I have what could be politely described as “forceful personality.” I know what I want, and I’m (usually) not afraid to go after it. Sometimes, that causes friction, which isn’t always easy. Other times, it helps shape my life in ways I couldn’t even imagine — like how I met my husband, which I wrote about for HelloGiggles. However, it took a lot of practice to learn how to stop letting other people control my life. And, for the longest time, I was happy with the status quo. So how did I give it up?
1) I stopped letting “what if” make decisions for me.
As someone with anxiety, ‘what if’ has ruled a large portion of my life. You probably know what I’m talking about — what if this happens? What if I decide to do this, and someone doesn’t like it? Or what if I fail? What if I get hurt? But what if I lose money?
I realized that fear was driving more of my life than logic was, and I decided I couldn’t let that happen anymore. Don’t get me wrong, fear has a totally important role in our lives — sometimes even our survival — but would failing kill me? Unless I’m skydiving, then the answer is probably not.
You don’t have to learn to be fearless. You don’t even have to ignore your fears. Instead, try asking yourself, “What if I don’t?”
It’s a ridiculous example, but when I chopped off my hair I was absolutely terrified. I’ve always prided myself on having long, gorgeous hair, and I knew that getting a pixie would be a HUGE change. It might look ridiculous on me. Maybe it’ll look terrible. It might make me feel awful about myself.
But what if I didn’t get it? I’d always wonder. I’d probably keep considering it, just like I had for years and years. And I realized that the “risks” that I’d decided were *so* scary weren’t actually that scary.
So I chopped it all off, and I freaking loved it.
2) I learned to accept the results of my actions.
Most of the time, the things we’re *really* afraid of happening don’t come true. Sure, it’s possible. It’s also possible that my family could read this blog post, decide to shun me, my friends could abandon me, and my husband could say, “Peace out.” Anything is possible.
Probable? Definitely not.
But when you’re really struggling to step away from letting other people control your life, those “worst case scenarios” can be impossibly hard to ignore.
My advice? Don’t ignore them.
I hate the fact that I’ve lost friends over the years as a result of some of my decisions. As a people pleaser, it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. However, I had to come to terms with the fact that sometimes the consequences of our actions are worth it in the end. Even the hardest things imaginable.
If I hadn’t broken up with my college boyfriend (twice), I never would’ve gone to grad school in England. My parents did not want me to move abroad by myself, and it came with a side of arguing with my best friend about the backpacking trip I had to cut short. None of those things were fun or easy. All of them ended up being worth it in the end.
My best friend is still my best friend. I didn’t lose my family. My college boyfriend ended up meeting someone else, and I (eventually) married the love of my life.
3) I perfected the art of compromise.
This is one of the hardest lessons I had to learn, but it’s also one of the most valuable. Compromise isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s way more convenient to either do things your way, sending a big eff you to the universe, and other times it’s easier not to rock the boat.
But when both situations can leave you with the short end of the stick, learning to compromise can be incredibly valuable. (Especially when you’re worried about disappointing someone.)
I might not get things my way 100% of the time (who does?), but I can protect myself and my mental health by striking a deal. During a trip to New York, I found myself getting frustrated because I wasn’t able to explore the city as much as I wanted. Part of me wanted to head out on my own, leaving my friends behind, but I knew that 1) that wasn’t the best option for maintaining my friendships and 2) it wouldn’t actually make me happier.
Instead, I reminded myself that spending time with my friends was more important than losing a few hours of exploration time. In the end, we had an amazing night that was both incredibly fun and brought us all closer together as friends. And the next day? We spent the day exploring to our hearts’ content.
Sometimes compromises happen whether or not other people realize it, and sometimes they’re a little more overt. I’ve had to compromise at work, with family, and more — and it’s one of the most useful skills that I’ve gained in my life.
Things will never be perfect, but they don’t have to be.
4) I made sh*t happen.
Throughout history, freedom has rarely been given away. In fact, it’s usually taken. Sometimes peacefully, sometimes not — freedom is a choice that we have to make for ourselves. You have to make sh*t happen if you want to learn how to stop letting other people control your life.
In our personal and professional lives, this is especially true. If you want something, 99% of the time you have to stop waiting for someone else to give it to you. Want more independence from your parents? Get a job, save your money, and figure out what it takes for you to move out. Want to get a book published? You don’t sit there, waiting for a publisher to find you. Write your book, write your next book, edit it a billion times, query hundreds of agents, and do the work to make it happen.
We live in a culture that’s obsessed with instant results, but we forget that most good things take time.
When I graduated with my Master’s degree, I spent a year looking for a job. During that time, I applied for 347 jobs in a single year before I got one. While I was applying for jobs (which mathed out to almost 1 job application per day), I was working four part-time jobs AT ONCE.
Yes, I had to wait for someone to give me my first “real” job. But, in the meantime, I was working hard, saving money, and doing everything I could to make that happen. Eventually, I ended up moving to Nashville without a job offer because I knew living in a bigger city would help my chances.
My perseverance paid off. I got a job offer the day after I moved.
If you want something, you’ll work for it.
No matter how difficult it is, no matter how scared you are — in the end, you just have to make it happen. If you don’t know where to start, use Google! I’ve done searches for everything from how to make a budget (from when I was saving up to move out on my own) to what I needed to know for living in England and beyond.
The next step? Well, that’s up to you.