Two months ago Alexis and I went on a mother-daughter outing to get cartilage piercings. We bonded over the shared pain of that experience and will literally carry a reminder of it with us for the rest of our lives. When my 62 year old mom saw our vlog, she decided she wanted a tragus piercing too. So this weekend my parents came down from New York City so that Alexis and I could take Grandma to the tattoo parlor to get matching cartilage piercings.
One of the most valuable lessons that I have been able to share with my daughter is how much of a waste of time it is to change her life and behavior to please other people. Living your life on your own terms in infinitely liberating and just plain old fun. I mean how many teens get to take their mom and grandma to get piercings?
Still, it's not always easy to follow your own north star. There is a lot of pressure to conform with society's expectations.
BEING TAUGHT WHO WE SHOULD BE
My mom grew up in Guyana, South America (where I was born). She grew up poor: fetching water, using outhouses, walking to school. The second oldest child and eldest girl of nine siblings, she was automatically designated as the surrogate mom when her mom wasn't around.
In her early teens she was pulled out of school altogether so she could help out around the house, despite being one of the brightest kids in her class. She never finished high school. My mom was taught that women should be modest, demure, and that they should defer to men.
Over the last three decades of living in the United States, my mom has slowly bloomed into the bold, liberated woman she is today. Her circle of friends call her the “Sexy Granny.” So I wasn't in the least bit surprised that she'd want to get not just one cartilage piercing, but two.
Still, on the way to the tattoo parlor, my mom asked me whether she should start dressing more conservatively and acting how others think a woman of her age should act. It was really a surprising question because I assumed my mom stopped worrying about what other people thought a long time ago.
My answer, of course, was an unequivocal no. Living your life on other people's terms is a surefire way to an unhappy, unfulfilled life.
HOW TO AVOID BEING CRITICIZED BY OTHERS
If you want to stop other people from criticizing your, here's what you have to do:
1. Eliminate or minimize anything about yourself that makes you unique.
2. Go with the safest, most common option and minimize risks as much as possible.
3. Do everything the way it has always been done instead of coming up with new ideas.
If you do these three things, you stand a great chance of flying under the radar and avoiding all of the negatives that come with being judged by others. But those things don't really sound like they'd result in having an amazing life do they?
MAKE YOURSELF JUDGEMENT PROOF
In order to live your best life, you have to be able to decide for yourself what a good life means to you. That means pushing past the prevailing wisdom that's trying to tell you what you should want and instead focusing on the things that truly bring you happiness.
Here are some of our favorite resources to help you worry less about what other people think and start focusing on what actually matters to you.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff and It's All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. The title of this book really says it all, but it contains such a wealth of knowledge that it is still worth the read. We love this book series so much that we also have
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms and the
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff workbook.
What makes this book so awesome is how it encourages you to focus our yourself. The truth is that most of the judgement that we perceive from others is actually self-imposed. We think we know what others must be thinking about us and so we pass judgement ourselves even before they do. This book series helps you hone in on those negative thoughts and wasted energy and refocus them in a positive way.
Pro tip: Read a chapter at night over dinner with your family and discuss how you can implement it in your lives. It's a great relationship-building exercise. And it gives you something to talk about other than the same old “how was your day” questions that tend to be our default.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown. You can do anything, but you can't do everything. This book is all about recognizing that there are only a few things that really matter to you. You have the power to choose what you spend our limited time and resources on.
“The Essentialist knows that when we surrender our right to choose, we give others not just the power but also the explicit permission to choose for us.” Every minute spent worrying about what others thing is a minute that you will never be able to use for figuring out what you want from your own life and how to reach your goals.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counter-Intuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson. I'm a busy working mom so I don't have a lot of time to sit down and curl up with a book. Instead, I throw on an audiobook while I'm getting other things done. This gem is the most recent audiobook I've listened to.
The basic premise is that learning how to not give a f*$k is the key to leading a happy life and that we need to embrace adversity and rejection as necessary feedback. instead of viewing them negatively.
Moana. I am dead serious here. This is one of the best Disney movies of all time, in terms of messaging anyway. Every character's journey, down to the major and minor villains, is about becoming the person that you truly are inside no matter who other people try to say that you should be. The next time a naysayer starts to knock your dreams, just ask yourself, “What would Moana do?” (The answer is part the ocean, walk right up to that lava monster, and do what you came there to do!)
Like most things in life, caring less about what other people think of you is a skill that gets better with practice. The reward at the end of all of that hard work is being able to look back on the full life that you lived and being proud that you lived it on your own terms.
By the way, my mom got two cartilage piercings and has her sights set on getting a tattoo next!