Truth be told, I haven’t lived life on my own terms for a long time. Did I know this about myself? No way. I thought that every decision I made was because I was living life on my own terms. Only until the last year, when I really have thrown my reservations to the wind and have started on a journey to chase dreams, have I come to learn that life truly is better when you live true to who you are. What do I mean by this? Here is a perfect example that happened to me last weekend.
My family wanted to do one last get together before the end of summer. We decided to head to Huntsville, Utah and swim up at Pineview Reservoir. We were having a great time in the water paddle boarding when my brothers surrounded the paddle board my sister and I were on and said they were now going to play “shark” with us. I have been around the block long enough to know that playing “shark” means that someone (probably myself) is going to get soaked, hurt, and bruised in some way. So I told them I didn’t want to play. They insisted. I still didn’t want to play and so I let them use my paddle board after they push me back to shore before starting the game. I then went on the beach, grabbed a magazine and laid out in the sun. It was glorious.
Sounds like a simply story, right? Well it took me over 20 years of living life to realize that I had every right to decide how my life went. A younger Abbi would have felt a lot of pressure to play, pressure to not disappoint, and pressure that if I didn’t play I would miss out on fun, and be considered a wet blanket. I would cave into the demands of others, do whatever the activity was, and feel resentful that I “had” to play, be there, or what have you.
When it comes to your life, you are the expert and you alone. This means that when decisions come your way you and you alone need to decide if that decision will add to your happiness or not. I understand that this is easier said than done. It also tends to be the really menial decisions and tasks that are the hardest to decide. That is because we have this idea in our head that if we do what we would really like to do that we are selfish. Let me be clear, we ALL have to do things we don’t want to do. But being true to your wants and desires when it comes to the little things of life that increase your joy (i.e. not playing a game, skipping the party, leaving early).
Here are two simple questions to ask yourself when wondering if you are begin true to yourself and living life on your own terms.
1. Does it hurt anyone if I don’t participate?
This is really important, because this questions alone will kill all your “being selfish” fears because it will let you know if you are. Wanting to leave your friend’s bachelorette party early because it’s going WAY too long? Perfectly fine (just make sure they know which gift is from you). Leaving your sister’s wedding early? Not okay (the reasons why is it would hurt her feelings and you have some duties as family to help out). The most important part of this question is to be honest. Be aware that other people might act like it’s selfish (i.e. whining because you won’t join the game of “shark”) but decide for yourself.
2. Will I stress about this later?
Have you ever agreed to do a friend a favor, be somewhere, or do something and then antagonize over it for the next two weeks? Our lives are stressful enough without us piling on more needless requests. Now, some stress is good. We need to push ourselves, accept new challenges at work, home, and in relationships. But if the stress is more than its worth—take a step back and reevaluate why you agreed to this task in the first place. Was it because you were trying to please others? Or is this what you really want to do? Don’t ever forget that you have a duty to yourself as well as to others.
Living life on your own terms can be harder than it appears, especially when we are faced with the fear of being selfish. When you start to ask yourself what you truly want to do and what will make you happy then living life on your own terms becomes a joy. It doesn’t mean we don’t think or care about others. It means that we treat our opinions, our desires, and our wants like the valued input they are. Yes, we can’t do what we want our whole lives, but why not actively seek to increase our joy by saying “yes” to ourselves more often when it comes to the little decisions that we make day in and day out.