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Letting Go of What Other People Think


The headline for the video said, “I am dropping out of college.” It was one of those YouTube recommended videos. I’m not sure why this video was suggested for me, but I was intrigued enough to take the time to watch it. The essence of the video was about a young college student who, after vacillating on whether to stay in college, announced she was dropping out of school. She agonized over the decision. She was a good student and was doing well so it wasn’t a matter of whether she could do the work. Money was not an issue since she had a full scholarship that covered all of her expenses.

Everything about her college experience seemed, at least from the viewpoint of an outside observer, to be going well. However, this student knew she was not doing what she believed she should be doing with her life. She was not expressing her true self. But here was her dilemma: She felt pressure from well-meaning friends and family to stick it out and she didn’t want to disappoint them. She was concerned what others would think. It wasn’t until she was doing an assignment for one of her classes that she knew she had to make a change.

The class was on reflective writing, in which she had to look back on compositions they had previously done in high school and college. The student (along with her classmates) was instructed to review what they had written from their current perspectives. The instructor also impressed upon the students the importance of exploring the unknown and suggested that certainty is the enemy of growth. The participants in the class were told to reach out to someone who was doing the type of work they were interested in. When the student who eventually dropped out did so, she not only realized her person was doing the work she had a passion for, but going to college was not going to get her there.


Right then and there, the student decided to take the plunge and drop out of school. Intuitively she knew the key to having a good life is to neither be concerned with what others think about her, nor what they believe she should do with her life. Rather, what’s most important is to be true to her personal values. She understood this was the key to happiness and authentic living. She did not make the decision lightly. It was still a scary thought for her. Yet, the student believed the more frightening the decision, the more likely it was true and perfect for her life.

If we are to be true to ourselves, sometimes we have to let go of what other people may think about our decisions. It’s not always easy. But if we do not express who we are, we may try to fit in and people-please. There is great danger in that. Because when we don’t put our true self out into the world, we devalue who we are and trade away our authentic selves to make others feel comfortable. Our lives are more worthwhile than that.


Peace and Blessings,


James

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