What does it mean to start living for yourself? How do you let go of other people’s expectations of you and live a life that’s authentic to who you are? We’re taught from a young age that being selfish is a negative trait. We should instead think of other people’s feelings and, at times, put their needs above our own. While being selfless is certainly an honorable trait, living for others is taxing. We become so involved in ensuring that others stay happy that we forget ourselves in the process. We exist only as who they expect us to be, not who we truly want to be. Living for yourself means taking your power back and becoming your true, unapologetic self.
Why You Should Start Living For Yourself
Living for yourself will unlock your true potential in life. When you exist to please others, your individual power is subdued. You’re acting in a way that isn’t true to who you are, but how you believe others will respond to you best. You’re living to fit in, not to stand out. Living for yourself means taking the road less traveled and breaking off from the norm. It’s impossible to make every single person happy. You won’t always agree with everyone and that’s okay. Being true to yourself and expressing your opinions won’t always make you the most popular person in the room, but it will make you the most truthful.
When you start living for yourself, you recognize the power in your truth. You gain confidence from living and acting in a way that is authentic to who you are. You’ll no longer be living to make others happy but living in a way that makes you proud of who you are (we’ll be proud of you, too!).
How To Start Living for Yourself
Learn To Say No
You shouldn’t be expected to go along with whatever your friends, family, or peers expect of you. If you’re someone who has been taught to be accommodating at all costs, you’ve experienced the burnout from being a “Yes” person. Saying yes to every request asked of you, whether it be a favor or invitation to somewhere you’d rather not be, isn’t living for yourself. While it is kind to do favors for others, it should never be to the detriment of your own happiness. Living for yourself means you take your own happiness into consideration and learn to say “No”.
Saying “No” will teach others to respect your boundaries. It’s about time they learned what you will and will not put up with (as they should)! When you’ve come to a place where you are aware of how your decisions affect your happiness, you’ll learn to say “No” to what does not serve you. Some people may be surprised at your newfound grit. They may even argue with you or attempt to bend you to their will. These people are not worthy of your time and attention. Living for yourself and learning to say no will illuminate the people in your life who don’t respect you or your boundaries.
Take Time To Get To Know Yourself
Some people get so caught up in living a life they think they are supposed to like, that they never truly get to know who they really are. Living for yourself means taking the time to get to know who you are. What are your likes and dislikes? What are your opinions on various subjects? What is it that you value most in life? Ask yourself these questions to uncover who you really are. It’s okay if you don’t know the answer to these questions. Living for yourself means learning who your true self is.
If you don’t know what you like, start by determining what you don’t like. For example, if you don’t like watching sports, why do you go to the sports bars with your friends to watch sports games? Maybe you would much rather prefer a wine bar where you can have more intimate conversations with someone. If you don’t like being in large crowds, such as at parties or nightclubs, stop going. Instead try hanging out with your friends in quieter settings that may be more attuned to your personality. Living for yourself can be as simple as determining your likes and dislikes. Stop doing things you don’t enjoy. That time is much better spent doing what you do enjoy.
Get Clear On What You Want
Living for yourself means having clear goals for what you want in life. What is it that you want in life? Ask yourself what your life would look like if you could do anything you wanted to. What kind of career would you have? What kind of partner would you be with? Would you have kids? Where would you live? What kind of lifestyle would you lead? How would you feel? Knowing the answer to what you want in life is key to living for yourself. It’s okay if you are unsure of what you want, but you should try to determine what it is that is the driving force behind your life purpose. It’s also okay if your wants or desires change. Very often we believe we want something only to discover later that it’s not as important for us to have as we once thought.
Think about what it is you truly want out of life. Write it down. Make a bucket list of things you want to do or try. What are some things you have always wanted to do but haven’t because someone else came first? You don’t have to want the same things as your spouse or anyone else in your life. It’s okay for two people to want different things. What’s not okay is imposing your wants or way of life onto another person and expecting them to forgo their own desires. If there is someone in your life who opposes you going after your dreams or goals, you should rethink your relationship with them. True happiness comes from living for yourself and having the life of your dreams, not being the shadow to another person’s life.
Align With Your Desires
Once you’re clear on who you are and what you want, start acting in ways that get you closer to where you want to be. Living for yourself means acting authentically to your true self. Every action you take should align with your authentic self. For example, if you want to lead a healthy, calm life, you should be making decisions that support that. If you are staying up late, drinking too much alcohol, eating unhealthily, or getting involved with situations that bring you stress, you’re not aligning with your desires. What you want and what you do are two different things, but they’re connected. You cannot be the person you want to be or live the life you want to live unless you act and make decisions that will get you there. Define your ideal life and then decide what you need to do to get there. Living for yourself means living for your desires.
Practice Your Assertiveness
Living for yourself means you know who you are and decide how you allow people to treat you. Practice being more assertive in your wants and needs. Practice taking up space and asserting yourself. Being assertive does not mean being argumentative, starting fights, or being the most outgoing person in the room. Being assertive means that you stand your ground when it comes to how other people’s actions affect you. For example, if your friend tries to guilt-trip you into doing something for them, effectively shut down the conversation. If you’ve made your decision that you will not do what your friend wants, they should accept that. If they don’t accept it, that’s not your problem. Tell them you’ve made your decision and are done speaking with them about it.
