Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Life vs. Your Life

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” - Steve Jobs

The world is an incredibly competitive place.

But, I am not telling you anything that you didn't already know for yourself. It seems like we are always competing with someone--anyone--for just about everything. Even the things that really don't mean much of anything. Like, the size of a television. Or, the label on a purse. The size or contents of a home.

Hell, we even compete with our stories about our dogs/children/spouses/in-laws/parents/whatever. We say our "this" is worse than your "that." Or, subtlety hint that a person is inferior because something they own isn't up to par in our eyes.

I think about this a lot, because I know that I'm often a participant in these types of conversations. By my very nature, I am a competitive person. Sometimes, things like this matter to me. But other times I realize that it's really all just a bunch of inconsequential nonsense. People compete with us without our knowledge, even. It often manifests itself in a nasty comment or look that sets us in some sort of unease. What did I do, we ask ourselves. Often, it really isn't about us--it's about them.

But I really and truly feel like it is all wrapped up in one concept that often creates chaos in our lives: expectations.

You know what I mean, don't you? It could be the expectations you have for yourself in some capacity: what you expect your position to be in life by a certain age; what you expect your spouse to be or do; or what you expect from others. Then, there are the expectations others have for us: what our parents want; what our spouse wants or what our friends expect from or for us.

These things are very tightly woven into our daily lives, often without us realizing they even exist. Sort of like land mines that are packed to the brim with very heavy emotions and painful shards of metal. It is natural for us and the people we surround ourselves with to expect things. However, those expectations sometimes turn into assumptions and they don't always provide a perfect fit as we grow emotionally.

We have options, of course. We can rebel. We can reject expectations, regardless of whether it hurts someone else or not. Or, we can go along with the song that has already been written for us, because it's really just easier that way. It's a much neater package when we simply go with the flow because we don't want to rock the boat.

But, this is your life. That sound? It's the beat of your heart, not anyone else's. And wasting any of those precious beats on a path that no longer makes you happy is no different than throwing them away entirely. You are allowed to change your own expectations. In fact, it's probably the best thing you could ever do for yourself.

When I look back on those moments in my own life where I was truly unhappy, it was also a time where I also felt a great sense of envy or anger because my life wasn't like someone else's life. Or, my current position was not what I had once imagined it to be. I find that truly understanding that my path is mine alone has changed my entire outlook on life---and what I want for myself. It doesn't matter that my 28 year-old counterparts have two or three children already. It really makes no difference that I may never give birth to a child; that is my path, not yours. And really? The acceptance of my own reality was what I was striving for all along, I was just too angry to see it.

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