Living for yourself is something that most of us have not truly done. That majority of us have altered our lives in different ways for fear of judgment from others.
The result is living for others. We want to make others happy to avoid being judged. Do you want to live your best life, but don’t know why you can’t?
This often begins in childhood. What kinds of messages did you receive about how you were supposed to look, think or behave? Hod did that affect you?
Table of Contents
Living for Others
Society fails to show us that living for yourself and following your own path is the way to peace and happiness. For me, I got numerous messages as to how I was “supposed” to be as a little girl in the Deep South.
I was supposed to dress like a “proper” little girl with big bows in my hair that matched my outfit and to be a “good” young lady. Living for yourself was a concept I was never taught.
I remember being the first girl in third grade to wear tennis shoes, instead of Keds or sandals.Now, it’s funny for me to think about how big of a deal that was to everybody. How dare she wear boy shoes!
At that age I knew the importance of living for yourself, but it didn’t last long. Instead, living for others became my way of life.
In third grade, I spent my recess time playing football with the boys. All of the other girls were watching me and the boys play, while they were playing “beauty shop” with each other.
My assistant teacher, Ms. Marshall, was a very feminine lady. She used to make comments about how I shouldn’t be such a “tomboy.”
After recess one day, Ms. Marshall came up to me and said that I had such pretty, long eyelashes. I said, “Thank you.” What came next was a memory I will never forget.
It was a defining moment where I learned that living for yourself was not the way. Living for others and their rules or expectations was what I was “supposed” to do.
Ms. Marshall said, “Your eyelashes are too long to be such a tomboy. You shouldn’t be playing football with the boys since you have such long, pretty eyelashes.”
Of course, I wasn’t aware that she was putting her own issues on me when I was an eight-year-old child. I’m sure that she too was taught living for others was the way to live.
So, I came up with a solution that I thought would please Ms. Marshall. I went home and cut my eyelashes as short as I possibly could.
The next day, I went up to Ms. Marshall and blinked my eyes at her. I said, “Look at my eyelashes. I cut them so I can play football with the boys.” Her eyes got so big, but she didn’t say a word.
From that day forward, Ms. Marshall never said a word to me about being a tomboy. As for my eyelashes, I’m quite thankful they grew back. There are countless times throughout my life in which I falsely learned living for others was the only way.
Society and Who You are “Supposed” to Be
Another example of learning how I was “supposed” to be, was by being an extrovert. That was quite pervasive throughout my childhood. That resulted in a false belief that I was extroverted.
That is quite far from the truth, which I discovered after beginning my own healing journey. I am pretty introverted and learned to truly love that about myself.
As a little girl, I quickly learned that my mom seemed proud of me when others gave me attention. I learned living for others is the only way I would be shown love. So, I did everything I could in the public eye to get that attention. I knew it would make my mom proud of me.
That resulted in my being the lead in plays, commercials, church choir and anything else that I could do to get attention from others. Getting positive attention from my mom seemed to only occur if others raved about me.
Now, fast forward that to my life after high school. Living for others became the most important thing in my life.
Being “seen” dictated my major in college. I had decided that I wanted to be a tv news reporter. That sure would make me seen!
I remember realizing after two years of broadcast journalism classes that I hated it. However, my mom would not listen to me. Again, following your own path and living for yourself were messages I never received.
She told me that I was going to be so good as a tv news anchor. I had picked that major and I was going to stick with it. So, I did. I even became the lead news anchor for my college’s news station.
Every single time I was about to go on air, I had this overwhelming feeling of being fake. That was the same feeling I’d had since I was a child.
My soul always seemed to whisper, “You are not living for yourself.” However, I ignored that whisper every single time for many years.
Thankfully, I had learned how to turn on the extroverted me to get the job done. Nonetheless, it still never sat well within my soul.
How to Live for Yourself
As I began my healing journey in my late twenties, I started recognizing that overwhelming feeling was the result of living for others. It took several years of healing to recognize my true soul identity.
In order to do that, I had to accept and learn to love my true soul identity. That meant taking a deep look at myself and the years spent living for others.
Not only that, but I had to start showing my true soul identity to others. Doing that was the hardest part, especially with my mom.
Still to this day, my mom will argue with me if I say I am introverted. For my own mental health, I have to let her believe what she “needs” to believe about me. The energy spent trying to change that was pointless.
Living for yourself often means letting go of others’ expectations or beliefs about you. That is hard to do.
Following Your Own Path
You may be wondering how I learned to accept and love myself just as I am. There are no A, B, C or 1, 2, 3 steps I can tell you. It’s a different process for everybody.
So instead, I will just share the process that worked for me. It began by looking at the things I hated about myself.
I was loud and commanded energy in a very aggressive way. It’s like I was constantly screaming, “Look at me. Give me your attention or else.” That showed up in EVERY single aspect of my life.
