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Stop Caring What “They” Think

Stop Caring What “They” Think

You’ve been there before. Stuck between the rock of living your own truth and the hard place of the opinions of those around you. Whether those opinions belong to your spouse, your best friend, or your aunt, sometimes it can feel like you are living your life according to someone else’s rules. It can feel like you are constantly seeking someone else’s approval.

Whatever happened to those days when you did whatever you wanted to do whenever you wanted to do it? Perhaps the more important question is in regards to the days when you just couldn’t care less what anyone else thought about what you were doing. The days when you didn’t give a second thought to what you were wearing, where you were going, or what you were going to go do. No permission required to be you.

Living your best life. But then, something changed. Maybe it was an offhand comment or a sideways glance. Words or actions which caused you to pause and question yourself. What starts as only one person’s viewpoint of a tiny aspect of yourself can lead to widespread questioning within about all aspects of your life and personality.

In my own life, the opinions of others weasel their way in through a path of insecurity. A minuscule break in my self-confidence which can open a wider freeway of doubt, propelling me toward negative thinking.

The biggest manifestation of opinions leading to self-doubt in my life also involves one of my greatest passions … piano. I have loved playing piano for as long as I can remember and I spent many happy hours banging away at the keys when I was young.

I loved piano so much that when I entered college as a pre-veterinary science major, I promptly changed majors to music within the first week of class so I could study piano more intensely. Unfortunately the decision to follow my passion came with a host of unchecked negative thinking in which I began to base my self-worth upon the opinions of others.

Although I loved the piano, my practice habits were less than stellar and I dreaded my weekly lessons, in part due to my lack of preparation. I am sure that I completely exasperated my piano professor however she continued to give feedback and I began to take it personally. Each critique felt like a blow to my ego and further proof of my incompetence. Combine that with the comparisons I made between other pianists and myself and I was in a perfect storm of negativity.

At the time, I was unable to separate myself from the opinions of others and sunk into a deep pit of depression, believing that I would never be good enough to make a living playing the piano. Further adding insult to injury was the significant performance anxiety I developed soon after beginning my studies. All of this negativity stemmed from placing too much importance upon the opinions of others instead of honing in on my own truth and passion.

I had completely lost sight of my “why” amongst the flurry of constant critique inherent to studying music. The danger in putting stock into everyone else’s opinions is how insidiously it starts and the strong hold it can take on your life. It has taken years for me to process through this phase of my life and to gain perspective on the emotional cost of listening to everyone else instead of the still, small voice inside.

At the end of the day, only you can live the life you were given. Only you have the authority to make decisions which steer your life in the direction you want to go. Every time you spend energy on someone else’s opinion, you are exerting energy which could be better spent elsewhere. Valuable energy which could instead be used to push you closer toward your goals.

My call to action for you today is to think about how your life is influenced by the opinions of others. Think about what you would do if your decisions weren’t dictated by the opinions of people who aren’t living your life. Ground yourself with a solid understanding of your own “why” and use this as a compass to guide your thinking when confronted with the inevitable barrage of comments and unsolicited opionions. Stop giving everyone else the power! Stay in your own lane, run your own race, and go after that big dream!

The Other Side of Fear

The Other Side of Fear

Let’s talk for a minute about your dreams. Not the dream where you are standing in the middle of English class stark naked. Or the one where you hit it off with your celebrity crush, fall madly in love, and live happily ever after. I’m also not talking about the one where you’re being chased by a grizzly. No, I’m talking about the dream which lives in the daytime. The one you keep hidden way down deep inside where no one can see it because it’s too big and scary to admit even to yourself.

But what makes this dream so big and scary? And if you feel called toward this dream, what is stopping you from going after it?

“Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.” -Marilyn Ferguson

Fear. The constant questioning and self-doubt produced from unchecked fear kills more dreams than failure ever would because it keeps you from even starting. And the more you think about the obstacles ahead of you, the bigger and scarier they seem. Fear paralyzes and prevents action by clouding your vision and blinding you to the possibility that you just might succeed. But in order to succeed, you have to move through the dark shadow of fear.

Fear has a way of clouding over even the sunniest parts of life. It’s impossible to focus on anything other than the tiny dark cloud in an otherwise spotless sky which will somehow turn into a raging thunderstorm. In this place, all reason and logic flies out the window, chasing the tail of impending and certain doom. Failure is not only possible, it’s probable.

Under the dark clouds of fear and apprehension, I recently prepared to take the exam to become a nurse practitioner. The more I thought about taking the exam, the more I built it up to be a terrifying and quite frankly, an impossible task. Despite a strong track record of passing exams, the fear persevered and I somehow convinced myself that this test was different. This test was infinitely tougher than anything I had ever encountered before. Failure was inevitable.

Although fear worked its way deep inside, there was also a tiny shred of logic left inside. This small ray of hope reasoned that perhaps preparation would enhance my chances of passing. And so I began feverishly preparing for impending doom. I spent all my spare time with my head in the books, trying to cram every last piece of information in. I shut out everything around me as fear took hold and I vacillated between hopelessness and a vague sense that pass or fail, this torture would soon be over with.

