In 2006 my then wife and I separated. That event caused me to take a good hard look in the mirror and reevaluate who I am. For close to 10 years I lived with this woman. I was a middle aged man with a good job working for a major Telecom company in Florida but was unfulfilled professionally. I had friends that I hung out with. Drank and laughed with, but never had deep meaningful conversations. That look in the mirror took me deep down the rabbit hole. It forced me to look into myself and ask difficult questions. A journey of self discovery and self awareness had begun.
I discovered that for my entire life I was living by somebody else's expectation of who they thought I should be. I wasn't writing my own story, instead I was a character in one that was being written for me. I decided that had to change and started to explore who I was and what I truly wanted. I started to live authentically and congruently by decisions I was consciously making. I notice a few things started to happen.
- I was happier and more content in day to day living. I no longer had the daily stresses of life. Oh make no mistake about it, life still handed me challenges. Money, relationships, getting clients. But because I was making decisions based on my values and not living up to other people's expectations I was able to face those challenges head on with no fear. Waking up in the morning no longer became a chore. I now jump out of bed eager to face the challenges of a new day knowing I am my own boss.
- I gained confidence. Living authentically and congruently allowed me to do away with the limiting thought process of, "what will so and so think?" Before I was trying to please everyone by being the perfect husband, the perfect son, the perfect employee. I was working so hard at being other people's idea of who I should be I was exhausted. And insecure. One person would tell me to be humble. Another would tell me to be assertive. A third would tell me to gregarious. Trying to please everyone led to bouts of depression and anxiety attacks. When I stopped running on the hamster wheel of constant approval, life slowed down and I was able to accomplish and achieve more. My confidence grew from the proof I saw before me and from the knowledge that I was "walking my talk."
- Some people loved who I became. People who have known me for my entire life told me I changed and seemed happier. They were glad I finally found "my home." They wanted to know what happened. I met new people who thought as I did and started to have those deep meaningful relationships I always sought. People looked at me as a leader for "walking my talk" fearlessly and their trust in me grew as a result.
- Some people hated who I became. People who have known me for my entire life told me I changed and seemed different. They were confused and not happy for me. Suddenly the Gary they knew was gone. The dependable Gary who would always jump when they said, "how high" was replaced by someone who stood up and said no. The Gary of submissive behavior was replaced by someone who honored himself first and took time to nurture and nourish himself. I met new people who could not understand why I would choose to walk away from a job in Corporate America. They couldn't understand my spiritual beliefs or values. They disagreed with how I choose to share my experiences.
- None of those people's thoughts about me had anything to do with me. This was perhaps the hardest lesson for me to learn and the most valuable one. When I first started to consciously change I always was looking over my shoulder to see if people approved. I secretly wanted them to say, "Gee, look at Gary. I wish I had the courage to do what he did. What a super guy!" Instead, most people did not even realize a change had taken place. People were too busy with their own life to watch everything little I was doing. It was all my ego that was leading me to worry about reactions. The people who did have strong reactions to the changes I was making were judging me by their beliefs and values. Their expectations for me. Their opinion did not affect my day to day life. They simply were holding a mirror to themselves and showing me their own insecurities and worries.
Overall, I gained some really great friends and lost some. But the pros have definitely outweighed the cons. I learned that as Shakespeare so famously wrote in Hamlet, "This above all: to thy own self be true."
"But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself"
~ Ricky Nelson, Garden Party