Choosing to carve my own path in life has been a consistent theme throughout my adulthood, punctuated only by brief periods of conformity.
Despite being content with my individualistic journey, I frequently find myself under scrutiny—from curious peers, concerned family members, and conventional friends—each subtly suggesting that perhaps I should reconsider.
But why is it that I’m constantly made to justify my choice to follow an unconventional path?
Our society often imposes unnecessary expectations on those who choose to live differently, pressuring people into conformity out of fear of societal judgment, rather than genuine conviction.
In this article, I’ll share 7 external expectations that you should bid farewell to if you want to carve your own path in life.
By the end, I hope to highlight that there’s no shame in choosing to live differently, just as there’s no shame in choosing to adhere to societal norms.
Ultimately, our life decisions should be driven by personal introspection and self-understanding, rather than external pressures.
1) Let go of societal timelines
This was a significant realization for me to make.
“Societal timelines” come from the belief that there’s a set schedule for our lives – graduate at this age, get a job at this age, marry at this age, and so on. But the reality is that these timelines are man-made constructs, and adhering to them may not be what’s best for you.
Let me elaborate.
Think about the natural world. Flowers bloom in their own time. A fruit ripens when it’s ready. The sun rises and sets every day, but each sunrise and sunset is unique. Just like these natural phenomena, your life has its own unique timeline.
If you’re going to carve your own path, it’s essential to let go of societal timelines. You’re living instinctively, not mechanically.
It’s important to let go of the pressure that comes from believing you need to follow a predetermined timeline. You don’t. Your life unfolds according to your actions and choices, and they are most meaningful when they align with your personal growth and readiness. When you act instinctively.
Acknowledging our unique timelines leads to another important understanding: success is not a straight, upward trajectory. Our journeys, much like a mountain climber’s, are filled with ups, downs, and detours, all contributing to our personal growth.
2) Success isn’t linear
This might be surprising for some to accept.
Success is often portrayed as a straight arrow shooting upwards, but the truth is far from it. Contrary to popular belief, success isn’t necessarily a steady, upward trajectory.
Think about a mountain climber. The path towards the summit isn’t a straight line. It involves detours, setbacks, and even periods of stillness. The climber doesn’t always move forward, sometimes they move sideways or even backward. Yet, each movement contributes to reaching the summit.
It’s essential to abandon the fallacy that success is linear; always about moving upward or forward. Your journey towards success is shaped by your unique experiences and lessons, which enhance your understanding and resilience.
When you attempt to “succeed quickly” all the time, you endow too much power on the end goal. You forsake your instinctive power.
Now, I accord less power to the notion of success. Sometimes I face roadblocks. Other times I experience failures. I don’t fret over these anymore.
As we navigate our unique paths towards success, it’s essential to avoid the pitfalls of comparison. Comparing ourselves to others can lead us astray, whereas focusing on our individual journey keeps us true to our path.
3) Comparisons can be deceptive
You might believe that comparing yourself to others is a good motivator, but soon, you might find yourself envious of their achievements, possessions, or lifestyle.
You might even find yourself becoming the object of someone else’s envy. Few mental states are robust enough to withstand this kind of pressure.
Envy emerges in all aspects of life, but if you willingly put yourself in a position to compare, you’re inviting trouble.
Also, it’s crucial to question the role of comparisons in your life.
Perhaps you’re feeling envious because you genuinely admire someone’s success or skill.
Often, we chastise ourselves for feeling envious, as though it’s an emotion we shouldn’t entertain.
Maybe it’s time to embrace these feelings. They may be a sign that you’re yearning for something more in your life. Instead of weighing yourself down with envy, use it as a motivation to work towards your own goals and aspirations.
One major obstacle on this individualistic journey is the fear of judgment. Overcoming this fear is crucial for making decisions that align with our true selves, rather than conforming to external expectations.
4) Fear of judgment shouldn’t hold you back
I began this point by focusing on the fear and its grip on our actions.
The thing is, fear of judgment often dictates how we interact with the world.
In my case, I sometimes hesitate to take unconventional decisions. I worry about how others will perceive my choices.
My intentions are good. I wish to live authentically and carve my own path.
