How much of your life do you spend pleasing other people? How much of your day is spent worrying about whether you made the right choice for someone else, or whether they’ll approve? How often do you behave in a way you’re expected to, rather than in a way you actually want to?
It’s easy to do exactly what you’re supposed to. When it goes wrong, you have something to blame. You can point a finger and say that you were just doing what you’ve always done, and it gets you off the hook. You’re not accountable for your own life, because you’re following a preset path that someone else green-lighted.
You dissuade yourself from making your own choices. Your dissatisfaction with your situation, or the way you behave, is frustrating, and it’s upsetting, but it’s dependable. A comfortable guarantee. Being helpless is more appealing than you want to admit. It’s the simplest excuse, and the most reliable out. The minute you say it’s out of your control, you no longer have to worry about it.
And so you make excuses. You’re always like this. It’s expected. You’ve come too far to change. The circumstances are beyond your control.
The choice to stop doing exactly what you think you’re supposed to is fully in your control. It’s a choice you can make tomorrow, three months or six years from now. And that’s what makes it daunting. You can start to change whenever you want, and now doesn’t seem like a good time.
You can build an entire life asking everyone else for permission. You can weave a web of satisfaction that comes with the validation someone else gives to you. You can pass that satisfaction off as happiness.
What is the one thing you think you’re supposed to do that’s confining? The obvious answers – a bad relationship, a career path you hate, a city you don’t want to be in – aren’t the only things you’re expected to do. There’s also the way you act. The way you respond to situations. Allowing yourself to be petty because no one expects more from you. Not taking responsibility for your actions, because you never have. Shying away from your feelings because you’re not the kind of person who acknowledges them.
You get stuck. Trapped in a shitty job, an unhealthy friendship, a place you were going to leave and didn’t have the courage to. Stuck with characteristics you don’t even like but have written off as “just how you are.”
If you have even the smallest amount of uncertainty about your situation, it’s not going anywhere. Once your doubts have surfaced, they’ll stay until they’re confronted.
There is nothing immediately gratifying about confronting the problems in your life, changing paths, or abandoning something that’s comfortable. No one lusts after accountability. Seeking change is attractive 10% of the time – the rest of the time it’s just a lot of realities that are hard to accept.
It’s real and grounding and scary. Because when you make choices for yourself, and carry it out without the influence of other people, you have to defend it. There’s no one to back you up, or an excuse to fall back on.
You can stay in the limbo of semi-dissatisfaction. You can wonder what it would be like to leave your relationship, quit your job, go back to school. You can keep shying from accountability, or refusing to work on the qualities that hold you back. But you know better.