I recently finished a book called The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau. Great book on living your own life on your own terms and changing the world all at the same time. I highly recommend it. One of the standout ideas to me from the book was the quote, “You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.”
This is an increibly powerful statement. Because what he’s asking you to do is live and own your truth – however you see it. That doesn’t mean that you are free to step all over pepole and do things regardless of how they affect others, but it does mean you have to find your own expectations for your life and take responsibility for them. Whoa.
As I thought about that quote, I realized that most of the time, those people who expect me to live my life differently than I do aren’t real people- or at least their disapproval is not outwardly real. Mostly it exists as a chorus in my head every time I act a little bit unconventionally. I’ve turned the collective disapproval into my own inner critics. These are the voices that pop up and tell me exactly why I can’t do something – I’m not smart enough, or brave enough, I don’t have what it takes.
The voices inside our heads can be pretty mean- you’re stupid, you’ve wasted your life, you’ve ruined someone else’s life. They can be contradictory: You never move forward in anything and then when you do they’ll tell you you’ll never sustain what you’ve got going here.
I hear people say sometimes, “It’s me against the world,” when often I think the battle their fighting is mostly inside thier own head. They’ve just gotten really good at painting a picture of who their inner critics are and it seems absolutely real to them.
The most insidious type of inner critics are the ones who’ve been shouting the same lies over and over again so you can’t even really consciously hear them most of the time. You’ve bought into the lie now as truth so when they say it day after day, it doesn’t even strike you as odd or wrong. But they are wrong; very, very wrong.
So, with great respect for Chris Guillebeau, I would like to amend his statement and offer you this mantra:
You don’t have to live your life the way your inner critics expect you to.
We’ll talk in my next blog post about what you can do instead. Until then, try and listen for those critics and find out what messages they’ve said long enough and forcefully enough you now believe them. It’s time to send them packing.