Are you waiting to get a nod of approval from your parents for pursuing a career or a life outside their ideal one for you?
Are you hoping to be embraced by your friends about your recent decision to travel the world or choose an unusual lifestyle?
Are you expecting a positively happy reaction from your soon-to-be-ex-co-workers upon your voluntary resignation?
Or are you by any chance waiting for that approval and acceptance from the people in your world *before* you do whatever it is you want to do?
If you said yes, it means you care, it means you want to live in harmony with the world around you and that harmony is dependent on this precise condition: that you be accepted for all the choices in your life. It means you are normal and wonderful. But it also means you have to come to terms with some of the consequences of living in wait of this constant approval and acceptance. It means being clear on what you might be giving up and realistic about the way the world sees you. Your mind can play terrible tricks on you, and its assessment of your place in this world is usually far from accurate.
You have to take care not to give up your dreams and pursuits for the possibility that others may think less of you or approve less of your direction in life because it may be just that: a possibility. You may find out one day that people in your life do indeed approve of your choices, if only they knew more about it. And then what? You gave up seriously lofty ambitions for fear of not being loved and accepted, when it was not even an actual risk but a figment of your imagination.
But what if there is merit to it? What if you are not making up the notions of disapproval and the absence of acceptance from your world? What if you know for a fact that your parents do not approve of your new career direction or of your new partner? What if you knew for certain that if you chose to withdraw from your community or move away, you would lose your friends and connections? What then?
Well, remember you always have options. More than one. You need to put them to work.
Here is one way things could be played out.
You are so afraid of losing the nods of approval and looks of acceptance that you do nothing about your own dreams. You set them aside, you think about them in the privacy of your thoughts and no more. You wait for a day when things might change and people in your life or the society in which you live might understand the deep desires you nurse to pursue a different life.
The most likely and realistic outcome is that the day for which you wait shall not come. Your life will pass and you will have given up on your desires and dreams. You will live out your youth, however unbelievable it may seem at the time, life is ephemeral and the window of opportunity to pursue dreams, even more so. Trust me, you will reach your 30s and then your 40s and even your 60s will greet you one day. When you get there, you will realize that the people you cared so much to please will most likely no longer be around. They will not be there to answer your burning questions of why they wouldn’t have approved if you had pursued something else. They will not be there to give you the inner peace you will need when you look back at a life half-lived for fear of losing approval and acceptance.
So what do you do then? How do you start to step out of this fear and engage those around you to accept and approve of your choices in life?
It is fine to be inspired and motivated to go after what you want but there is reality to deal with and I understand that, and here are some suggestions. They are not easy, I agree, but with a little nudge of encouragement from that pending dread of regret in the future, and a little inspiration that you may just be more approved and accepted and loved than you might imagine, I believe you can do these:
~ Communicate with the people you care about. Have a heart-to-heart conversation and choose not be a victim. You do not need to be radically honest and spill out everything in your guts! Just share what really matters to you.
~ Refuse to be apologetic. Instead be respectful, kind and firm about your desires. There is no reason to be apologetic just because your vision of happiness differs from theirs. Disagree respectfully.
~ Be very clear about how much you care about their acceptance and understanding. Tell them that it matters to you and you care about what they think and you want to help them understand your position.
~ Remark on how pursuing these desires and goals makes you happy and you know that they care about your happiness.
~ Show them this is not some passing fancy or some irresponsible way to live wild and crazy and that you have thought through and know that this is a path of meaning and purpose for you.
~ Be persistent in your approach. Do not have a one-time conversation and let it go. It may take several days, weeks and months to get some people to come around. Don’t give up.
Muster up the courage to take tiny steps to overcome the fear of being judged. Listen to this podcast on precisely how to have this conversation. Understand that most people in your life only want to see you happy and successful, and their view and perspective on the world will absolutely differ from yours. The intention however is the same and you will be able to cultivate some understanding through these conversations.
The worst outcome is if you never try and if you give in to your fears, be they real or imaginary.
If you do, you will be completely alone with an agonizing conversation in your soul at the end of your life. You will have perfectly forgotten all the excuses you made along the way. You will care about very few things except a real reason as to why you did not do the things you wanted to do. You may be surrounded with others and yet you will feel utterly on your own when battling this force of self-accountability. You will focus fiercely on one thing and one thing alone: the fact that you missed out on opportunities in the prime of your life and that you sat around waiting for permission from others to live your life on your terms.
This is the only fear that is certain to materialize before you bid your world goodbye, this is the one feeling that will most assuredly await you if you give up your dreams: the bitterness of regret. Ironically, this is also the feeling least worried about, least planned for, and least feared. Regrets are only real when they are upon us and by then, it is too late.
I know I am dramatizing and I mean to. I really do. In fact, that is exactly what you need to do. This is the stuff that really matters. Everything else will fade away and if you are living someone else’s life instead of your own, you need to wake up now. I feel compelled to infuse all the drama and sense of urgency into you, because I have partially tasted that bitter pill of regret but been fortunate enough to wake up before the prime of my life has passed me by.
Don’t let the prime of your life pass you while waiting for approval and acceptance from others. Don’t let the fear of possible judgement and criticism from others hold you back from the brilliant opportunities and choices before you.
No one can give you permission to live life on your own terms but yourself.