I’m a bona fidé people pleaser.
I was the kid who slowly chewed through the utter abomination that was grainy boiled-in-their-jackets grey potatoes, swimming in butter to make them closer to edible. I hated potatoes. And butter. But the neighbours had cooked them and I wanted them to tell me I was a great girl for eating all my dinner.
I was the kid who studied hard and got straight As, but never stopped to think about what she loved to do. But, hey, the teachers and the parents seemed happy.
More recently, I was the girl who got into such an absolute tizz trying to figure out which career path was the most likely to lead to a “great aul’ job” that she dropped out of one university course to hop into the next, terrified that she’d miss out on doing the ‘right’ thing.
My parents always told me to do what makes me happy, but I always looked to them for that little nod of approval. If I thought I was making them proud, I’d do it. There’s a newspaper clipping of me from primary school (my interview debut in the Leinster Leader), saying I want to be a doctor or a solicitor when I grow up. Hadn’t a clue what either involved, just knew they were good jobs *air quotes*.
Veering off the course that’s expected of you can be terrifying. I’ve tentatively moved towards doing more of the things I love to do- writing, taking photographs, travelling, learning more about global development and psychology, yoga….I’m coming around to the idea that it’s ok for me to want a life that’s abundant on my terms. But, ladies and gentlemen, there will be naysayers. Sweet baby Jesus will there be naysayers.
‘You want more flexibility in your life? What? Sure where would you be going?’
‘Eh, you’re not thinking of going back to college again are you? You’ll never be on good money! You need to put the head down and keep working’
‘I’m telling you, freelancing is utter bullshit. Working for yourself is the most stressful thing EVER.’
‘Just get a good job! Who cares if you hate it as long as the money’s good? Then you can enjoy your life outside it.’
Most of this stemmed from a ‘So what are you up to now?’ question, to which I replied that I was doing a yoga teacher training and that my masters might allow me to do some freelance consultancy work. I said nothing about quitting my current job. Or upping and leaving to invest bit coin in Hawaiian unicorn farms. Yet down poured the shit storm.
I’ve always looked to others for approval. My first thought was “Oh shit…they’re right. I sound like a floaty indecisive crazy bitch! What am I thinking?! Who do I think I am?!”. Then the dust settled a bit. Then I got angry at myself for thinking that. Then I got angry at the naysayers. Then I cried. I proper ugly cried. But then…then there was another feeling. Something that felt like a blurry outline of determination. And for the first time I can remember, ever, I said “Fuck that” to that shit.
Where will I go if I listen to all that? Probably not the places I want to. I’m still totally unsure where these new paths lead but even the thought of heading in their general direction makes me giddy. So I’ma go with that. We’ve got to at least try. The world would be a far darker place if we all waited for universal approval before we did the things that made our little hearts do the macarena.
“Because if you base your self-worth on what everyone else thinks of you, you hand all your power over to other people and become dependent on a source outside of yourself for validation. Then you wind up chasing after something you have no control over, and should that something suddenly place its focus somewhere else, or change its mind and decide you’re no longer very interesting, you end up with a full-blown identity crisis.”
― Jen Sincero,