How do we find the balance between listening to the wisdom, opinions, and conventional lessons of others, and listening to ourselves and our own intuition?
For most of my life, I have been taught that other people always know better than me – I need to listen to them to understand the ways of the world and how I fit into it. I spent ten years – from third to twelfth grade – dazedly walking through my young life, living in fear because I never knew if what I did or said would be acceptable to my peers. I cried regularly because I thought that everyone else got the ‘rule book’ on life and I didn’t, so I came to rely on their feedback to try to make sense of the world.
In fact, I was so insecure for years that I basically needed ‘permission’ from others to do anything that I wanted to do. I needed external support so badly that I would only do things that other people thought were good ideas for me to do. If they didn’t, then I agonized over the decision, wondering if it was really the right decision for me to make, or if those people knew something that I didn’t.
And the only decisions I made without external support were the ones that I told no one about; for example, when I wanted to be field commander in my high school marching band, none of my friends knew I had even tried out until our director announced that I had gotten the job during our end-of-the-year banquet. I couldn’t bear the possibility of someone not believing in me, so I did it alone. But those decisions like that were few and far between.
In short, I relied on the opinions of others because I had learned not to trust myself to make decisions about myself own life (even though the few times I did, as mentioned above, yielded generally positive results for myself and my life…).
You can imagine the issues that caused for me in my adult life: co-dependent behaviors (because I needed constant external reinforcement that I was doing ‘life’ right), an extreme need for validation (because I didn’t have the confidence or love validate myself), and depression and anxiety that still follow me around to this day.
Eventually, I found my way to therapy, and I put in hundreds of hours of work on undoing those harmful lessons and healing myself. I came to understand that the things my childhood peers did and said to me were not okay, and that there was nothing ‘wrong’ with me – they just wanted me to think there was.
And for the most part, many of those problematic issues I mentioned above were largely resolved; by and large now, I’m confident in making decisions in doing the things that I want to do, even if someone vocally disagrees with it. I understand that they’re coming from their own perspective, but I can trust myself enough to know now that I can make thoughtful, considerate decisions on my own – although I do still appreciate (and in many instances, still need), validation, but that’s because I’m a human and we need connection, affirmation, and support from others.
But if I know in my bones that making a particular choice is right for me, then I can do it, even if it’s hard and comes up against resistance.
So why am I talking about all of this? If I’ve done my healing and moved past this, why bother talking about it in this post?
Because I have recently discovered the flip side of the same coin:
The struggle to leave, or say no to, an opportunity where someone is actively supporting me – and doesn’t want me to go.
This is the situation facing me right now, and my mind is racing with all of the same thoughts and feelings that I had in my youth, but in seemingly paradoxical circumstances.
Shortly after the pandemic began, I decided to try a business opportunity in direct sales. (I know the rap of direct sales, and this is not a rag on that, nor am I inviting criticism of it or me.) I was unemployed and bored, and it gave me something new to try. It had a huge learning curve, but it was fun for a while, I learned a LOT, and I enjoyed doing it.
But as the months went by, and the ups and downs of starting something new eventually flatlined on a down, it began to wear on me. I started feeling increasingly defeated, exhausted, and resistant towards continuing.
The thing that kept me going were the stories of how other reps in the company had overcome those valleys, and conversations with my upline about how much they believed in me and how it would pay off if I just stuck it out. So I kept going.
But I was still feeling miserable about my business’ lack of growth and blasé about doing anything in my online group. Nothing was happening – why was I putting in so much effort for nothing to happen?
I wanted to keep going, though! I wanted to keep pushing because other people had overcome this before me! My upline believed in me – why didn’t I? They said I could do it, and I totally could!
But nothing changed – zero growth happened. Everything was stagnant.
My gut intuition started talking to me; I started wondering, “at what point do I say I’ve tried this for long enough?” and walk away?
It was then that I finally began noticing that the constant lack of success in this business – this one area of my life – was impacting my ability to feel successful in any area of my life. It was draining me of my own resources. I realized that perhaps I need to just cut my losses and walk away because my mental and emotional health is suffering. I need to do this for me, even if the big break that my leaders say is coming is just around the corner. I’ve had enough – I can’t do it anymore.
And as soon as I worked up the courage to finally tell my leaders that, I was reminded of how much they believe in me.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredible to have someone believe in me – after all, validation and having people believe in me is the thing I had always wanted growing up.
But I still have this rock in my gut and an intense resistance to continuing this business, which puts me at a crossroads, wondering the same thing I wondered all those years as a child and teen:
Do my leaders know something I don’t?
What if I’m wrong?
Do they know better than me?
And suddenly, I’m right back to my little 17-year-old self, needing ‘permission’ to leave something that I know in my bones is sapping me of my energy. Needing someone to tell me that I’m not a ‘failure’ for walking away. Needing to justify my choice to them because I somehow need them to tell me that I can still be great somewhere else – that this company isn’t the only place I can thrive and live the life I’ve always dreamed.
Because when I sit and think it over with myself, I do believe that I can do great things – it’s just not with this particular opportunity.
And when I sit with other people in my life who see how stressed I feel regarding my work there, they support my decision to walk away and take care of my own health; and they validate my belief that I can do great things elsewhere.
Yet I’m still second-guessing myself because there are people who insist that I just need to do x, y, and z, and then just give it some more time, and I’ll see results. I buy into their rhetoric that this opportunity could take me places I could never even dream of, and I wonder if I’m making a mistake, if I’m ‘giving up’ too soon. And when they say things like “you’re only failures are when you quit” then my defensive little inner child comes out and yells (internally) “I’M NOT A FAILURE AND I’M GONNA PROVE IT!” while she stamps her foot and glares determinedly.
But then I come back to the question: At what point have I tried this for long enough without seeing success?
At what point am I failing myself by refusing to walk away?
I think I’ve hit that point. And I’m wrestling with how to be okay – how to believe that I’m not a failure for ‘quitting’.
Yes, if I stuck with this, I’m sure I would eventually see the success that other reps talk about. But at what cost to myself and my health? I hate doing it, and it stresses me out to spin my wheels and spin my wheels for something that's going nowhere.
In life, I am going to pass by opportunities that I could thrive in – that’s just how it is. We’re never going to be able to experience every opportunity that comes our way, and we’re allowed to cut our losses when we’ve sacrificed too much of our own health and well-being. That’s not quitting when it gets hard; that’s walking away when I’m not willing to compromise myself and my joy anymore.
So why am I second-guessing myself here?
Standing up to others is hard, especially when they believe in us and want to see us succeed. And most of us care what other people think of us, to some extent.
But we know what’s best for ourselves and our lives, and I’m learning to trust myself to make those decisions, even when they’re hard and come up against resistance from others. And even after years of therapy, I’m still imperfect at this.
But I do know this, and I believe in my heart and soul now: this is my life. I get to come first.
... ... ...
Hey, thanks for reading! It means so much to me! If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog to stay up-to-date on my latest posts. And if you really enjoyed it, you could consider sharing my blog with someone you think would like it, too. And if you really REALLY enjoyed it (aw, shucks! *blushes*), you might consider sharing it on social media! It really helps me out to grow my blog and share my writing - so thank you again for your amazing support!
Photo credit: magnezis magnestic on Unsplash