"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."
I hate to say it but I've wasted a lot of time under Jobs' definition. I have so often been trapped by the results of other people's thinking. I love the way he defined dogma and keep mulling those words over and over in my head: ...living with the results of other people's thinking.
I have struggled most of my life with letting the noise of other people's opinions drown out my own voice, my intuition. Now in my mid-forties, I am finally woman enough to be seeing these issues for what they are and I am a little more comfortable in my own expansive skin. But why did it have to take so bloody long? It makes me so angry at myself. And the part that makes me the maddest is knowing that it still happens - not as often, perhaps, but it does.
Why couldn't I have learned this stuff twenty years ago? Halfway or more through my life, I'm still learning to listen to that intuition a little more effectively and then to live it. Without fear. Without fear. Without fear.
There was one period of my life when I chose to live the way I wanted to with little fear. I had just moved to a different province to attend a different university and I knew no one there. I thought: To heck with whatever anyone else thinks of me - this is my chance to experience being myself! And as a result, my life rocked! I resolved not to be shy when meeting new people, for example, and so I met a lot of wonderful people (a couple of whom are still friends twenty years later, and one of whom I married!). I was honest with people about who I was, I enjoyed the freedom of living on my own, I did fun stuff when I felt like it, played my music too loudly if I felt like dancing in the privacy of my tiny 300-square-foot basement apartment, filled my miniscule living room with people when I felt like it and didn't when I didn't feel like it, gave my real and unvarnished opinions when asked for them without fear of rejection, and basically enjoyed a deliberately wholesome and fun and true life to the max.
There was a particular moment when I realized that I was just plain happy with myself...being who I wanted to be. I was on my way back to my little apartment late one evening from some social event or another, and the first snowfall of the season was coming down fairly heavily. There was a little magic in the air. Driving home, I passed a church parking lot which was so white and pristine and glowing under the street lights that I stopped the car to look. In a moment of spontaneity, I pulled into the parking lot. With Blue Rodeo's "I Fall in Line" blasting on my small-car stereo system and my own voice filling the neighbourhood streets through open car windows, I learned how to spin my car in 180s in that freshly fallen snow! Over and over again I pressed repeat on the same song and sung at the top of my lungs and had a riot, by myself, spinning my car through that parking lot until not one square foot of it looked untouched! I laughed aloud with the sheer joy of doing something for no reason other than pleasing myself.
It was a happy moment, and rather encapsulated how I felt about myself for the better part of those two years.
But over time, and with painful life experiences to learn to protect myself from, I'd have to say that I began wasting my time again by being trapped by the insecurities of living with the results of other people's dogmas. My inner voice was pretty much drowned out. Once again, and despite outward appearances of confidence and certainty, I became a rather insecure person...one who gave in a little too often to societal/familial/marital/individual expectations.
I hate that it took so long for me to get to the point of seeing this about myself.
I think it was becoming a parent that finally helped me understand what's really important, and to begin to confront and surmount my fear of other people's opinions. As a parent (and I include Geoff in my use of the singular here), if I truly want to raise my children in the way that resonates with my core values and beliefs, I need to be able to know what those core values and beliefs are and also be able to articulate them...not just to my children but to those people whose worlds intersect with my children's worlds. It means saying no to other people when I'm uncomfortable about the impact on my child, and it means stepping up and affirming how we will do things in our household. It takes guts (at least for me) to be able to stand up for those ways in which we will live our lives.
A small example comes to mind. A year or two ago, Matthew decided that he no longer wanted to have play dates with a particular little friend of his. He balked every time. For quite some while I persuaded him to continue playing with that other boy, and for all of that time he resisted me; until finally I realized that my motivation in trying to persuade him had nothing to do with what was in Matthew's best interests but in preserving my own fears. I simply did not want to have to confront the other mother. I decided then and there that Matthew was more important to me than my own pride or my own fears of rejection. So I sucked it up and dealt with it. Though the other mom took the news seemingly well, it just about killed me to have to confront the situation. Part of me still cringes. I can be such a people pleaser at times. Such a little thing, and it was so hard to do. We still don't get together.
A much bigger issue came to the forefront when we made the decision to homeschool our kids. For a woman that fears rejection, I had to toughen myself up internally and prepare for both the well-intentioned questions and the impatience-breeding questions and criticisms, knowing that not everyone would be in my corner on this one and further fearing that I would experience outright hostilities about that decision at some point or another.
The good news is that I'm a much stronger person internally than I was just a few short years ago. Though some who know me will be surprised to learn that I have struggled with insecurities, and though the differences in me might not be apparent to many because I project confidence and self-assuredness, I'm so much different now internally than I used to be; what I have always projected on the outside has finally become my insides, too. I'd say that's progress!
The truth is that we are all ultimately alone. It's me, and no one else, who is ultimately required to live with results of my decisions and actions. Others may be impacted by them, but it's me who is accountable for them. Not many people truly have our best interests at heart anyway, so why not just ignore what other people might think and listen to that inner voice?? Does that sound a little harsh? Perhaps. But the same goes for me. How often do I truly take someone else's interests to heart without thinking of my own? I'd like to think that I do, I'm not usually such an altruistic a person. My motives are mixed. I suspect I'm not alone in this.
I am led to conclude that Jobs is right. About the importance of not wasting life being trapped by the results of other people's thinking and about employing the courage needed to follow my inner voice. Although Steve Jobs was not, to my knowledge, a God believer, I still think he's bang on. The more I contemplate his quote, the more I realize that my 'inner voice' - the one that I need most to learn to listen to - is the still small Voice that is God working in me, trying to blast through my insecurities and denseness to help me live the life I'm supposed to be...the one in accordance with His will and free of other people's dogma. At least I know that He has my best interests at heart.