It does not matter what your life looks like to anyone else. Their validation does not give your life value. Their admiration will never make you feel loved. The only thing outside approval will do is create pressure on you to keep being more, more, more.
It can be far too easy to convince yourself that your life must be valuable and special and worthwhile and glittery if someone else thinks so. Sometimes it seems like achieving outside approval is easier than giving ourselves the inner respect we all deserve to pursue. Because, there are ways and means that a culture will give you which will lead you to what others believe is an enviable life. Money. Labels. Cars. Shiny love. Shiny friends. Shiny things. These things look like a life that is worth something, at least that’s what our consumerist and image-based culture has fed us for years. It’s easy to gain approval. There’s a road map. Just follow someone else’s lead. Do the things you should do. Look the way you should look. Buy the things you should buy. Go to the things you should go to. Be the person you should be. Voila, ready-made validation!
The thing is, you can follow all the should’s until you’re breathless and exhausted and in the middle of your breakdown or numb and purposeless and frustrated—which will happen, of course—and what you will never find at the end of the Rainbow Of Should’s is self-fulfillment, self-respect, a self-prescribed life. If you chase the opinion of others to validate your life, you will do so forever. It will never end. There will always be more people to impress. You will never be enough, because there will always be a way to find your inadequacies—simply because you are searching for them. The system of needing external validation is set up to fail. It’s set up to keep you running in a hamster wheel, over and over and over.
You must define your life. You have to be the last and final word of what your fulfilling life looks like. Outside validation is a prison you will live inside forever if you do not break that cycle. Nobody needs to live inside your life except you. You damn well better like what you’ve created. You damn well better enjoy who you are. It doesn’t matter if anyone likes you or loves you or thinks you’re worth big things or big dreams or big opportunities because, unless you see those parts of yourself, too, you will sabotage it. You will fuck it up. If you do not believe you are worth a big life, how could you ever enjoy it if you get it? If you don’t even know—for yourself—what a big life looks like, how will you know when you have it?
The only way to affirm your life is for you to affirm it. The only way your life can be big or interesting or adventurous or filled with love is if you can recognize when it is. You can only recognize these things when you know what they look like. And, if you’re too busy scrambling around for the admiration of others, you have no idea how to create your own life for yourself. You can create the vision of someone else’s beautiful life or you can become aware of your own vision. One road leads to a never-ending cycle of needing the love of others to feel loved. The other allows you freedom to be and expand and define for yourself what makes you happy about your life.
It can feel like you will never be enough and, in many ways, you’re right. You won’t ever be enough if your enoughness lies in the hands of others. But, if you let yourself be enough now, in this moment, and you stop needing other people to affirm you, then you are free. When you take back the definitions and the labels and the little validations you seek on a daily basis, you realize you were imprisoned to other people’s definitions of you and having to continue to either live those up or down. And, when you realize that your happiness and peace of mind was in the hands of strangers and friends and family members and lovers, then you can begin to take it back, piece by piece, until you’re the only one in control of your happiness and peace of mind. That’s freedom. That’s ultimate freedom.
When you are the arbiter of your own life and you have no one to answer to except yourself, you are free. Not because you have escaped your life or fled the country or done anything other than the not-so-small feat of reclaiming what your life means to you and giving yourself the only affirmation you need. Freedom is not a place. It’s not a shedding of responsibility or people or work or anything like that. It’s inside you. You can either imprison yourself to the mind of a world that will continue to tell you that you are not enough and that you need to do more to prove you are more or you can free yourself. You can decide your life is enough right now. You can decide what a big, happy, juicy, beautiful life looks like and you can inch closer toward that.
That’s true freedom.