Another example could be if someone asked you to do them a favor by switching seats on a plane. Maybe under normal circumstances you wouldn’t mind. But maybe you choose your seat strategically to be near the front of the plane or bathroom, or your carry-on is already stored above you. Maybe the person asking you to switch is offering a less convenient seat than you would like. You have every right to respectfully decline their request for the sake of your comfort. Not every person’s problem is yours to fix. Living for yourself means you must look out for yourself in this life, otherwise, who will?
Determine Your Own Definition Of Success
Living for yourself means you define the terms of your own happiness. Not all of us have the same definition of success. Your version of success may differ from those around you. Determine what success means for you and work towards being successful on your own terms. Your version of success means determining what you believe you need to be happy. For some people, success means having a six-figure job and a penthouse in the city. For others, success means being married with children and living a peaceful life in the suburbs. You decide what success means for you; other people’s opinions don’t matter. Their opinions don’t matter because they are not living your life.
Oftentimes we cave into peer pressure when it comes to making big life decisions. We may pursue careers, goals, or relationships because they are things we’re told we’re supposed to want. We feel pressured to conform to our peers’ ideology of a successful life, whether or not we believe them ourselves. Living for yourself means rejecting any ideology that doesn’t align with our true wants and desires and pursuing our own path. Other people do not live your life for you. Their opinions or ideologies do not pertain to you.
Live By Your Values
Your values and beliefs are at the core of your being. When you act or speak not according to what you truly believe you create dissonance within yourself. There’s a difference between living a life that makes you happy and a life that makes you proud. Living for yourself means you must determine what are your core beliefs and personal values and live according to those. Only you know what’s right for you. If you’re unsure of what you believe, start by using your feelings to determine what your core beliefs and personal values are. When faced with certain decisions, questions, or ways of living, ask yourself how they make you feel. When you align with your core beliefs and values, you should have positive feelings of sureness, happiness, and calm. Aligning with your true values should make you feel good. If at any point something makes you feel uncomfortable, unsure, or produces a negative feeling in any way, then you are out of alignment. Your feelings are your guiding light to who you are meant to be. Trust those feelings and let them lead you down the right path for your life.
Hold Yourself Accountable
When you’re living for yourself, you are aware of your actions. You make conscious decisions to live life the way you see fit. But living for yourself and being your most authentic self does not mean you won’t make mistakes. Life is about trial and error, you won’t get it right the first time. However, when you live for yourself, you must accept all responsibility for your actions and words. There is only yourself to blame when you mess up. Holding yourself accountable for your mistakes is an important aspect of self-awareness. Living for yourself does not mean you are living selfishly to pursue your own happiness regardless of other people’s well-being. Living for yourself means you make the best decisions for yourself when they do not harm or affect other people’s happiness. Make sure you are willing to accept when you are wrong and correct your actions.
At the same time, you should hold yourself accountable when you make mistakes that hurt you. For example, if you stray from your goals due to your own doing. Maybe you decided that you were going to stay home and go to sleep early so you could wake up refreshed for an early job interview. But your friend calls you up and guilt trips you into going out for their birthday dinner and drinks. Before you know it, you’re out partying until 3 am. You don’t get enough sleep and are consequently late for your interview which might cause you to lose the job offer.
A less self-aware person may blame your friend for guilt-tripping you into abandoning your plans for sleeping early. They may blame the friend for buying vodka shots and peer pressuring you into drinking and staying out late. A less self-aware person would not accept responsibility for their actions. However, living for yourself means you now know you are no longer at the whim of your peers’ influences. You make your life decisions, whether they be good or bad for you, meaning you are the one responsible for the life you lead.
Living for yourself means you are ready to take on the world and whatever challenges come your way. Living for yourself means taking chances and being a pioneer at the forefront of the life you desire. While living for yourself is certainly exciting and will ultimately lead you to true happiness, the road won’t always be easy. You should expect to be met with opposition from time to time. Life is always full of unexpected events that may derail our goals. But while we cannot control some things in our life, we can control how we react to them. A person who lives for themself understands that they must keep going, even when times get rough.
Having a positive mindset allows you to see the bigger picture. Yes, life can be difficult but there are always ways to work around your problems. When you’re living for yourself, you understand that your own happiness is up to you. No one else has the power to make you miserable; that’s all on you. Living for yourself means you take life as it comes and create your own happiness and life satisfaction, regardless of your circumstances.
Get Out and Live
Living for yourself means you are continually growing and deciding how your life will play out. Now that you know why it is so important to live for yourself and how to do it, you can go on to create the life you’ve always imagined. You are in control of your own destiny. Think about the power in that statement. You control your life, not your friends, not your family, not the world. You decide whether you will be happy, successful, confident, and powerful. You have one life to live and how you live it is entirely up to you. Living for yourself is the bravest and most important thing you can do. Don’t be afraid to step up and take your rightful place as ruler of your destiny.