“Reminder: You don’t have to explain why you want what you want, what you do, love what you love or need what you need. You’re allowed to live a life some people don’t understand.” Laura McKowen (author, host, entrepreneur)
I stumbled upon this quote this morning and really wanted to share it in this Postcard. It may feel that life is full of expectations other people set for us and that it is about making other people happy. But in the end, we realise that how we live our lives can and should only make ourselves happy.
Since I became an entrepreneur, some people have struggled to understand why I do what, they struggle to put me in a certain box. “What do you ACTUALLY do?” (With the implication that founders probably do nothing the whole day.), followed by “When will you get a REAL job?”. It does not stop at my professional life, I see the same attitude in my personal life: “Why don’t you have children yet?” is the most common (and intrusive) one. Before it used to be “Why are you not married?” or “Why are you single?”.
Most of these questions are probably not asked with a bad intention. I do think that very often people try to understand lifestyle choices which do not correspond to the social norm, which is – in many cases – a corporate job, a marriage, two kids and a house (plus a mortgage). Everything which deviates from that may be difficult to understand. If “everyone” around you lives such a life, why would you not want the same?
In previous Postcards I have written about the tendency to put our lives in boxes. If you have a corporate job with a job title, others can fairly easily relate. “I am a risk manager at company XYZ” is something which people can understand – even if they do not know what you actually do. But it signals to them that you are somehow progressing in your career and that you have a steady paycheck. If somebody runs their own business, these indicators cannot be applied. Hence, it may be more difficult to grasp what that career path looks like.
If the conversation then moves into your private life and you are a woman over 30, the expected answer is “married, two kids”. But what if you dare to deviate from that? What if it makes you happy to be single? Or what if you have a partner and you just do not want to have children? Or if you think one child is enough?
I have stopped listening to these questions, or taking them personally. I have also stopped trying to answer them. Ultimately, it is you who has to deal with your life decisions, not others. If you are try to make others happy by living “their” life, you will most likely make yourself unhappy in the long-run. And especially those who ask these types of questions will not be the ones who support you in difficult times.
Over time, I also stopped judging others for their choices. If they are happy, who am I to judge? But similarly, I would also like to not be judged – even if it may be difficult to understand what I do, what I love or what I want in life. And do not forget: You do not have to answer anything you do not want to. Try this: When somebody asks you an intrusive or uncomfortable question, smile and say nothing. You will be surprised how powerful it can be and very often your counterpart will realise that the question was inappropriate and utterly unnecessary.
Last week, I learned about an interesting concept called DIET. (Don’t worry, I have not become a weight loss guru.) The question we should ask ourselves is “Did I enrich today?”. Whatever enrichment means for you. At the end of the day, you should ask yourself this question. Did I enrich others today? Did I contribute value with my business/opinions/actions?
Every evening, I now ask myself the DIET-question. I have not entirely figured out the full meaning of enrichment for me – I think this is a long-term process. But I can share some things which contribute to my understanding of enrichment for sure: I want to build and run a business which not only makes customers happy but also improves the livelihoods of the people who make my products. I want to share all the beauty and cultural influences I am exposed to. I want to enrich others by being a good person who is happy with a life which some may not always understand, because only then can I inspire you to believe in yourselves and choose your own path.
This week, do what YOU want to do, try to enrich others but also put your happiness first. And also try my DIET and let me know how it worked out for you.