“When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk you’ll end up as the pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” -Pablo Picasso
Author, Bronnie Ware spent years working in palliative care. After many intimate conversations as she sat by the bedsides of dying people, she discovered that the dying had a common theme of regrets.
In a viral blog post, and later a bestselling book, she would reveal what the top five regrets of the dying were. The most common regret was this,
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself not the life others expected of me.”
This is sadly the reality of how many live their lives. They live on other peoples terms and have to die knowing they’d honored what other people expected of them, not what was best for themselves.
The great news is you don’t have to live this life. You don’t have to become the person who everyone else expects you to be.
Not Being You Will Destroy You
“Not being you will destroy you. A life lived for “them” is ultimately a life wasted.” -Anthony Moore
A few years ago I realized I was on a path that I hadn’t chosen for myself. I was at university not because I wanted to be there, but because society told me to. I was not living on my terms, but other people terms.
When I started to live my life purposefully in the way I wanted to I noticed a lot of people no longer understood me. They questioned my beliefs — why would I get up at 3am to write, why would I spend my time with my head buried into a book?
And truthfully, looking back I don’t blame them. Society isn’t welcoming to anyone’s who willing to stand out and it’s a natural human tendency to become like those around you.
But at the time, I couldn’t see this. I tried to reason with everyone, I tried to explain myself and change their perceptions. I almost went back to a “normal life” until I finally realized that not being be me would lead to more pain than being understood.
As Rita Mae Brown once said,
“The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you but yourself.”
Live a Life that Impresses Yourself, Not Other People
“While most people are trying to impress other people, it’s far more inspiring to live a life that impresses yourself.” -Benjamin P. Hardy
It’s a natural instinct to try and Impress others. The industrialists have taught us that we must good grades to impress college recruiters, get a good job and then impress our bosses so we can move up the corporate ladder.
But these are no measures of a successful life. The greatest measure of a successful life is; did I impress myself? Put best by Ernest Hemingway in his classic quote,
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
I know that my definition of success may never impress the masses. I may never make a million dollars, I may never have a house by the lake.
But if I can improve the lives of others, make my physique the best it can be, and travel the world I’ll be immensely proud of myself because those are the things that are important to me.
Spending a lifetime trying to size up to other peoples definition of success may impress a few people, but I can Guarantee you won’t impress yourself.
As James Altucher once wrote,
“Approval from others doesn’t guarantee success or happiness. It guarantees nothing. Sometimes it guarantees that you’ll be miserable.”
The most common regret is to not live a life true to yourself.
Not being you will lead to pain. If not now, it’ll certainly catch up to you at some point.
Don’t waste a lifetime trying to impress others; live a life that impresses yourself.
You don’t have to become the person who everyone else Expects you to be. What are you not doing right now because of what other people except of you?
Go out and do it now.
You Don’t Have to Become the Person Who Everyone Else Expects You to Be was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.