Some time back, a friend asked me if she was living her life for herself, or for others. And having a cuppa with her yesterday, she asked me that question again and answered her own question: that it was both. She explained that since her parents gave her life, she is obliged to live her life for her parents, and now that she has grown up, she lives her life as well as her parents; more like a combination of some sort.
This is a very common question for anyone when they come to a point where they find that they wish to do something different from what others would want or expect them to do. And during this time, is somewhat like a crossroad – to please myself, or to please others.
Any form of ‘living for others’ is a form of seeking approval from others. When we deviate from our own dreams to live somebody else’s dream for or of us, we tend to think that we are living someone else’s life. While to a certain extent it is true, for instead of keeping myself happy, I am doing what I am not really wanting to do to keep others happy, but by the mere fact that I am doing it for the sake of seeking approval from others, I am living for myself once again.
While there is no right or wrong in any decisions that we make, whether we listen to our inner vocation, or to follow others’ opinion for us, it is important to know why we tend to do the latter instead of the former. I want them to be happy, or to be proud of me, they say, but can we then see that it is a ‘I want’ and by that virtue, you are already living for yourself; except that coming from that space, it is more of a self betrayal rather than anything else.
It is easy to tell someone, this is your life, not theirs, you don’t need to listen to them but so much harder for that someone to listen to you as long as they have not addressed to why they have a strong need to listen to others, instead of themselves. Just take a look at some children who actually would like to pursue their own interests but end up in their parents’ companies. If you tell them that they have a choice, they will tell you that they have no choice – simply because they have already made a choice for themselves that they need to seek their parents’ approval, and that they wish not address the guilt that lies within – I need my parents to be happy with me.
In many instances of my journey where I am called to make decisions before, I tend to give in to others up to the point that my saying ‘no’ seemed to be shocking to them. And when the ‘no’ is shocking, I tend to become submissive once again as I was so afraid that they would be unhappy. But what is it in for me if they are unhappy – their disapproval of me, their withdrawal of love to me. But could that be any case true? I’ve questioned myself many times, if someone was to disappoint me and make me angry (which is impossible by the way not by the fact that I am a saint but by the very truth that there is no one out there who could trigger me save for myself), would I love them any less? And the answer was no – the love is unwavering. So why did I doubt of their love towards me as wavering when deeply I knew that the bond that exists would not be altered by things like that?
Coming back to living for myself or others – it makes no difference. The difference is what we want at the end of the day; I want to do the things I want, or I want to seek approval from others by doing the things that others want me to do. Either way, is what ‘I want’. There is no other.
Until one has the clarity to see this truth, then perhaps when it comes to a point where a decision such as this needs to made again, one can then make a more conscious decision of what they want. Again, there is no right or no wrong – only that the consequences of experiences from any of the decisions made are different.
If one derives inner joy of doing things that he or she wants to do, who is to say that it is wrong? And if one derives inner joy from obtaining approval from others by doing things that others want them to do, who is to say that it is wrong? As much as I am trying to place this truth on a neutral platter, the reality is that we would already know that the latter leads to an addictive pattern of relying or being dependent on others. Again, if that is what one wants, who is to say that it is wrong?
So, we don’t live for others. We have always lived for ourselves. Only we do not know, do not see it, and tend to use others as scapegoats for our own sufferings.
Considerations for others? Oh puh-lease… who are you kidding???