Updated: Sep 15
Five years ago, I made a crucial decision to do what I knew was best for me, even if it was ‘risky’ by societal standards; I left college to run my business fulltime and to follow my dream. As you can imagine, this decision was met with a lot of criticism, disapproval and unwanted opinions…I mean, why wouldn’t it be?
I wasn’t doing what everyone expected of me.
Now, when I am asked about where I went to school (a pretty frequently asked question), I respond with the truth, “I dropped out”. To this day, 9 out of 10 times I am met with the following response, “well, that’s okay”, as if I need to be consoled about what they think is my poor decision making. This response is indicative of the average person’s thought process – in simplest form: it is not normal and therefore it is bad. While I realize that most people aren’t ill-intended when they say these things, it’s fucked up and condescending and I know that it happens to anyone who goes against the grain.
While I was 100% certain that leaving school was the right thing for me to do, the decision wasn’t easy simply because I knew what other people would say…not just in the moment, but for the rest of my life. The reality is, when you do something that people are taught to ‘disapprove’ of or don’t understand, you are bombarded by negativity and ignorance. Sub out, ‘I dropped out of college’ and add your story…how many times have you let other people talk you out of doing something because they don’t approve? It is discouraging that in 2019, we have come so far in so many ways and yet, so many people are still afraid of the unconventional.
At 20 years old, I literally had people telling me that I would be nothing without a diploma and that I was making the biggest mistake of my life. Now I look back and realize how ridiculous that is, but it has taken me years to not be offended by people’s opinions, to be able tell people that I don’t care what they think of me and to actually mean it and to walk away from tough conversations without feeling totally discouraged.
The point of me telling you this is not to play the victim or to receive sympathy or even understanding. The point is that, there are so many people in this world who aren’t doing what they are meant to be doing because they are worried about what other people might think or say. That is such bullshit!
We preach all day long that we are so tolerant and accepting in this day in age and yet, we are still so afraid of people who think outside the box. As a society, we need to do a better job of letting people live their own lives and not worry about why they aren’t doing things the way they have always been done. More importantly, as people who dare to be different – the change makers, the “rebels”- we need to do a better job of realizing that the naysayers are simply projecting their own fears. That’s a them problem.
While everyone else is fearing change and rebellion, I’m out here fearing that if I don’t follow my intuition and embrace my differences, that I will forever be just ‘normal’. We are so much bigger than what people tell us we are or who we can be. We know this if we listen to ourselves. Stop worrying that no one else will understand in fact, fuck being understood and instead, start thinking about all of the things you would do if you didn’t have to listen to other people’s opinions. Now do them.
Here are some things I did to stay true to myself, defy societal expectations and stop letting people’s opinions get in the way of my happiness and potential.
STOP LOOKING FOR IT
It is human nature to constantly seek approval from others; we want to be right, we want to be good, we want to be loved. Here’s the problem: not everyone’s definition of right and good and loved are the same, so trust yourself and stop letting other people define what being ‘good’ means for you.
When someone says something to you that is discouraging or hurtful, it’s okay to feel it. WE ARE HUMAN. Give yourself a few minutes (literally time them) to be really fucking upset and then move on with your day. It’s just as unhealthy to suppress your feelings as it is to get too caught up in them. It’s called balance.
MAKE YOUR OWN MAP
Stop asking people for directions to places they have never been. I say this all the time, but it’s so true, the people who don’t ‘get you’ don’t understand where you’re going, which means they’ve never been, so stop looking to them for guidance.
DO IT AFRAID
You know that feeling, the call to action; those butterflies in your stomach telling you that you need to do something. FUCK. We know it’s going to be hard; we know it’s scary, we know you’re going to encounter criticism and failure and that the process is going to suck sometimes. This isn’t what you want to hear, but you have to do it anyway. Be brave, you were meant for this.
TELL THEM LIKE IT IS
Despite popular belief, it’s okay to tell people that you aren’t actually interested in their advice or opinions. You don’t have to be rude about it, but you can 100% let people know that you are not a dumping ground for all of their thoughts about you and your situation. Other people’s opinions of you are none of your business. Period.
Devyn Penney is a certified life & intimacy coach and the author of, "Mastering the Art of Internal Intimacy". This blog is dedicated to ending small talk by having Big Conversations, "the only way we connect is through love, empathy and an open line of communication".