What if the key to living our best life is to just get over ourselves (and other people’s opinions of us) and start living it? To stop losing sleep over the question, “What will they think?”
First, a retraction.
After reading the final three excuses Rachel Hollis covers in Girl, Stop Apologizing, I realize that I have to retract something I said last week. I called Excuse #6 (“I’m terrified of failure”) my personal arch-nemesis. And that’s not true.
And Rachel totally called me out on this in her chapter on Excuse #8.
“Annie,” she said.
(Okay fine, she didn’t actually use my name, but it’s obvious she was talking to me.)
“It’s not a fear of failure that keeps you in your place; it’s a fear of what other people will think of your failure.”
There are two sides to the Excuse #8 coin
When I was studying for the LSAT over ten years ago now, I worried what my brilliant college friends would think if I didn’t get into a top law school. Once at a top law school, I hated it. But I worried what everyone back home would think if I dropped out. So I stuck it out not because I’m not a quitter or I thought I’d learn to love it if I just found my niche, but because I didn’t want people to think I couldn’t cut it.
And I can’t believe I’m revealing this, but here goes: I went six figures into debt because of what other people may have thought.
I’m going to say that one more time for the people in the back. I went six figures into debt because of what other people may have thought.
May. May! I didn’t even know if those motherfuckers thought it! But they may have, and that was enough for me.
Sure, Rachel’s version of Excuse #8 assumes we are failing to take action for fear of other people’s opinions. But I think taking unaligned, inauthentic action based on other people’s real or imagined opinions is the other equally absurd side of the same coin.
I might never stop worrying about other people’s opinions.
Now I’m not complaining, because my legal career eventually led to my dream job and lots of other wonderful aspects of my life that would not necessarily exist but for law school and three years of litigation practice.
And I’d like to say that I’m liberated and no longer give a hoot what anybody thinks of me and that I live my life as I damn well please and never give others’ opinions a second thought.
But I’d be lying.
Unfortunately, I still care quite a bit about what other people think, but I’ve grown in two important ways because I refuse to let Excuse #8 rob me of any more of my time here. First, if I have an idea for a project I want to pursue and I’m worried that other people will judge me for it, I do it anyway. Because not doing it gives other people too much power over my life.
Second—and this one took longer to learn, I refuse to keep it a secret. Because although secret action is better than no action, it still gives other people too much power over my life.
Do it anyway!
Take Best Life Book Club, for instance. I think my family thinks this online book club is a really nerdy and boring idea. (Maybe I’m wrong about this.) I worry that my friends have a group text going about how I can barely manage my own stress and anxiety, so how do I think I can gather a group of wonderful women together in some kind of circle of inspiration and support. (I’m probably totally wrong about this.) And I’m convinced that at least three of my colleagues in academia have lost respect for me because I read such “nonliterary rubbish” in my free time. (Truthfully, likely just one of them feels this way, and he’s kind of a snob, so good riddance!)
But, even with all of these other people’s opinions weighing heavily on my anxious little mind, I started Best Life Book Club anyway. And I refused to keep it a secret.
Haters gonna hate, as they say. Do it (whatever your “it” is) anyway. And shout it from the rooftops!
If you’re like me, you may want to throw up. You may want to pee your pants. Hell, you may lose sleep over it. But you must do it anyway, and proudly at that. I think it’s the only way we will truly just get over ourselves already and start living our best life.
What’s something you’ve been putting off because of what others might think? Or, which of the other excuses for this week resonated with you? I want to hear all about it!
Want to keep reading?
If you missed them, check out our previous discussions on Excuses 1-3 and Excuses 4-6 from Girl, Stop Apologizing.