During the earlier years my decisions were governed by other people’s perceptions of what my life should look like. Doing ‘the right thing’ and making sure ‘everything happened at the right time’. A great deal of my choices stemmed from expectation; whether school subjects, friendships, extra-curricular activities, university degrees, professionals roles, travel destinations, house ownership, relationships. Interestingly I spent more time focussing on projections of myself instead of my true self. Not once in my late teens or early twenties did I ask myself ‘what do I want my life to look like?’
So much time was spent in the pursuit of the aesthetic. How do I want others to perceive me?
After perfecting the ability to match these expectations I realised I had completely invented this person and convinced myself that was who I was. Able to exist in my busy life, with a full schedule, fulfil my athletic practices, adhere to my strict diet and smile everyday in order to be ‘that perfect person’. Until suddenly I wasn’t. I wasn’t happy, I was far from it. For the first time in my life I felt like I had woken up. I had asked myself ‘what do you want?’ instead of ‘what does everyone else want of me?’ I let go of the expectations of doing ‘the right thing, at the right time, looking perfectly perfect on the way’.
“I’d been doing everything to please everyone else, and some imaginary me.” Jolene Stockholm
It was only from that place that I realised the great pretending act wasn’t needed anymore. When you realise that you aren’t happy with your life you are living it is the most liberating feeling. So many of us are living in a time warp of social media searching for likes and follows, caught in the vortex of wanting to please. Searching to be better, work harder, appear to the outside world as successful. What does this even look like? Why are we all looking from outside of ourselves to the inside with judgement and self-deprecation, instead of from the inside toward outside with compassion and kindness? Socially we are primed to be self critical- all perceptions driven by the aesthetic of what other people expect us to look like or how we are supposed to behave. What if you let go of the need to meet this aesthetic and made decisions that empowered your own happiness?
We all have responsibilities and obligations, but we also have a head on our shoulders, two feet on the ground and heart in our chest that beats without intervention. Allow yourself to reside on the inside, where the aesthetic is obsolete. Where you are human and I am human and you feel and I feel. And the warmth of your own happiness is tangible.
In yoga, we talk a great deal about the ‘heart space’. I like to think that in this space there in an imprint, and your imprint is unlike anyone else’s. Inside it swells and shrinks in times of joy and sadness. When you visit the inside, free from judgement your imprint grows, your sense of self seems magnified. When you forget to listen and focus attention on the exterior too long your imprint starts to wash away. Just a projection of yourself remains. When it becomes faint, transparent and floating in space, you start to question your sense of self, feeling lost in the sea of expectation.
Letting go of attachment to an aesthetic allows you turn inward and nourish your own imprint. Gift yourself a life free of judgement from external minds and eyes. Drop the need to please. It is not serving you or those around you. Start to feel, really feel.