I can’t speak for all of us, obviously, but I can say so for the many: we often overlook ourselves and our desires because of whatever outside influence.
Some of us feel pressured by parents to do something we don’t particularly want to do ourselves; some of us are scared of others not understanding us and of peer pressure; there are many reasons for this, but the result remains the same — we often start trying to please others with our actions, goals and preferences instead of doing something for our own sakes.
Living for yourself is an important skill and mindset that, for some people, is inborn, but for others — a learnt skill.
It doesn’t mean that you should start disregarding others. But what does living for yourself truly mean, then? Let’s discuss that.
Learn how to say ‘no’
It doesn’t mean you should always decline offers and invitations. It doesn’t mean that you should always aim to have your word be the law in your relationship with others (please don’t).
It just means that sometimes, it’s important to be able to decline, and it’s always important to know when to do so.
You’re not obliged to do anything you really don’t want to, and knowing when and how to say a firm ‘no’ is going to 1) help you establish your own boundaries, 2) consequently, help you start living for yourself.
Disagreements are not the end of the world
You and someone you care about have differing opinions? You like something they don’t? That’s all perfectly valid, and the sooner you learn that — the better.
If the people around you seriously judge you for liking or doing something, unless it’s super harmful, then they’re not doing it right.
Agree to disagree and move on — that’s what living for yourself without harming others means.
Stop disregarding your own goals
If you want to study English Literature, but your parents tell you it’s useless, remind them and yourself of a few things: they aren’t you, they don’t know of all the multiple uses you could have for a lit. degree, sometimes our brains are wired differently.
Parents pushing their goals and ideologies onto kids is a very widespread issue — and the further you get from the West, the more difficult it is to ignore your parents’ attempts to control what you do.
Still, in the end, there’s one thing you need to realise: it will turn into an argument, perhaps even an unpleasant one, but in the end you’re the one who has to live with your decisions, and you’re the one who has to make it work in the future.
A disagreement will be resolved a lot faster and easier than, say, a degree you absolutely despise. And sometimes, as I’d mentioned in the point above, accepting to disagree is one of the most important steps to learning living for yourself.
Stop changing yourself
I struggled with that a lot. I would adapt my opinions and behaviours to that of people around me for the longest time.
Maybe not all opinions, of course, but the minor things like what I enjoy doing in my time off and whatnot. I was ashamed to admit I liked anime in middle school, for instance, because most of my friends were very mean about hobbies like that.
It’s hard, especially in school, because peer pressure often dominates teens’ and young adults’ lives.
But living for yourself also means knowing how to reply ‘so what?’ to baseless derision and jokes.
And believe me, if you just go ‘so what?’ most of them will drop their comments anyway. People look for a reaction, always.
Develop your own interests and hobbies
Having an occupation to yourself, that you picked out because you simply just wanted to do it, and not because somebody told you to, somebody else was doing it, or because you needed money is what living for yourself is all about.
It can be hard and inconvenient sometimes, so I realise that this advice is not universally easy to accomplish; but, at the same time, it doesn’t have to be something massively time consuming — you just have to look around and learn about all the different kinds of hobbies.
It can happen because you like a community surrounding something, because you like playing video games, or because you like dragons and they’re present in whatever it is you pick up — all that matters is that it comes from your own personal wish.