Finally, the morning of the test dawned. The day of reckoning was here. Still convinced I would never pass, I walked into the test center, sat down, and waited for the first question to pop up on the screen. Five questions in I began to wonder whether this was the actual test or practice questions because shockingly, I felt like I knew the answers. A tiny ray of hope broke through my cloudy existence.

Two hundred questions later, I waited as the screen went blank. My fate had now been decided and was out of my hands. Were the hours upon hours of preparation enough? Could I have done more? Waves of fear washed over me as I waited to see which way it would go.

And then, just like that, I had my answer. I fought back tears of intense emotion as I walked out of the test center and to my car. How was this possible? I had been convinced I would fail. That this was an impossible goal. And yet … against the odds … I had passed!

The clouds parted, the sun came out, and I was finally free. Free from frenzied thoughts about the best test preparation method. Free from feeling compelled to spend every waking moment jamming information into my already overloaded brain. Free from the fear of failure that I had carried around for so long. Freedom was mine!

In this moment, I realized that on the other side of the profound fear I had carried around for so long lay freedom. I conquered fear by pushing through instead of shying away and had become stronger in the process. In the end, fear and lack of confidence in myself had been worse than the test.

In countless situations, the avoidance of fear rather than focus on the outcome stalls progress and smothers dreams. Stretching yourself beyond fear brings freedom and strength in knowing that you can and will crush whatever stands between you and your biggest, most audacious dreams.

So get out there and push through to the other side of fear. Find your own version of freedom and I promise that you will definitely not regret it!

Fear or Courage: Your Choice

Fear or Courage: Your Choice

“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

When was the last time you were scared to do something? Did you do the thing you were scared of or did the fear overwhelm you and prevent action? The definition of courage would have you believe that courage is facing some type of challenge without fear but my experience is that one cannot exist without the other. Fear and courage are two sides of the same coin.

Whether you’re considering a career change, launching a new venture, or going after a hobby you’ve sidelined for a few years, fear can quickly extinguish the flame before it even ignites. It all starts with an idea to try something entirely new and different which suddenly pops into your head one day and you decide to entertain it for a few minutes. Excitement courses through and your mind races with possibility. The “what-ifs” are positive and exhilarating!

But then the “what-ifs” take a different turn. “What if this doesn’t work?” “What if I look stupid?” “What if I fail?” Suddenly, fear takes over and what seemed entirely possible one minute is utterly impossible the next. Your mind races with negativity. All the reasons why it not only couldn’t but WOULDN’T work. And all of a sudden, you freeze with fear.

I have been in this place so many times. The place where even if the idea is positive and will push me in a fantastic new direction, I shut down and overwhelm takes over. Fear crowds out everything and the clear choice seems to be giving in.

Did you catch that? The clear “choice” implying you have a decision among several options. Fear doesn’t control you … you can flip the coin and instead choose courage. It only seems as if fear is the singular option but this is actually an illusion because courage is always there. The hidden path among the overgrown weeds. The lesser chosen option due to obscurity.

But here’s the best kept secret about courage … every time you choose courage, you get stronger and the fear gets just a bit less scary. One courageous choice leads to another and another and another and pretty soon, courage is the only option.

The next time you find yourself staring down a fear-provoking situation, carefully weigh out your options but use fear as a compass to instead find your inner courage. Refuse to allow fear to control your life and prevent personal growth. Embrace courage and hang on tight because big changes are headed your way!

Leave a comment below about the last time you chose courage over fear and the impact it had on your life!

The Best Version

What ignites your soul with passion and purpose?

Only Getting Better is for anyone who believes that each new day is an opportunity to become a better version of themselves. A wiser, stronger, and smarter version which stems from the core of who you are as a person. The type of person who may not have all the answers but who knows deep down inside that you were created for a deeper purpose and you are passionate about pursuing whatever “it” may be.

In short …this blog was created for you!

My own journey toward discovering deeper purpose has been filled with highs and lows … mountains and valleys … floods and droughts … but the one constant through everything is the burning desire to emerge triumphantly on the other side. To become someone who not only survives but also thrives.

This blog is a reflection of lessons I have learned along the way. Life lived authentically; sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet (and maybe even something in between) but always real.

Real as in:

  • Marriage is the ultimate marathon requiring far more patience and forgiveness than I ever imagined it would.
  • Conquering a degree while having babies is one of the hardest but also one of the most fulfilling experiences out there.
  • Progress is more important than perfection.
  • Divorce is deeply painful but not fatal.
  • Looking for the bright side of every situation suddenly makes the world a sunnier place.
  • Parenting does NOT come with a manual.

So … come along with me on the journey toward Only Getting Better. A journey of self-discovery, intention, and growth. Although I am far from having even a small fraction of life figured out, I do know that it’s all about being grateful for each new day and the opportunity to be just a little bit better. The opportunity to be the best version possible.