Sometimes it’s healthy to let go of other people’s opinions, and to operate with your own intuition and wisdom as your guide.
Your life is yours alone. Others can try to persuade you, but they can’t decide for you. They can walk with you, but not in your shoes. So make sure the path you decide to walk aligns with your intuition and values. And don’t be scared to pave your own path when you know it’s the right thing to do.
Will the people in your life always support your decisions? No, they likely won’t. But you need to remember that life is not about justifying yourself — it’s about creating yourself.
So make this your lifelong motto: “I respectfully do not care.” Say it to anyone who passes unfair judgment on something you strongly believe in or something that makes you who you are. People will inevitable judge you at some point anyway, and that’s OK. You affected their life; don’t let them affect yours.
And when you need a quick reminder or a dose of encouragement, refer to this quick reference list of life choices you shouldn’t have to justify to everyone else:
1. Choose to put yourself first.
During a television interview back when she was the First Lady, Michelle Obama was asked if she thought it was at all selfish that she openly admits to making herself her first priority. The First Lady smiled and replied, “No, not at all. It’s practical… a lot of times we just slip pretty low on our own priority list because we’re so busy caring for everyone else. And one of the things that I want to model for my children is investing in themselves as much as they invest in others.” Like her or not, that’s spot on advice if you ask me! There are only a few people in this world who will stay 100% true to you, and YOU should be one of them. Prioritize your own needs into your daily to-do’s.
2. Choose to embrace what you feel.
There’s no reason to apologize for being sensitive or emotional. You don’t have to be ashamed of feeling something or expressing it if it’s real to you. Showing your emotions is characteristic of a truly alive and compassionate human being, and yet it’s too often perceived as a sign of being weak or broken. Truly, it’s not the emotionally sensitive person who is broken, it’s society’s understanding that is oftentimes dysfunctional and emotionally incapacitated.
Bottom line: There is zero shame in expressing your authentic feelings. Those who are at times described as being “too emotional” or “complicated” are the very fabric of what keeps the dream alive for a more thoughtful, caring, humane world. Let your feelings, smiles, and tears shine a light in this world!
3. Choose to be unapologetically YOU.
We are never more alive than when we are being brave, and we can’t be brave unless we are willing to take off our masks and be ourselves. It’s about finding the courage to be imperfectly yourself. When perfectionism of any kind is driving us, shame is always riding shotgun and fear is the backseat driver. Don’t do this to yourself. Let go of that subconscious pull to be “perfect” in the eyes of others, and just be exactly who you are today. No apologies required.
4. Choose to own your weirdness.
We are all weird in some way. What sets you apart may seem like a burden, but it’s not — most of the time it’s what makes you so incredible. So where’s your will to be weird? Where’s your resolution to be real? Celebrate your individuality and do not be embarrassed of it. If you’re lucky enough to have something that makes you different from everybody else, don’t be ashamed and don’t hide it. Own it! (Read “The Gifts of Imperfection”.)
5. Choose to let go and not take things personally.
You may not be able control all the rude things people say and do, but you can decide not to be controlled by them. Make that decision for yourself. There is great freedom in leaving others to their opinions. And there is a huge weight lifted when you take things less personally.
Of course, some people may tell you it’s best to stand up tall for yourself and fight back hard, but the best offense is usually a good defense. Defend yourself from others by not putting yourself at the center of their inner conflicts. Truth be told, if you take everything personally, you will remain offended for the rest of your life. What other people do is mostly because of them, not you.
6. Choose to forgive others.
Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace. Free yourself of the burden of being an eternal victim. For the most part, grudges are for those who insist that they are owed something. Forgiveness on the other hand is for those who are wise enough to focus on what they can control in the present. In order to move forward, you must know why you felt the way you did, and why you no longer need to feel that way. It’s about accepting the past, setting healthy boundaries, and lifting your spirit with positive steps forward.
7. Choose to spend more time with the people you love.
Although it’s perhaps conceivable that you may lie on your deathbed someday regretting that you didn’t work harder and check every little thing off your to-do list, it’s doubtful that your work and to-dos will be your biggest concerns. What’s more likely, however, is that you will wish you could have one more romantic night with your spouse, another long, heartfelt talk with your sister or brother, and one last laugh with your best friend. The bottom line is that life is too short to be too busy for the people you love.
8. Choose to go at your own pace.
You are not behind. You are exactly where you need to be. Every step is necessary. Don’t judge or berate yourself for how long your journey is taking. We all need our own time to travel our own distance. In fact, two of the most amazing couples I know didn’t meet each other until they were in their late 30’s. One of these couples just had their first child in their early 40’s. The lesson here is simple: Great things in life don’t happen when society tells you they’re supposed to happen — they happen when the time and conditions are right. So remember, you don’t have to make excuses about why you aren’t married right now, or working a traditional 8-5 job, or making a certain amount of money, etc. Our lives are not all meant to be scripted the same exact way.
