Strange things happen when you start stepping outside of your comfort zone. For the most part they are good things: increased confidence, resilience and being introduced to new and exciting activities and people. But as well as these, you may also find that people start to question what you are doing and even criticize you. And while I am the first person to encourage taking personal responsibility for yourself, I am here to tell you that more than likely, it’s not about you, it’s about them.
I’ve had a rough few weeks health-wise, culminating in an overnight stay in hospital on Monday. I am ok now, but when I was in the depth of the shit-fest I was feeling pretty angry at the world. So at a friend’s suggestion I decided to do a weeklong gratitude challenge as a way of helping me to see the positive parts of my life.
And as a way of stretching my comfort zone I decided to make it a public affair and post each of my gratitudes to Facebook. Initially I considered just writing them in my journal each day, rather than ‘exposing’ other people to my probably vomit-inducing corniness. But then I realised that the reason that I was hesitating to share it is because I was worried what people would think about me. I worried that they would criticize me for being so soppy, or for over-sharing or being ‘too emotional’. Then I decided that whether anyone did criticize me or not, what other people thought was irrelevant if I wanted to do it.
I had some feedback via a friend recently regarding my blog. Someone I knew was ‘concerned’ about my wellbeing because of what I was writing about on Cold Showers Are Good For You. At first I took the news quite personally, wondering what was ‘wrong’ with what I was writing. Then as I gave that information time to percolate I realised that firstly, if that person were really so concerned about me, they probably would have approached me directly about it rather than what is essentially gossiping about me. And secondly, I realised that their response to what I was writing about was nothing to do with me.
Something I had written had obviously triggered something in that person. Something I was writing about had made them feel uncomfortable. Just quietly, I’m taking that as a small win! I can’t control how other people react to what I write about my own experiences, because their reactions are based on their own experiences, insecurities, false beliefs and stories. All I hope is that anyone who has a reaction to my writing, either positive or negative, stops and reflects on the reason behind it. I hope that they choose to see the discomfort as an opportunity to get to know themselves better and grow from it. This is where the magic happens, in asking yourself what it is about a situation that makes you uncomfortable, and why
My message to you is this: if you have made steps to change your life and it makes other people feel uncomfortable, then that is not your problem. If you are starting to live your life in a way that is outside of the standard expectations of society then quite possibly it may make other people start to subconsciously question the way that they are living their lives. But I am here to tell you that regardless of what anyone else says about the way you live your life; it is none of their business. Assuming that what you are doing is not directly impacting the people you care about, no one except you has any right to an opinion about how you choose to live your life. So if you want to dye your hair green, get a tattoo, go and live off grid, or do an out of the ordinary job for example, then don’t let other people’s judgements hold you back.
Getting back to my gratitude challenge, was I concerned that people might think that my gratitudes are ‘corny’ or ‘over-sharing’? Initially I was, but if someone else has a reaction to me showing my gratitude for the positive parts of life, then I think that says more about them than it does about me. I no longer want to live my life based on what other people think and expect, whether their judgement is actual or in my own imagination. By caring too much about what society, or even your friends and family, think is an ‘acceptable’ or ‘realistic’ way to live, speak or behave, you are limiting your potential for living your best life. And it’s the only one you get – so make the most of it, now.
Have you experienced negative feedback from someone about how you are living your life? If so, I encourage you to understand that that person is going through their own journey and to have some compassion for what struggles they may be personally dealing with. But most importantly, if you are living your life according to your highest values, then remember – it’s not about you, it’s about them.
Your time is precious and I am grateful that you chose to read all the way to the bottom.