“To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
Earlier this year I turned 30 and this post pretty much sums up my life experience for the last decade.
I procrastinated on writing my thoughts down regarding this event for half a year. Mostly due to the high stress to make it perfect I had put on my shoulders. Such dates happen just once, so it felt like I had to hone every detail of this post to perfection.
“Every thought must be thought through and shine brighter than the sun,” – I thought. The old good perfectionism, bottom line.
Eventually, I figured out that if I do not wake up early next morning and start writing right off the bat, it will be delayed till 40 year old anniversary and so on. But there’s still a hope even in this case: probably someone would be kind enough and sum up my life experience for me in the form of an epitaph?.. Haha, just a pinch of black humor.
But let’s get back on track.
We are culturally conditioned to consider round anniversaries as some milestone in our life. On such dates we tend to judge our previous life, make existential conclusions, regret the mistakes and missed opportunities. We may get nostalgic about some delightful moments we experienced in the passed years and get sad knowing those years will never come back.
So, although technically, it was just another year of my life came to an end, whether I wanted it or not, I started asking myself questions, uncomfortable and disturbing ones including.
Have I created something meaningful in the last decade? Have I developed any skills? Was I enjoying my life at all during those years?
What mistakes have I made along the way? Which of them I would keep for the purpose of growth experience, which ones would I try to avoid completely if I started over?
What lessons did I learn? And how would I like to spend my 30s and the rest of my life in the light of those lessons?
Some questions were easy to answer, others I would like to be never asked. For a number of them I still can’t figure out the final responses.
However, there’s a thesis I’d like my 30+, 40+ and so on year old me to follow. Here it is: think for yourself.
It’s short, sounds easy, but it’s amazing how deep its meaning is, and how much this thesis may impact someone’s life if adopted.
I feel like it took me all my life to finally define it. Of course, I’ve heard this idea many times before, but some advice you merely cannot understand and apply until you get sufficient portion of your own life experience.
What does thinking for yourself mean?
I admit that my understanding of this thesis may also change over time, but as for now I place emphasis on three ideas of this conception.
1. Thinking for yourself means accepting who you are
It not only means to understand who you are, but also to admit who you are in the whole.
It means quit looking for idols. Quit attempting to be who you are not. Quit looking for perfection.
If you stop running from negative sides of who you are, you may discover that they are not so adverse. Some of them may even turn out to be good, and you may find unexpected ways to use them no only for your interest, but for the purpose of wellbeing of people who surround you.
If you an introvert, you may interpret your need for solitude as a flaw. Some people want you to be around them all the time, but you can’t satisfy the demand. You feel guilty.
But if you approach it from another angle, you may see that when you’re alone you’re more creative and artistic. So if you have enough time on your own, you may end up giving the world a creative product, which will benefit many people.
Outgoing people may make feel other people better through the face-to-face communication.
You may give value to the world too at the same time avoiding necessity of direct communication. It’s not a drawback in your personality. It’s just your way to contribute to the world.
2. Thinking for yourself means doing what is beneficial to you
This idea does not result in being selfish and egocentric. It just keeps you from making yourself any harm in the first place.
Unfortunately, no matter how much we want the opposite, we still live in the competitive world where the amount of resources is rather limited.
While there exist altruistic people in our society, there are still too few of them to make the real difference. Lots of people would be happy to use your goodheartedness in their own interests.
And to a lesser extent, they will think of your wellbeing during the implementation of their plans.
Thinking for yourself means being aware of such cases, and considering the situation as a whole with its black and whites stripes.
Is the action you’re getting involved in by another person benefits you in some way or another as well? Is it a win-win, or is it an abuse-win situation, when you are the person who gets the short end of the stick?
Thinking for yourself also requires you to quit being a people pleaser. Being “too nice” to other people hoping they will like you, will tread to pieces your self-esteem.
This approach will plunge your soul into severe conflict between your true self and the image you must create for other people.
No need to say, that the consequences of sustaining the lifestyle of a people-pleaser can get really, really bad, like developing borderline personality disorder.
3. Thinking for yourself means trusting yourself more than others
People have a weird inclination to rely on other people’s conclusions and decisions rather than trust themselves. Well, it’s not that weird. It may be explained from the viewpoint of responsibility. Or to be more precise, avoiding it by all means.
This is why self-help guru business is so developed. We, people, are weak, so we seek a father figure, an authority who will take care of our lives.
It is not necessary a person. It may be TV, Youtube chanel, some newspaper – any source of information actually.
In some or another way they influence our tastes, beliefs and decisions.
Is there any source of information you get advice from regularly? Do you think you trust it too much? Do you really need it to make your own decisions and live your life?
Did you reply with Yes to any of the above questions? If so, perhaps you should abandon it.
In February 2015 I quit following the blog I was a fan of for ten years.
At first, this idea seemed scary. I was uncertain if I should end this long-term relationship with this source of information.
I was afraid to get lost and lonely without it. I thought I would miss the original content delivery of the blog and the entertaining style of discussions in the comment sections.
However, as soon as I added this web-site to the ban list of an Internet browser plugin, it appeared that the breakup was not as catastrophic as I initially thought.
It felt a bit uncomfortable first few days after abandoning though. But mostly it was the problem of getting rid of the habit and overcoming the addiction to visit the web-site my brain has established rather than the actual lack of thoughts and information from this blog.
Eventually, I discovered that trusting my own thoughts, experience and decisions (even if they look wrong for you now), is much more sure way to find your inner confidence and peace and overall success in life, rather than when you read about someone’s experience and rely on that.
We all have different background and path. So one size does not fit all.
Like every piece of wisdom, comprehension of “Think for yourself” one is easy and difficult at the same time.
Don’t fret though, there’s no way you can fail at cognizing this conception.
Every one of us looks on this world through her/his own eyes, so each understanding of the “Think for yourself” idea may be different.
And that’s OK, because there is no right or wrong way to perceive this life.
Perfection is in diversity of our experiences.
Do you have any insights on your mind you experienced lately? I would love to hear them!
Featured image by nattavut, freedigitalphotos.net