9. Choose to fail forward.
In those moments when you find yourself standing face to face with an issue you battled before — one bearing a lesson you were sure you’d already learned — remember, repetition is not failure. Ask the waves, ask the leaves, ask the wind. Repetition is required to evolve and grow. And repetition allows you to fail forward. We learn the right way on the way.
Truly, failures are opportunities to begin again smarter than before. If you’ve heard differently, forget what others have told you. Fail often, fail fast, clean it up, learn from it, move on, and then repeat. Just because things didn’t work out for you today, doesn’t mean there’s not something big in store for you tomorrow. Rest easy and get ready. Don’t waste your energy justifying your next step to the naysayers.
10. Choose to forgive yourself.
I don’t entirely approve of some of the things I’ve done in my life, but I am who I am. And I would not be me if I hadn’t learned along the way. The same is true for you. Don’t be ashamed of who you had to be to get to where you are today. Forgive yourself for those times when you lacked clarity, for those foolish decisions you made that caused needless stress. Forgive yourself for being human, young, and reckless. Your journey has many vital lessons. And what matters most now is your willingness to grow from them.
11. Choose to dress comfortably (and owning it).
Marc and I have helped hundreds of coaching clients overcome self-esteem issues, and physical appearance almost always has something to do with it. As a client we coached this morning put it, “Whenever I leave the house looking anything less than airbrushed and fashionable and then run into someone I know, I tend to feel the need to apologize for not looking a certain way.” That’s ludicrous! You don’t have to apologize to anyone for not looking a certain way. You might want to apologize to yourself though, if you felt like you had to in the first place.
12. Choose healthy eating habits.
Too often our culture associates healthy eating habits with fad diets and weight loss marketing schemes. But there’s also something called healthy eating as a means to actual good health, not weight loss, not some crazy diet or anything else. Why do we sometimes need to stand up for ourselves when we choose to eat healthy? Because for some reason some people tend to be skeptical that a person would actually just want to treat their body right and not be perpetually concerned with their shape and size. Eat healthy because it’s good for your health. Ignore the critics!
13. Choose to work hard on your dreams.
When people try to inspire you, they’ll often tell you all kinds of well-meaning and heartfelt things like: “Follow your dreams. Listen to your heart. Find your inner voice and let it sing. In fact, dream and don’t stop dreaming until all of your dreams come true.” And while all of this is fine and dandy, the big problem is a lot of people dream and dream… and that’s all they do. Don’t be one of them!
It’s always easier said than done, yet you need to do some hard things to be happy in life. Because the hard things ultimately build you up and move you forward. They make the difference between existing and living, between knowing the path and walking it, between a lifetime of empty dreams and a life filled with gratitude for how far you’ve come.
14. Choose to be positive through your challenges.
Positivity does not mean ignoring the negativity around you, it means overcoming the negativity within you. There is a big difference between the two. The peace, happiness, and effectiveness of your life greatly depends on the quality of your thoughts.
Of course not every day will be good, but there will be something good about every day. Do your best to notice it. None of us know the exact paths we will travel or the trials that will come our way. The secret is to find some goodness on the daily journey. Making the best of each step you take is the smartest choice. Your positivity will gradually help you realize that many of the inconvenient things that happen in your life are on the same path to the best possible things that could ever happen to you. (Note: Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the Adversity chapter of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently”.)
15. Choose to give yourself hope.
They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for. I couldn’t agree more. We all do a lot of talking about the importance of the first two, but don’t forget to nurture your hope too. And remember, hope isn’t the belief that life will always give you what you want; it’s the belief that life will gradually reveal what’s right for you.
16. Choose to feel completely justified already (without anyone else’s approval).
Remember, you don’t need a standing ovation or a bestseller or a promotion or a million bucks. You are enough right now. You have nothing to justify. Care less about who you are to others and more about who you are to yourself. You will have fewer heartaches and disappointments the minute you stop seeking from others the justification only YOU can give yourself.
Bottom line: Constantly trying to justify yourself to everyone else forces you to miss out on the beauty of simply being yourself, with your own unique ideas, desires, and life experiences. If you are led through life only doing and being what you’ve come to believe is expected of you, then, in a way, you cease to live… you merely exist.
Do more than exist!
We all exist.
The question is: How do you want to live?
Now, it’s your turn…
Yes, it’s your turn to get out there and live today! (No justifications needed.)
But before you go we would love to hear from YOU.
Which point above resonates with you the most?
Please leave Marc and me a comment below and let us know what you think of this essay. Your feedback is important to us. 🙂
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