The number 1 fear of the dying: not living a life true to themselves
What a sobering thought.
Are you living a life that is true to yourself? You may not know what this looks like yet. Your time may be filled with work, social and relationship commitments. But you have a feeling that you are not as happy as you should be, yet don’t know how to change.
Do you have a tendency to people-please and struggle to say no or put your needs first? I know how incredibly tough it can be to change that. But this can be the difference between finding or forsaking living a life that is true to yourself, and ultimately, a life that brings you real confidence and joy. One which involves little regret. There’s a type of confidence that only comes through knowing yourself, and it’s something that I believe, if we all felt, would cause a huge shift in how we behave in the world and with each other.
And if this is something you are grappling with, I believe that it is a crucial area to address in your life toolkit.
The power of beliefs, habits and communication
I know I don’t want to be one of those when it comes to the end of life who realises I let my dreams and ideas pass me by through fear of judgement and guilt. I allowed that to happen for years, until I understood how my beliefs, habits and communication skills were holding me back.
I had a deep rooted belief that it was wrong to assert myself and put my needs first for fear of upsetting others, even if that meant I suffered. Avoidance was my preferred action. I forgot who I was in the end and never had an opinion on anything, or really knew what I wanted, because I always focused on other people’s happiness. It took time to even figure out what brought me real happiness. I believed for a long time that my happiness came from putting others first so that they felt good. I didn’t understand how I could both put myself first and be a positive influence on others.
Eventually, after many years, ignoring my own needs wore me down and left me pretty resentful - nobody’s fault but my own. But behaving this way was who I was - I didn’t have a clue how to change as these behaviours were entrenched.
Prioritising everyone else doesn’t work
It teaches others that we don’t respect ourselves
It leaves us feeling and acting weak
It stops us from trusting our instinct
It puts the power in other people’s hands
We don’t give the best of ourselves to others
And, ultimately, it will leave us regretting not living a life true to ourselves, from the fear of judgement or upsetting others
Self respect and finding the courage to overcome this barrier is an absolute necessity if we want to lead by example and live a life true to ourselves.
You have the power to live a life true to yourself
There are ways to learn how to change the way we think about ourselves, which changes our reality, and ultimately, our lives. It takes courage and a total shift in the way we talk to ourselves, through slowing down and bringing awareness to behaviours and habits.
Those people we tend to admire? The leaders and strong women who are living lives true to themselves? They understand the importance of prioritising their needs. They deal with many judgements, challenges and barriers, but will utilise courage, self love and clear communication to keep moving forward.
We have to learn to love and respect ourselves the way we give these things to others that we care about. We need to learn how to talk to ourselves with encouragement, and stop judging ourselves so harshly. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others whose full story we don’t know and focus on our own beautiful uniqueness and opportunities. We need to find ourselves, that real us that is hiding underneath the cultural conditioning and judgements from others. Only then can we start on the path of living a life true to ourselves. Here's a simple equation:
Put you first > feel good > others see your happier side > others are happier as a result > everyone wins
Start with you and let the love feed out from there. We are the only ones responsible for our happiness, just as other people’s happiness is not our responsibility.
In my opinion, here is the best place to start:
Choose one ridiculously simple step > slot it into the day where it easily fits > never miss a day > let it become a habit > it will then become your new normal > you'll gain positive momentum > you'll be motivated for more
Finding a simple and fail-proof method that can slot into your daily routine can be a powerful starting point to quickly disrupt your thought pattern. With the busyness of modern life it’s too easy to want to achieve more and faster.
Here are five quick potential starting points for building self-awareness and your relationship with yourself, so that you can start to change your story. These are nothing revolutionary. They are simple, effective and time-tested, and can be done in five minutes. They really work in giving the conscious mind a quick shake up, and in building momentum to help us follow through. They are all things I use most regularly to top up my self awareness.
1. Diary: nothing fancy needed. Just a means to note down what happened throughout the day and how you felt and responded. Over time, awareness grows from you getting thoughts out of your very busy mind and onto paper. You can look back, too to pick up patterns and themes.
2. Less thinking: Meditation (a.k.a. paying attention). Five minutes of meditation a day can be a game changer in starting to understand the benefit of becoming aware of our thought patterns. Even two minutes when you get a break for yourself! Headspace is a great place to start with very simple guides in plain English and a free trial.
3. More movement: Such as walking on your lunch break, setting a reminder to stretch out every hour, making housework a workout by putting your back into it and working up a sweat to feel satisfied at the end.
4. Less thinking and more movement: I find this in yoga. Moving the body and stretching out always feels great, and yoga has the added bonus of combining mindfulness, so we can still the mind and focus on awareness at the same time for a double whammy. There are practices for every body, mood, need and level. Gaia.com was my favourite go-to when I didn’t live close to many studios, with practices varying from five minutes to two hours. YouTube also has loads of free videos - Shona Vertue and Yoga with Adrienne are two favourites.
5. Morning routine: Lots of advice is out there about the benefits of the morning routine. Changing one thing about how you start your day can put you on the front foot, starting the day positively and in more control, and connected to yourself as you prioritise this for you. Stick with one tiny change every day without fail and you will feel really good for seeing it through. Then you can add something else! Such as:
splashing your face with water and sitting for 2-5 minutes to meditate as soon as you get up
setting a reminder with your morning alarm to think through or write down all the things you’re grateful for
playing a mega-dose of inspiring straight talk on YouTube when you’re getting ready or commuting to work, or in the shower (this used to be my favourite and @impacttheory was always guaranteed to pump me up like nothing else)
drinking a pint of water as soon as you get up to energise your body, feel alert, and know that you’ve already got a good chunk of your water quota in
ending your shower with 2 minutes of cold water to wake you up and train your mind to deal with stress.
Make single-tasking your new best friend
From experience, I know it’s a losing game to implement multiple changes at once. So, just change one single thing and don’t spend much time on it. Trying to go to the gym every morning from doing nothing is really hard to keep up. Starting the day with five minutes of exercise or yoga in the lounge is way more sustainable, repeatable and effective in building self-belief and momentum. It will get you feeling good about yourself quickly and that’s the initial goal: habit change and positive momentum.
I’m sure - if you make one single, solitary change in your day, you are going to feel proud of yourself. And if you don’t feel proud of yourself very often because of the habituated negative self-talk, you are going to really get a kick out of it, and want more. Please be easy on yourself. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. Take the first step. If you stay present and stick with that small change until you feel a difference, you can build on momentum and the small steps will become a big leap forward.
You are as good, as worthy and as valued as the people you admire. You are as equal, and you have exactly the same right as everyone else on the planet to be true to yourself, whatever that looks like, while still being kind.