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This comment bubbled up on my Minimalist Monday post, The Biggest 'Minimalist' Decision I'll Ever Make (I have a Huge Confession....)
"My husband always says, "Never live someone else's dream.""
The comment hit home for me as this is something I succumbed to... and despite "freeing" myself, still openly grapple with.
For a long time (as far back as I can remember, actually) I always tried to be the person everyone expected me to be. Even though it didn't make me happy.
Maybe I'm a people pleaser. Maybe I was afraid of letting them down. Maybe I just trusted that they knew what was best for me (even better than me)...
I really don't know.
But eventually I had my own Eggs Benedict moment (this is a reference to the Runaway Bride movie in which Julia Roberts' character becomes her own person with her own identity when she finally realizes how she likes her eggs. I couldn't find the clip on youtube, but I found this clip that leads up to the moment -- please don't judge my bad movie taste too harshly. :P).
Point is, I realized that despite what everyone else thought was best (and what they wanted for me) I was not happy. I wasn't going to BE happy.
In fact, you're never happy when you're living your life for someone else.
So I did what I wanted to do. I stopped being a lawyer. I chased my passion. I created Happy Herbivore... (I talk a lot about this in the free trainings at Exit Strategy School).
But that... "freedom" wasn't the end to my struggles or my constant grapple with trying to live my own dream and not someone else`s.
(P.S. You can buy this one as a wall poster.)
When I started seeing a little success with my newfound career and business (and then more success... knock on wood) a few friends became envious. They wished for my success or good fortune. It was all out of love, but their envy and wishes made me feel like I had to do their dreams too --- for them, so as not to take it all for granted.
This was bad.
This was not good.
Before I knew it I was doing things I didn't want to do and I didn't know why.
WHY was *I* doing it. For someone else?
That's not a reason to do something... especially when it makes you so unhappy.
And yet I had unbelievable amounts of guilt to go along with it.
For example, I had this opportunity to model*.
A friend of mine has always wanted to model. It's been her lifelong dream. Something she has tried to do and break into for at least two decades.
It was never something *I* wanted to do, however.
When the opportunity came, I wasn't excited or jonesing to do it, but as a business woman, I am always quick to give all options my full consideration. I ask, "will this opportunity benefit me or further my mission or purpose?"
Sometimes you have to "take one for the team" or do something you don't *love* because it's the end result that matters, not this one play in the game.
I'll cut to the chase: I just wasn't into it. I didn't really have a desire to do it, and I couldn't see how doing it was going to help me.
I was all set to say, "thank you for the opportunity but..."
When I bumped into my friend with the model-aspirations. She'd heard from another friend about my opp. She was so excited for me --- beaming even. It was almost as if it was happening to her.
I started to feel a dozen different emotions: twinges of pain, guilt, embarrassment, remorse, and others. It was all kinds of confusing.
I felt like if I didn't do it, I would be crapping on my friend.
This was HER dream. This was such an incredible opportunity. How dare I say no?
And yet, as I sat in the makeup chair, I wanted to die. My stomach was in knots.
I kept racing to the bathroom.
WHY did I do this?
This is not what I wanted.
I can't live vicariously for her.
I can't live vicariously.
And then I had this strange memory from college.
I was dating this great guy. He was the kind of guy any girl would say "I do" to in a moment. He was a catch. There was no denying it.
Many of my girlfriends shared their envy and jealousy with me. "You're so lucky Lindsay!" and indeed I was lucky.
I saw what a terrific guy he was.
I wasn't feeling it.
It drove me crazy. He was so exceptionally wonderful. So sweet to me. Smart. Good-looking. Nice. Great with kids. Great with my dog. Everyone loved him.
If he'd been dating one of my girlfriends, I'd have approved. I'd have pulled her aside and told her what a dream boat her boyfriend was. He was a keeper.
But I just wasn't happy. I mean I wasn't unhappy but I just wasn't... happy.
I kept waiting to fall in love with him.
It was me, not him. That much was certain.
He loved me and I kept trying to fall in love with him.
But as I kept crawling out of bed every night to go sleep on his couch, I knew it was more than just the summer heat.
I was creating distance and space between me and my boyfriend.
Yet I knew how good I had it. I knew I should thank my lucky stars...
Eventually I did a really bad thing. I knew I could never get the guts to tell the truth... "Hey listen, You're amazing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with our relationship... except this teeny tiny detail that I can't make myself love you or internalize how fabulous this all is."
I knew I could never say those things. I couldn't admit my feelings. I was scared -- too terrified --- what those feelings said about me.
I also couldn't break his heart like that... with such bitter, vile honesty.
I told myself I had to make him break up with me. It would be so much easier if he just hated me. I hated me.
So I did a really bad thing. I cheated on him with my ex-boyfriend. And you know what happened?
HE FORGAVE ME.
He said he loved me and we could work through it.
I've never hated myself so hard.
Eventually I just said it. I wanted to love him. (I really, really did) but... I didn't.
And clearly I was the crazy person because he was so fantastic. (I'm sure he still is.)
I said "it's not you, it's me" and I meant it.
I broke his heart.
I broke my mind.
I was 20. and I didn't learn that day what I should have:
NEVER LIVE SOMEONE ELSE'S DREAM!
And honesty it really is the best policy.
(More than a decade later I can look back and see how flawed my reasoning really was. I still broke his heart. What I did was still bitter and brutal and vile.)
Just because you have the opportunity to, doesn't mean you should.
It has to be YOUR dream.
It has to be what YOU want.
Find the hidden "you" in minimalist.
Living for you is minimalist.
And Josh, I'm so, so sorry.
*Disclosures: Josh's real name is Josh. However, I didn't actually have an opportunity to model. To protect the identity of the person referenced in this post, I'm using 'modeling' as a placeholder for what the real opportunity was. (It was similar, however, and I did have an "aha" moment in a makeup chair, as well as in the ladies room where my mind drifted back to Josh).
Lastly, if you want to hear more about how I quit my job and built a business around my passions, check out the three free video series through Exit Strategy School. My "escape" and transformational journey also been a popular topic on this Minimalist Monday column, so click the "minimalist" label tab (or the business 101 label, depending on your interest) or simply use the search bar :) for more related posts. Thanks!