We all deserve a quality life.
One filled with the highest highs and endurable lows. A life that inspires our families and friends and provides eternal fulfillment at the end of our journey.
But far too many people settle for good when great is obtainable. 2020 has been one of the hardest years of my life — I do not think I am alone in that sentiment. But I think there is still potential for humanity, we can all still live out a quality life.
The defining difference, in part, between a great and good life is boundaries. Quickly, our lives and our dreams make us think that settling and sacrificing is the only way towards joy, peace and prosperity.
That is not true.
Though scarcity is an intrinsic part of life and we cannot have it all, we can have enough of exactly what we want. To our demise, we sacrifice our non — negotiables and deal breakers because the safe route provides more comfort.
If you have not hit a low this year, congratulations because most of us have. My experience with lows, however, have been refreshingly effective. Though we are in one of our darkest moments, I have found light through finding and surrendering to myself.
Step One: Know Yourself.
My grandma is the happiest person I know.
Not because she has everything she has ever wanted, or because she has never experienced sadness, but because she knows exactly who she is. Over her lifetime she has known and accepted herself so deeply, that authenticity has become her sanctuary.
Fearing authenticity did a disservice for my life. Existing in a space of seeking excellence and joy, without knowing who I was made me feel like an effective imposter. I was on my way to a good life filled with love, money and success but I had no fulfillment because I had no understanding of myself.
The inner work is hard. Society conditions us to think that who we are is not sustainable or acceptable to the world if we are not like the general population. We’re encouraged to look the same, worship the same, act the same, love the same, and feel the same. But I believe, sheep have no joy.
I think we all owe it to ourselves, our creator and our purpose to figure out who we are. It is the only way we will leave the world better than we found it.
During my journey towards understanding, I found that I was clear on who I was externally. I knew exactly how I wanted to look, who I wanted to be to people and how I wanted the tangible things in my life to be. On the other hand, when I looked in the mirror and asked myself “who are you and what makes you happy,” I blanked.
Sometimes I still struggle with answering that question. A lot of my lack of internal understanding stems from wanting to fit in. Consciously I wanted to be different and ride my own wave but subconsciously — as a result of my upbringing — I craved a secure “regular” life. I wanted to be everything the world expected of me.
Then I was left alone with my thoughts and insecurities during this pandemic and that forced me to acknowledge that I was getting to know everyone but myself. More harmfully, because I did not know myself, I did not know how to protect myself nor my happiness.
Boundaries, from what I learned, are watery because we do not know ourselves and subsequently become unintentional. Intentionality is the key to firm boundaries. Once I found what made me happy and filled me up, I started to become extremely intentional about avoiding situations that did not serve me. Understanding what I yearned for — in terms of work, love, finances and friends — forced me to create boundaries.
If you are struggling with figuring yourself out, spend more time alone. Don’t be afraid to go on dates alone, to find a hobby that makes you smile or to just sit in silence with your thoughts. Some of my most beautiful moments have been alone.
Most importantly, collectively we have to learn to respect people and the boundaries that maintain their peace. That requires collective selflessness on all of our parts. People deserve and have a right to live in the way that serves them. The most beautiful thing to watch, is someone who knows and is at peace with who they are.
If no one has told you: you can be you, you can be everything, you deserve to meet who you are at your core and love every bit of that.
Step Two: Protect Yourself
We don’t protect ourselves enough.
In the past, I did not love who I was enough to protect me. I did not show up for myself, and that provided unnecessary pain. Today, I find refreshing peace in knowing exactly what I cannot accept. I used to fear that if I was too harsh with my boundaries, it would be too much for people. Sometimes it is too much, but regardless of the outcome, my peace is disturbed when I don’t maintain my boundaries.
I understand the reluctance to create extensive firm boundaries. Compromise is a part of life. But I cannot stress enough the importance of avoiding the urge to accept what people give you. I can confidently say that most people will give you far less than you deserve. And if you do not respect yourself, who you are, and what you want, people will give you even less.
There is something to be said about the person that does not care about the backlash they receive for having zero tolerance for people neglecting their boundaries, often times they are seen as “mean”. To me, they are inspiring because the world has a funny way of blurring lines and sculpting personalities.
Believing in individuality is admirable, however, seeking individuality is difficult. But it’s worth it, your purpose lies in your authenticity and self-love.
I understand the difficulty in maintaining boundaries in the face of a manipulative, group driven, survivalist society. The special, purpose driven, trailblazing people are the ones most protective of themselves and their boundaries.
Step Three: Beat Your Trauma
Trauma, especially when it happens at a young age, confuses our identity. Unfortunately, too many parts of the world make us forget who we are. Too often, people in the world will make you feel small and unworthy and that leads us to forget how special we are.
A lot of us live with trauma and experiences that tell us that parts of us are not needed in the world. Whether it is a parent, a friend, or an ex, I think we have all felt ostracized or flawed in the face of hate or rejection. This trauma does something to our ability to clearly understand what we want out of life.
When I was younger, I was ridiculed if I did not excel in school. With my mom as a principal and a dad with four science degrees, thinking and expressing creatively was unacceptable. As a result, I stopped pursuing what brought me joy and focused on sustaining a safe life. Just as my parents did. I was not given a safe space to be myself and love every part of me. But I also did not demand that space to learn what I loved; in hindsight I wish I had.
Expectations from the people we love limit our capacity to flourish and shine in our own way. If you are struggling to see your worth or find your identity outside of what people expect you to be, I encourage you to dig deep and find the root of your traumas. Often times, the things we do not even realize hurt us, hurt us the most.
The best thing you can do for yourself is respectfully ignore what the people you love have to say about your life. Drown out the noise and pay attention to what makes you smile. Life is far too short to minimize what you get out of it.
Boundaries are hard to set and even harder to stick to, but they dictate the quality in your life. We all deserve fulfillment and it is not easy to obtain. It comes down to putting you first in all scenarios and not worrying about outside opinion.
All of us have a special uniqueness that the world needs. As a society, I hope that we can learn to embrace our differences, respect one another’s boundaries and be kinder to those we may not fully understand.