“Don’t settle. Don’t finish crappy books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it.”
If you met me when I was 16, you probably would have thought I was a mess.
I had low standards for the way people treated me and accepted the awful things they said to me as truth. My worth was very much in the hands of people, and as a result, I was only a shadow of myself. It took a hard and painful break-up two years ago to realize that the person inside of me was so sick of being treated like crap. I was tired of being walked over on, I was tired of being used, and I was tired of feeling powerless over my own life.
After years of running to destructive things for my self-worth, I decided very recently that I’d had enough. I began to start honoring and loving myself as a person. Instead of looking to a mirror or to people for self-worth, I placed it in God’s hands, and He completely changed the way I thought about myself. The more I loved myself, the more I began to look after myself. And gradually, I saw changes.
I released the so-called “friends” in my life who were toxic to my soul with their bad influences or habits. Last year, I respected myself so much I moved out of home to get myself out of a poisonous family environment, I dropped out of University because it made me depressed, and I quit my job after three months because I would not stand for the bullying that went on. I am excited to tell you that those decisions were some of the best decisions I have made in my life. The biggest milestone of my self-love project, however, was in the area of men. I didn’t run to them for my self-worth anymore. I learnt that the love I was craving deep inside cannot be fulfilled by any flawed, human man but by God.
I have always, always believed that a good indication that you’re on the wrong path in life is if you feel heavy or depressed doing it everyday. ‘Trust your gut’ is the best advice in this case because it is essentially that – if you’re not happy doing what you do or being around the people you’re with, something has got to change. You have got to trust yourself enough to do it.
“When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits – anything that kept me small. My judgement called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.”
I remember being at home, at my job or at University, thinking that I hated where I was. I couldn’t shake that heavy feeling of depression on my soul that gently told me that I wasn’t supposed to be there. When I left those places, I was faced with disapproval and anger by some of the people close to me. I was told that a good, eldest daughter wouldn’t leave home so soon but should stay to take care of her family. I was told that I was weak for leaving my job only after a few months. And my worst backlash came when I left University. I got into arguments with my mum, with my flatmate and my own inner demon, all telling me that university was essential to success. I see the look on people’s faces when I tell them I’ve dropped out, and often felt like I was shoved out of the way for wanting to exchange a corporate job with a six figure salary for a non-profit with no financial gain.
It’s hard to break out of the expectations people have for you, but when you try to step out of the status quo, you can be sure people are going to get uncomfortable. They hate the new and uncertain and they will do whatever they can to push you back into a stereotype or vocation. But when your desire to see your dreams realized overcomes your desire to remain comfortable and secure, courage will follow. What drove me to leave all those places in my life is the fear of the possibility that one day on my deathbed, I’m going to look back on my life full of regrets. Many people in life who have gone old have thought, ‘I wish I could have left so-and-so earlier, but months turned into years, and years turned into a lifetime.’ Don’t let that be true of you. Self-love is knowing that your life is far too fleeting to waste your time doing things or being around people that don’t make you come alive.
Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
What’s dangerous is believing that you don’t have a choice or say in your life, because you absolutely do. If you are unhappy with where you are right now, you have the power to make changes and live a life you’re happy with. Susanna Cole once wrote profoundly, “Did you know you can quit your job, you can leave university? You aren’t legally required to have a degree. It’s a social pressure and expectation, not the law, and no one is holding a gun to your head. You can sell your house, you can give up your apartment, you can even sell your vehicle and your things that are mostly unnecessary. You can see the world on a minimum wage salary, and despite the persisting myth, you do not need a high paying job. You can leave your friends (if they’re true friends they’ll forgive you, and you’ll still be friends) and make new ones on the road. You can leave your family. You can depart from your hometown, your country, your culture, and everything you know. You can sacrifice.” Don’t let society convince you that the world is not a one full of endless freedom and wonderful possibilities, because it is.
There’s something wonderful about knowing that however hard you fall, however far you jump, you will always be loved no matter what. You’re going to be okay. Take comfort in knowing that even though things may not turn out the way you expect it to, you are always going to have a safety net of love. My friend Gary once painted a beautiful picture to me. He said that God’s love was like hand railings. Whichever path you go down in life, wherever you end up, however bad you mess up, his love will always be there for you to hold onto. I love that.
I was watching Mulan 2 with my little sister the other night, and there was a scene where Mulan was torn between doing her duty, and doing what was right. When told by her fiancee to do her duty, she replied, ‘My duty is to my heart.’ It’s cheesy I know, but it stuck with me. So I encourage you – respect yourself and honor your heart, and go live a life you’ll be proud of!
Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.