Don’t Prove – Improve

Whenever I doubt my decisions, wondering what others might think, I ask myself:” Who are you living this life for?” This simple question always helps me put things back into perspective. Are you living your life based on others’ opinions of you, or are you willing to break free from that and focus on making yourself proud instead?

The truth of the matter is that people will always have an opinion about what you do or don’t do. They will judge you (positively or negatively) either way and there is nothing you can do about that. So, why even bother trying to please them? Ask yourself instead:”What do I want? What do I think? What kind of life do I want to look back on when I am 99 years old?”. It’s not always easy and I had to learn it the hard way too, but I eventually did and am now trying my very best to consciously live my life the way I want to.

Coming from a very ambitious family, I was always expected to do well in school, to get a good university degree and to ultimately build myself a successful career. I was well on that path, thinking that was what I wanted too. Before I knew it, I had landed myself a well-paid managerial position in a leading firm, working endless hours and coming home from work feeling completely exhausted. I sacrificed a huge part of my social life for that job and justified it all with my strong work ethic and the admittedly generous paycheck I received at the end of each month. What I failed to acknowledge (although deep down I knew it all along) was that this particular choice of career was not the right one for me. It wasn’t satisfying me the slightest bit and it was dragging me down. But I kept going, telling myself that this was what I had worked so hard for to obtain.

Until one day, the inevitable happened and I broke down at the office. I had deliberately ignored all the warning signs my body had been trying to send me the last months and found myself completely burnt out. I can’t even begin to describe how lost and afraid I felt. The months that followed were truly the scariest of my life, as I had to reinvent myself and learn to define my own standards instead of going by society’s expectations.

I eventually got through that crisis with the help of my family and a coach. Since then I quit my prestigious job and took up a different, more low-key job. When I accepted, the new job offer I couldn’t help but wonder what my parents (specifically my dad) would think. Would he approve? What would all my friends and colleagues from law school think when I told them I was working part-time as a receptionist at a gym? Would that somehow make me less important?

It’s not always easy, but reminding myself that this is my life and that I alone am accountable for it, helps me, see things for what they are: I don’t live to impress others. I live my life the best way I know how and the way I want to. This realization came with some (painful) sacrifices as I ended friendships with so called “friends”, who had a hard time accepting my change of career and started projecting their own insecurities on me. But that is a price I am willing to pay. What I got in return is so much more valuable to me: I can finally breathe again! I am no longer stressed out and don’t feel exhausted all the time. I formed new friendships with people I would never have met otherwise. I am in a completely different place now and taking it day by day. Life is good.

Don’t waste your precious time trying to prove anything to anyone. It’s not worth the struggle. Even if they approve, hardly anybody is going to pat you on the shoulder and tell you to your face that you did well. Unfortunately, only very few people praise and compliment people to their faces. The rest prefers to point out flaws and gossip, which is just a sign of them projecting their own insecurities on others. You will have to rely on yourself to give yourself the approval and validation you deserve.

Instead of forever trying to impress others (believe me, it’s a battle you can’t win), focus on becoming the best version of yourself. What that is, is entirely and solely up to you to define. Some people choose to become vegetarians, others want a career and some dedicate themselves entirely to building a home with kids and family. Whatever your choices are – big or small doesn’t matter – be proud and go for it.

Become the best version of yourself by doing what you are good at, what you enjoy, what you believe in and then do it 10 times better and keep improving. Make yourself proud, no matter what others think of you. Visualize your passions and dreams and set goals to reach them and to constantly improve yourself. Take it step by step and work yourself to the top.

Becoming the best version of yourself is a life goal, a never-ending journey of discovery and improvement. Often enough it’s also a journey of trial and error. In those cases, it’s crucial that you get back on your feet, dust yourself off and keep going. The key is to never stop, to always keep going, no matter what and to listen to your inner voice. Do what you feel is best for you and keep in mind that what others think of your choices in life has nothing to do with you. That’s their reality, not yours.

So let’s focus on impressing ourselves!

4 thoughts

  1. Hi Giovanna, it’s a pleasure to read such honest and open words about your life. Alan Watts used to say that people don’t know how to live in the present so they don’t have a clue on how to plan for the future. They end up regretting decisions in their past because they were so focused to impress others or achieve the next milestone (be promoted, pay the mortgage, children’s college, etc., etc.). That focus prevented them from anticipating they were living unfulfilling lives. Perhaps they had too many obligations or people depending on them and couldn’t make a total lifestyle change.
    You came to that realization with an emotional breakdown, some people decide to press on, taking anti-anxiety medication and others decide to change the course of their lives. It depends on the monetary responsabilities you have binded yourself to (the milestones I’ve mentioned earlier).
    There’s an increasing number of people who have learned that in order to win at the game of living in our modern society, one must not play it. It is the “rat race” we’ve heard of before so many times in books and films. The comforts and pleasures of modern society that we consider a sign of success come at a cost. Today we should have much more spare time than our ancestors generations ago; frigdes, washers, ceramic hobs, cars, even our houses. All these “consumer products” cost more with each generation so we have to work more hours, heck even 30 years ago was common to pay your house in 5 years. The secret to happiness lies in needing less not having more. What we should do is live simpler lives and build our own products and societies from scratch, at a fraction of the cost, like some communities are doing right now.
    Profit comes creating a false scarcity among the population. Scarcity raises the competitiveness and ruthlessness at work, people with less ethics use to get promoted because they don’t play by the rules. Work environments get poisonous and stressful. Some people say: “enough is enough, I want to live a fulfilling life, contribute to something greater than me and leave the world a bit better than how I found it.”
    That’s why I’m all for movements like:
    Open Source Ecology

    Earthship Biotecture

    Straw Bale Architecture

    My humble advice (at least is what I’m trying to do) is: whatever your purpose in life may be; remain free from monetary obligations, use your time wisely, it’s your most valuable asset. Having a small income from a successful web is a great option as it is flexible and doesn’t tie you to anywhere or anyone. Never lose the curiosity and enjoyment for learning, surround yourself with valuable and wise people, spend some time in communities like these. Achieve great things for your life on the shoulders of giants, draw inspiration from communities already in the path you decide to walk on.

    Liked by 1 person

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