Own your voice! That statement either empowers you or confounds you. We live in a time of unlimited exposure to information and an almost voyeuristic line of sight into someone else’s life. At any moment, we can easily find ourselves connected to the latest happenings of the world or can instantly connect to a friend or family member halfway across the world. It is an incredible time to live and while I am a huge fan of the ease that this technology has brought into my life, I can clearly see it’s shadow side.
Where does all of this access to information lead? On the smallest scale it can lead to a case of information overwhelm, on the dangerous side it can leave individuals feeling disconnected and like they are not good enough. It can feel impossible to own your voice if you find yourself in a constant stream of information consumption. You can wake up five, ten years into adulthood and realize that you are living someone else’s life.
You Have the Answers
I followed the “How to Live a Good Life” checklist. I went to university straight out of high school, got a degree, met the incredible person that I later married, bought a house, got the career and started climbing that ladder to success. Did that lead me to a place of deep happiness? Nope. It brought me to a place of abundant security and deep confusion. I followed someone else’s voice and I felt utterly confused when I got the end and I wasn’t deeply happy. I did everything right! I believed that there was something wrong with me.
We are born with an incredible amount of natural intelligence. As children, we are curious and start to explore our world employing that curiosity. We try something and we may fail but we figure out what works for us gradually and organically. We trust that we will sort it out because we haven’t been taught anything else. At some point as we get placed into the larger societal picture through school we begin to see that there is a formula and a method by which we should live our life. This formula get stronger and stronger the more that we are entrenched in that society. Add to the highlight reels of other people’s lives in this day and age of social media and comparison can make it impossible to own your voice.
The Risk of Information Overload
I love the internet. I have learned the most incredible things from my fellow humans who had the foresight to post a video on how to prune raspberries, hang a shower curtain at the right height or the lifehack way to peel an egg. I love that I can connect with people in any location with a good internet signal and share information through teaching, writing and coaching. My husband and I are constantly asking: “how did people find things out before the internet?”
One of the risks of all of this information is that you may be searching for the answers to your problems or challenges in a million places. Maybe the internet helps you tune a carburetor and that is wonderful, but it cannot teach you how to own your voice and create a life you love. It will give you a hundred ways to fry an egg and it will give you 1 million ways to find happiness, true love, confidence or whatever it is that you seek. When I search for anything to do with personal development, there are a BAZILLION search results. Even though I am a coach and I teach people how to clear away the noise so that they can own their voice and create their joyful life, nothing I say will ever replace the natural intelligence that we all possess. I simply remind you that you already have all of the answers.
How to Stop Living Someone Else’s Life
I hope that you find value in my insights. I speak from experience and I wouldn’t change a thing. The most important thing I did when I woke up one day in my 30th year living someone else’s life, is that I didn’t keep looking outside of me. I realized by some stroke of magic, luck or fate that I already had the answers and I started listening to my inner voice.
- Stop Seeking – I have only recently come to understand that the reason that I followed the checklist was because I didn’t think that my voice was enough. I believed that once my external accomplishments were sorted out, that I could then be happy. That is a dangerous trap and one that will only lead to that goalpost being pushed further and further away.
- Hit Mute on the Peanut Gallery – I trust that you have a network of friends and family that have the best of intentions when it comes to giving you advice. I have the same thing. I am deeply grateful for them. I let their voices overwhelm me though. I ruled my own life by committee asking everyone around me for advice and insight when it came time to make a decision. Where did that lead me? Confused and living someone else’s life or at least versions of it. When you are ready to start creating your own joyful life, you must turn down the volume of the voices around you.
- Define What Happy Means to You – You are in the driver’s seat. Do you know what makes you fundamentally happy? Can you give me five words right now that define what the word means to you? Have you ever asked yourself what happy means to you? If these questions leave you feeling confused, then I invite you to bust out a pen and paper and get curious. Start to think about the things that bring you ease, enjoyment and that energize and excite you.
- Imagine an Alternate Reality – Take a moment and imagine that you could create a life free from all external influences. Imagine that there are no restrictions to what your life can look like and write down what it would look like for you if you were suddenly living that blue-sky picture of your life. Get crystal clear on what makes you happy, who you are with, how you spend your time and how you feel. This is how you stop living someone else’s life and start living yours. Ask yourself: “what is stopping me from taking small steps right now to create this version of my beautiful life?”
- Develop a Thick Skin – Your peanut gallery may rise up to support you when you start making changes in your life. I also know that they may resist these changes, challenge you and possibly attack you. Ask yourself if the pain of remaining the same and living someone else’s life is greater than the discomfort of having people not really understand you. The thing about transitioning to the life you want, is that it tends to challenge people that are not living the life they want. You can very quickly become a mirror to those people who are still trying to validate their own version of living someone else’s life. A powerful question to ask yourself before spending your energy explaining something to someone is “are they telling me or are they asking?” If it is just an excuse for the other person to preach or influence you, allow yourself to move on.
- Communicate – There is a way to communicate that is clear and yet still compassionate. When you find yourself in a place of needing to tell someone about the changes you are making, a great thing to do is to ask for their help by asking them to listen fully. For the more difficult conversations, you can commit to meeting people where they are and seeing them from a place of their own understanding. You do not need to justify your decision to stop living someone else’s life.
- Find Your Tribe – there are people in the world that will understand you. If some of your peanut gallery didn’t make it into your new life, that’s ok. It is the natural progression of creating a life you love. Trust me when I say that it is about quality not quantity. You will find the people that accept you and support you, but more importantly you will have the confidence to stand firmly in the knowledge that you are living your own life, free from the need for external validation. The tribe is icing on the cake.
Where Am I Now?
The moment I decided to stop living someone else’s life, everything changed for me. I still live in the same house, married to the same incredible person, work at the same great job but my life is completely my own. I am living all my dreams come true because I started to listen and trust that my inner compass was guiding me. It has lead me to a place of unshakable confidence and abundant happiness. My life is everything that I have ever wanted and every day I wake up with profound gratitude that I am in a place where I am making the most of the precious time I am given.
Tell me: are you living your life or the life of someone else?