Is there something you’ve been putting off in your life, waiting for the perfect magic moment? If you answered yes, trust me, I get it! It can feel impossible to take that hard first step. It’s much easier to stay in any situation, no matter how compromised, than to risk moving into uncharted waters. Yet not doing so is the #1 regret expressed by people as they looked back at their lives.
When I heard this research ( from an audiobook), it hit me like a ton of bricks. The author was sharing the upshot from his research of life’s greatest regrets. At end of their lives, the people he interviewed expressed one common theme: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled”.
People didn’t regret that they hadn’t gotten rich, traveled enough or spent more time with loved ones. At the end of the day, none of the things we usually focus on mattered. Instead, the big regret was about prioritizing the opinions of others above being true to ourselves.
Funny that the free choice, just being yourself, sounds so simple. And at the same time we know it’s SO hard. Just like it’s cheaper and easier to make a pot of coffee then wait in line to shell out for Starbucks, but we don’t always do that.
One of the greatest human needs is to fit in. We live in a culture that gives us clear instructions on what we need to do to be accepted. If it takes a spendy pumpkin latte to join the ranks, for lots of us it’s time and money well spent.
The problem is, when we hang with a gang that doesn’t match our values, our true selves can’t thrive. Now, I know firsthand how hard it is to be accepted when you’re a nonconformist. I haven’t owned a TV or eaten meat in more years than I can count. To top it off, I’m not all that connected to my phone or social media. To some people, that’s weird. So I know what it’s like to be shunned as an adult for not conforming. It sucks!
We all share the same basic need for belonging, which explains all the compromising. Yet according to vulnerability expert Brene Brown, fitting is the opposite of belonging.
“Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who
you need to be to be accepted. Belonging,
on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to
be who we are.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
Since my move to Portland 2 years ago, I decided I would find my tribe. I began exploring my options for connecting with community; neighborhood groups, classes, coworking spaces, networking groups. None of them felt like the right fit.
One of the groups, a year-long local leadership class, was a major time and money commitment. I paid up to spend an entire day each month learning about our local community. My goal for the program was connection, but eventually I began doubting myself after failing to find it. Finally after feeling flat-out rejected by members of the group who ignored my many attempts to connect, I realized I was barking up the wrong tree.
As hard as it was, I realized I needed to let go, but not to give up. I had enrolled in a women’s esteem class, which happened to fall on the day after my leadership group exit email went out. I figured it was the right place to share my challenges, and it was. I got a referral to a women’s networking group and began forming new connections.
Weeks later, I was still working to rebuild my self-esteem after 2 years of hard knocks when I began a new coaching certification program. After an intense weekend spent with people of completely different ages, backgrounds and faiths, the seeker and helper in each of us connected. I realized I was finally home.
My journey from self-doubt to clarity was long, fraught with frustrations and sometimes tearful. I often felt like giving up, but looking back I see I needed those stumbles to find my true North. Action both requires risk and creates clarity. It’s impossible to create a clear vision for your future without taking risks.
My work now is to let go of those tired old appeals for recognition and approval and move bravely into the unknown. I’ll probably experience more rejection, but I this time I have community and mentors to guide me.
Ultimately, this journey led me to recognize how much, as women, we the right community to support us through navigating change. My work as a coach is to help clients find that community, and offer the support we all need to keep going.
If you’re ready to begin the journey to your true self, start with 10 days of taking risks and letting go.
Starting today, mark your calendar to put share something that’s true to your vision or intention, and feels slightly risky. Show up in a way that’s unexpected. Share quotes you align with, make connections to new people, or join a new program or group.
My goal is to keep growing along the way to my best life. And if yours is too, I hope you’ll stay tuned and join me on this journey from ‘good enough’ to Best Life Ever! I promise, you won’t regret it!