Three Strategies to Stop Pleasing Everyone Else And Live Your Life

oliver.jpg

Yup, my son is wearing plastic bags where snow boots should be. His mittens don’t match (and definitely aren’t designed for the 5 degree weather he’s standing in). And, yes, we still haven’t thrown out our pumpkin (or Christmas tree for that matter). That’s one way of looking at this picture.

The way I look at it, however, is to remember how hard we all laughed when he walked outside and how much fun we had trying (unsuccessfully) to build a snowman. It took us 30 minutes to get ready to go outside, we lasted about 4, and then it was another 20 to change out of our wet, cold clothes. That doesn’t even account for all of the clean up from the snow and dirt we dragged into the house (probably because we never actually cleaned it up). But those 4 minutes were worth it. Every second.

So often, we beat ourselves up over the small stuff. Our houses are a mess, we can’t remember to send a birthday card, we can’t seem to get anywhere on time anymore. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect that we lose out on the opportunities to live out our most precious moments.

Before last Friday, I hadn’t had my friends over in months because I was so embarrassed by the state of our home. Finally, I gave in. Not only did they not judge me, but they appreciated the mess knowing that the damage their kids imparted during our 1.5 hours together didn’t even put a dent into what was already in place. We all had a blast eating pizza off paper plates, chasing the kids off our crumb-infested couches, and letting them get messy with a random painting project. It was mayhem and it was wonderful.

It was the perfect reminder of the trade off I could have made. I could have traded a night of chaotic joy and laughter for one of perfection - or at least the perception of it. I could have decided that my house was not good enough for guests. I could have been ashamed of my inability to pull together a meal for my friends. I could have made any number of excuses to prevent the unfolding of an imperfect and joyful evening. 

In her book "The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are," Brene Brown (hero!) writes:

“Perfectionism is self destructive simply because there's no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal.”

Cheers to that. And cheers to not missing out on the best of life.

So, this week I challenge you - whether you’re an exhausted parent or an overworked human being - to trade in your pleasing-everyone-else-but-you for a fresh dose of who-gives-an-F-let’s-remember-life-is-too-short.

Do something you have been holding back on just because you know someone is judging you. Speak up in your meeting. Or don’t speak up in your meeting. Sign up for the dance class. Be yourself and embrace it.

Are you in?

Fab.

Ok, we know this is easier said than done. And we will slip up. But don’t let a little foray into caring take you all the way back to status quo. Commit to more. Here are 3 strategies to help you exercise your I-don’t-give-an-F muscle, even when the weight is heavy and you want to throw in the towel:

  1. Write it out. Where do you find yourself caring the most about what other people think? Be honest and dig a little deeper. Where are you really selling yourself short or holding back, and - this is this is the kicker - where does this matter most to you. Write that down. And don’t cheat yourself.
  2. Buddy up. Find a friend or colleague to get on board with not giving an F too. Then hold each other accountable. Remind one another why you’re doing this - what you give up when you are too tied to what other people think. Call each other out. And, just to be clear, by saying not to give an F, I'm not asking you to go curse off your boss. I'm daring you to do something that's important and meaningful to you. I'm challening you to not censor yourself and trade off your best for what you think others might judge you for.
  3. Don’t post anything to social media for one week. Yes, one whole week. There’s nothing wrong with social media - I am culprit #1 - but we often spend so much time crafting our experience to be shared with our ten thousand best friends and getting the perfect selfie, that we miss out on the experience itself. A friend of mine shared this video of Simon Sinek discussing what technology and social media is doing to us, and it’s given me pause about how I conduct my life. I’m not going to kid myself and pretend that I’m giving up technology or - gasp! - Facebook, but I am bringing back the alarm clock (watch the video and you’ll understand!). Baby steps.

Bottom line: you do you. It ain’t easy, but it’s so worth it. You're not perfect, and that's ok.

Use the comments area to share your exercises and strategies for not letting other’s opinions hold you down.