Before the pandemic struck, I often used to travel to places like Sri Lanka, where the nature is all-encompassing, the culture is thriving with simplicity, and the locals are endearing. I have travelled to many places alone, from work trips to retreats, and I can say without a doubt that it’s definitely good for the soul. I’d set off on my trip jumping into a taxi headed to the airport, with the ride filled with the usual small talk between me and the driver. Then came the question, “Are you travelling alone?”
I responded in the affirmative, but was immediately aggravated as it seemed like every taxi driver around the world asks the same question, only to find it strange that a woman could possibly travel alone. Then came the next question, “No husband or children?” At that point, I had two choices: I could tell the truth (that I’m not married and I don’t have children, and be judged with further interrogation as to why) or lie for a peaceful journey without being questioned. Whilst this is all done innocently, it’s something I have had to deal with every time I travel. I am sure other solo female travellers have also had the same experience.
I’ve always been happy with my current life status of being unmarried and child-free. And, yet, whenever this happens, I feel not only judged, but also somehow incomplete – as if I’m the only one who has opted for this life choice. A small, sinking, hollow feeling arises that I’m different, abnormal even. This is exactly the issue with society. Who says that we all must be married by the age of 30 with two children, a dog, and a house with a white picket fence?
The unconscious bias and judgment can be stifling. Why can’t I just be me? If I feel complete and my life is on track, then that’s what is important for me. We find ourselves living our lives by how society dictates we should, and we get judged if we don’t. Learning to live life on your own terms, let me tell you, takes a lot of courage. Women are known people-pleasers. On coaching calls, I constantly speak to women who are afraid to say ‘no’ out of fear of being disliked or going against the grain. We may fear that our boss won’t respect us or that our friends will disregard us. The worst part of not saying no and pleasing people is that you aren’t being you. You haven’t set boundaries, and you are just saying yes when you really want to say no.
This can cause you to feel frustrated, annoyed, and even resentful, so it’s time to stop pleasing and learn to live life on your own terms – for you, by you, and exactly as you want! Personally, I’ve always been a lone wolf moving against the pack. I’ve always felt different and separate. Despite this, I am always me – authentic. I now work with women to learn to be who they really are. It can be a tough move to live in Dubai, leaving close family and friends, perhaps following your husband’s job and raising the kids. You can lose your identity when you are the wife, mother, carer, and people-pleaser. You may sit and think, “But who am I really? Am I truly living right now? Or am I just pleasing people?”
One book that I highly recommend all women read is Untamed by Glennon Doyle. It talks in detail about this very topic of women being people-pleasers and not living life on their own terms. My favourite quote from the book is, “Being human isn’t difficult because we are doing it wrong, it’s difficult because we are doing right!” Living life on your own terms means getting out of your own way, being vulnerable and courageous, and having a sense of fulfillment from knowing that you are standing in your truth. As the world wakes up to gender equality, it needs more wild and untamed women.
These are my three top tips for you to stop pleasing and start living:
1. Implement Healthy Boundaries
Saying ‘no‘ is a complete sentence. Sure, it can be a little scary at first, but once you start pushing back, you gain more respect and people know that they can’t take advantage of you. Most importantly, you feel back in control and happier that you aren’t people-pleasing.
2. Authenticity Is Key
The world really needs more of you, so never dim your light to please others. There will always be people who don’t like you, and that’s okay. When you are authentically you, you attract the right people and circumstances into your life.
3. Invest in You
You are your best asset. Having a personal development plan is vitally important. You will feel empowered, inspired, and fulfilled if you do.
I always say nothing good comes from comfort zones! If you feel comfortable, perhaps plodding through life, you simply aren’t playing big enough. Decide on what’s holding you back and try to make a change. Is there a side hustle you would like to build? Perhaps a book you would love to write? Just start, no matter how small. Small steps lead to big breakthroughs, and you can learn so much in the process.
Learn more about Emma Burdett and her work empowering women through WILD here.