While my friends and family supported me, there were plenty of folks who thought I was crazy.
People were confused as to what would inspire me to leave a lucrative, “glamorous” career in entertainment, with fancy clients and all those frequent flyer miles! To quote my, very pragmatic, father,”You’re not inspired? Sounds weird.” I think my reply went, “Weird to you. Crucial to me. Good thing it’s my life, right?” (Insert bitchy tone and eye roll here.)
Whether they loved or hated their own careers, I found that most people had an opinion about what I was about to do with mine.
Reflecting back on that time is interesting. I can still connect to the excitement I felt about being back in a learning curve and starting a new professional adventure. Though, I also remember the anxiety I felt if I started replaying other people’s doubts, fears or logic about what I was about to do. I am grateful I trusted my gut, sought the council of mentors and took the leap despite a lot of fear-based feedback. Honestly, it was a struggle. And it took about four years from when I first realized I needed to leave to until I actually left.
Freeing yourself from the opinion of others is easier said than done, though it doesn’t have to be. The first step toward authentic independence is getting honest with yourself about how dependent you are now. Consider the decisions you make and how you go about making them. The majority of the time are you able to make choices on your own or with feedback from mentors or strategically chosen friends or family members whose opinion you value? Or do you find yourself constantly being influenced by anyone in your life who has an opinion and gives it to you whether you have solicited it or not?
If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to the 2nd question above, let’s consider why. Think back to growing up, were you encouraged or discouraged from thinking for yourself? As a child were your thoughts valued? Were you punished or praised for the choices you made? Or perhaps you have regrets about choices you’ve made in the past are are afraid to repeat the experience.
Regardless of the reason, most often lack of independent decision making boils down to a lack of trust in yourself. To build up this trust, practice making two or three decisions daily, without the input of others. When you notice yourself going to make a call, send a text or ask a question that would solicit feedback, stop. Take a breath. Bring your attention inward and ask yourself, ‘How do I want to feel? Will making this choice create that feeling?’ At first this may seem silly especially if the decision you need to make is routine or small, like where to go for lunch. However, what you are really doing is creating a habit of checking in with yourself, first. Creating trust in yourself when making small decisions, will make it easier to trust yourself for the big ones.
You create your life based on the choices you make. So whether you seek the opinion of others to make these choices, or you make them on your own, it is important to remember that not everyone is going to like what you do. And not everyone is going to like you, for that matter. This can be tough, especially for the chronic people pleasers. I have found one sure fire way to lessen your dependence on approval from many others is to be very discerning about whose opinion you value and seek out.
In many areas of my life, I valued my father’s opinion over most all others. But when it came to leaving a successful career because I was no longer inspired by the work, I knew what he would say and I knew, ultimately he would support me anyway. My Dad worked for one company for 31 years, did very well and retired at 52. I am quite sure how inspired he felt was never a consideration in any decision he ever made. So in that situation, I did not go to him seeking his opinion, I went seeking his support.
Knowing your self, how you feel and how you want to feel, will lead you to making the right decisions in your life. Many of my friends and many of you are set on living a big, authentic lives. You make bold decisions and put yourself out there in big ways. Yet we all know that when you do this, you open yourself up to criticism. Whether others approve or disapprove, will matter much less to you, as long as YOU approve. When you can stand by yourself and for yourself you’ll experience freedom on an entirely new level.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (ten being extremely independent) how independent are you? Let me know in the comments below. In addition to the rating please share how you manage the good and bad opinions of others as it pertains to the decisions you make in your life.
I am looking forward to hearing from you. Have a freedom filled week and a safe July 4th weekend. And as always, take care of you!
Love Love Love
*image courtesy of Karen Blaha