My need of being seen was accurate. However, I didn’t want to be seen for who I truly was because I was taught that was bad.
What if people saw that I don’t like to be around a bunch of people or that I had really low self-esteem? How could I let people see the real me? Certainly, they would reject me.
Those thoughts kept me imprisoned in a life full of depression and anxiety. I was living for others because that’s what I was taught to do as a child. Living for yourself was never really an option I was shown.
As a psychotherapist, I have seen so many people deal with the same thing. My guess is that there are millions of others who can relate.
You may not be aware of all the ways the messages are connected to your feelings of not being good enough. I call those feelings “Not Good Enough Stuff,” hence the name of my blog.
To read more about healing your own Not Good Enough Stuff, click here. My post “Not Good Enough Stuff Explanation-For Souls Searching Peace” will teach you how it was created for you.
Living for others results in a belief that we are not good enough if we “show up” exactly as we are. It prevents you from learning how to live life for yourself.
It often becomes unconscious, but incredibly invasive throughout our daily lives. There are so many ways we show the world we are living for others.
Fear Others Will Judge You
Have you ever chosen to do something or not do something because you thought that’s what others wanted or expected from you? Think about the ways you have stopped following your own path for fear that others will judge you.
How about frantically cleaning your house because somebody said they were stopping by? Have you apologized for your house not being clean?
If you’re out and about while not looking “put together” and run into somebody you know, do you feel you have to explain why you don’t look your best? Think about the excuses you frantically give in order to explain your “not put together” look.
Living for others is probably not how you’ve viewed these kinds of behaviors. So, let’s look at it a little closer. Your insecurities kick in and whisper or maybe even scream that in that moment you are not good enough and must explain the reason to others.
You do this for fear of being judged. It’s like you are taking every ounce of energy you have to be accepted. Instead, you should take that energy and use it on learning how to live for yourself.
If you truly accept and love yourself, you would not need to explain or apologize for how you are showing up in the world, no matter what.
Does that seem like an unattainable goal to always be able to meet? Probably so, but you sure can get closer to it.
Live Your Best Life
I know that because I was able to do it myself. In order to do that, I had to start paying attention to how I felt when I was doing just about anything throughout my day.
When I noticed that something felt “off,” I learned that was a sign that I was not living authentically. The longer I did this, the more I realized how I was living a life that did not align to my true soul identity.
Learning to live for yourself is hard work. However, I was determined to learn how to do it. You can find your determination also to live your best life.
I began finding ways to do the opposite of what I’d always done to “test” whether or not those “things” felt authentic for me. At first, changing my behaviors seemed so weird to me because they were brand new to me.
For example, I began staying at home more often. I used to think that I always had to be out and about forcing the world to see me in a grand way. Staying home allowed me to see what a deep thinker I was and I still love that about myself.
I began cultivating deep relationships with new friends that enjoyed one-on-one conversations with me. That was a far cry from friendships that were only surface level when I was living for others.
This taught me that I was actually introverted. From childhood to young adulthood, I had faked my life as an extrovert. Sitting back and realizing how exhausted and uncomfortable that actually made me feel, brought me to my true soul identity.
The world tends to frown upon introverted people. That is probably one of the many reasons I became extroverted as a child. However, when I began loving and accepting myself as an introvert, I could see the beauty of being an introvert.
For several years, I was angry at the world for “making” me be extroverted and hating my life. I needed to have that anger in order to see that it was actually covering up a lot of sadness.
Healing from Society’s Expectations
My healing journey allowed me to have such love for the little, curly redheaded girl who needed healthy love and acceptance. Once I had that, I could actually be myself. Living for yourself became my motto.
Not only that, I attracted people who see the real me and love me just as I am. That is one of the best gifts I have ever given myself.
So, if you have been living a life that doesn’t align to your true soul identity, please know that you can absolutely heal and find your true soul identity. It’s not an easy process but is more than worth it.
If you aren’t sure who you are at your soul level, click hear to read my post “Two Ways to Answer Who Am I.” Discovering that is key to learning to live for yourself.
Find what works for you in your own healing journey. That’s a path nobody can walk for you or tell you how to do it. You know yourself better than anybody else ever will. Take advantage of that.
You will probably try a lot of things that won’t work. If you give up, you’re accepting an inauthentic life. You know that well though.
If you don’t accept that, then keep searching for ways to show your true soul identity. Healthy and loving people will naturally be attracted to you when do that.
The day you can truly smile and say, “I love myself,” will be a day where all of your hard work will be worth it. Just remember you are enough and deserve to show yourself and the world your true soul identity.
Are you ready to live your best life? Do you want to learn how to live for yourself? Surely your answers are yes!
As always, if you are already in this process, share your success with the Not Good Enough Stuff Community. We can all learn from one another.
Comment below if this post has helped you make the decision to live your best life! Just remember you deserve a life of living for yourself!
This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.