“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
That’s the top regret of people who are close to dying.
I remember reading that and tears stinging my eyes and thinking, “I cannot let that happen to me.”
I think the most fascinating thing about this regret is that it’s not about wishing that they knew who they were so that they could live a life true to themselves. It’s about having the courage to live to live a life true to themselves.
It’s about them knowing exactly who they were, but still choosing to be something less.
It’s about them knowing exactly who they are, but still choosing to be something less, because that’s what others expected.
They didn’t live their own life because they didn’t think “others” would approve of it. That means these “others” probably did the same thing. Because of some other “others.”
Why can’t we just be ok with other people being who they really are?
I don’t know. I don’t get it. Sometimes, I don’t want to get it.
But then I think that I have no control over other people anyway. I’ll never be able to make everyone be ok with other people being who they are. I’ll never be able to make anyone be ok with other people being who they are.
I can’t control what others expect of me. Sometimes I think I’d like to. But then I’d be just as bad as someone who isn’t ok with someone else being who they are, wouldn’t I?
I can’t control what others expect of me… but I can control having the courage to live a life true to myself. That’s all I can ever control.
Because that’s what courage is. A choice. And the people who had this regret, which was most people, understood that.
There have been plenty of times in my life where I haven’t been courageous.
When I shouted something racist at my neighbour because my friend thought it would be funny.
When I didn’t stand up for myself when I was being bullied.
When I refused to tell her how I felt because I didn’t want to feel the finality of rejection.
There have been plenty of times in my life when I have been courageous.
When I let go of some of my old “friends” and made new ones.
When I chose to go to “basketball college” instead of sixth form.
When I chose to take voluntary redundancy from my 9-5 to pursue the self-employed life that I’m living now.
The only difference between the things in those lists is courage.
I knew it was wrong to shout something racist at my neighbour.
I knew I could’ve stood up for myself when I was being bullied.
I knew I was being a coward when I refused to tell her how I felt about her.
It was hard to let go of my old “friends” and make new friends, and a part of me hated that it was the right thing… but I did it.
It was hard to go to “basketball college” because I’d be leaving my friends and I’d be living away from home and it was different from anything I’d ever expected to do… but I did it.
It was hard to take voluntary redundancy from my 9-5 because I’d be leaving people I cared about, and it had been my life for many years, and there were no guarantees when it came to being self-employed… but I did it.
Every time I’ve done something that isn’t true to me, it’s because I’ve chosen not to be true to me. Because not being true to me was easier, or more convenient, or would somehow protect me.
But, of course, that’s all bullshit.
Because not being true to me was just wrong. It was just pretending. It was just a lie.
Do those things sound easier? Or more convenient? Or like I’m being protected?
When I’m not living a life that’s true to myself, the only thing I’m “protecting” myself from is being who I really am.
And not just who I really am. Who I know I really am.
If, at the end of my life, I regret not living a life true to myself, then I’ve failed.
I’ve failed because I thought that it was more important to live a life that others expected of me, rather than the life I expected of me.
Nobody in the entire world wants to have this regret at the end of their life.
But it’s not about not wanting it. It’s about not having it.
Isn’t it time to stop pretending that you don’t know who you are? Isn’t it time to stop thinking that what others expect of you is more important than what you expect of you?
Isn’t it time to choose to have the courage to live a life that’s true to you?