But when I let fear dominate, I can slide into the habit of thinking that others’ approval is more important than my own satisfaction. I can lose touch with my desires. I become anxious and probable not such an assertive person to assert my will.
If I judged myself for my intentions, I wouldn’t question my apprehension.
Instead, because I don’t focus solely on my intentions, I am more able to reflect on my actions and change how I behave. I am learning to confront fear and prioritize my personal growth.
How you handle judgment is what matters, not the fear that influences your behavior.
In tandem with facing the fear of judgment is the challenge of stepping away from constant external validation. Realizing that our worth isn’t determined by others’ approval is a pivotal step in carving our own, authentic path.
5) The need for constant validation is a trap
This one hits close to home for me.
I’ve always been someone who sought validation from others. Whether it was through academic achievements, career advancements, or even just social media likes – I craved that external approval. It felt good to be recognized and praised.
But over time, I realized this incessant need for validation was dictating my life. I was making choices not based on what I wanted or believed in, but on what I thought would earn me the most applause.
My life became a performance, a constant show for the audience of the world.
And then there was a turning point. I took a step back and asked myself – whose life was I living? Was it mine or was it an image crafted for the approval of others?
That’s when I decided to say goodbye to this external expectation. The need for constant validation is a trap that keeps you from living authentically. Today, I strive to validate myself, to listen to my inner voice, and make choices that align with my values and aspirations.
This shift hasn’t been easy, and there are days when I falter, but each step taken towards self-validation is a step closer to carving my own path in life.
This journey towards self-validation naturally leads us to embrace our individuality. By recognizing and valuing our unique qualities, we can fully appreciate the beauty of our personal journey, distinct from anyone else’s.
6) Embrace your individuality
It’s interesting to note that the word “individuality” stems from the Latin word “individuum”, which means “inseparable”. It denotes the unique qualities that distinguish each of us and cannot be separated from our essence.
Here’s the key point:
This insight invites us to reflect on our unique traits, to understand what sets us apart, and to honor our individuality.
For those feeling pressured by societal expectations, embracing individuality can provide a sense of liberation. It’s a reminder that we are more than just part of a collective, we are unique entities with distinct narratives.
Embracing our individuality encourages us to see our journey as a unique path and can provide a sense of purpose and authenticity.
The culmination of embracing our individuality is realizing the power of acceptance. Accepting ourselves as we are can be more transformative than striving for constant change, allowing for a deeper, more authentic path of personal growth.
7) Acceptance is more potent than change
When crafting a unique life path, we often focus on the things we need to change. We try to alter our habits, reframe our thoughts, and transform our lives.
However, carving your own path sometimes isn’t about changing who you are, but rather accepting it. It’s about understanding your strengths and weaknesses, acknowledging your interests and disinterests, and embracing your quirks and idiosyncrasies.
This doesn’t mean you stagnate or stop striving for improvement. It simply means you start from a place of self-acceptance.
Ironically, it’s often through accepting ourselves as we are that we open the door to genuine growth and change. Because when you stop battling with yourself and start accepting yourself, you create a peaceful inner environment that nurtures growth.
So, if you’re looking to carve your own path in life, perhaps the first step isn’t to change, but to accept. To say goodbye to the external expectation of constant transformation and say hello to the power of acceptance.
Bottom line: It’s about authenticity
Throughout this journey of carving our own path, the underlying theme is authenticity. Choosing to live in alignment with our true selves, regardless of external expectations, is perhaps the most profound achievement in our personal growth.
The complexities of personal growth and self-discovery often intertwine with our core values and beliefs.
One such connection is the relationship between carving your own path and the fundamental concept of authenticity.
This concept, inherent in all humans, defines our true selves, shaping our preferences, actions, and life choices.
For those who choose to live authentically, saying goodbye to external expectations might be a key factor in their decision. Embracing their unique journey could potentially activate a profound sense of fulfillment and joy as they engage in activities aligned with their inherent values.
Whether it’s embarking on a solitary adventure, veering off the traditional career path, or embracing unconventional lifestyle choices, the underlying principle of authenticity amplifies their experience.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” So here’s to carving your own path, embracing authenticity, and celebrating the unique journey that is your life.