No one can accurately tell you what you want. But that won’t stop plenty of people from trying.
These people are usually selling something.
Who is anybody else to tell you you “should” want something? Either a product, or an experience, or a goal?
I have an acquaintance in the personal development industry who spends a great deal of time and energy attempting to sell potential customers on his vision of what they “should” want. He’s big on telling them that if they want want “most” people want, they’ll wind up unfulfilled; and that, if they’re truly interested in going to the “next level,” they should want the kinds of things and experiences he is selling.
I’m not passing judgment on his vision, understand. I give this guy the benefit of the doubt that he’s coming from a place of seeing many people misled into unfulfilling existences by wanting the “wrong” stuff, and he’s only trying to spread the “truth” as he understands it. My issue with his teaching is, there is literally no way he can know what will make for a fulfilling life for all the people reading his words.
Only you are the expert on you.
Lots of people will try to make you doubt your expertise. Sometimes these are even people with degrees and credentials, which makes their judgments kind of intimidating. After all, if these “experts” say I should want something, who am I to say I don’t?
I repeat: you are the expert on you.
Part of building, or rebuilding, self-esteem is about reclaiming your right to assert what you want and who you are, even if it contradicts the wishes or assertions of those considered “experts.”
Why is this important? It’s important because people frequently come to a place of wounded or deficient self-esteem after years of being told who they “should” be, what they “should” want, what are and are not acceptable goals and aspirations for their lives.
Sometimes they fulfill others’ expectations of their lives, sometimes they don’t; but in the end, they usually wind up feeling unsure of themselves, anxious, unconfident. And the reason for this is, they’ve been living a life someone else designed for them. They’ve not been taught the importance of living an authentic life of their own design and momentum.
The people who try to tell us who we are and what we “should” want are usually well-intentioned. I’ve seen plenty of personal growth writers do it. I’ve seen therapists do it. I’ve definitely seem well-meaning family and friends do it. Almost never, in my experience, have these people done so with ulterior motives: they usually want the best for us, and they feel that by pressuring us into a life THEY approve of is, well, the best for us.
Again, it doesn’t have to do with whether they are right or right about what kind of life would make us happy. The issue involved is one of autonomy and choice. It is impossible to life a life of high self-esteem if you’re not living a life you chose— thoughtfully, purposefully, and consistent with your values.
Therapists, teachers, guides, mentors, sponsors— they can all show us alternatives for our lives, help us develop our visions, provide modeling, support us in developing the knowledge and skills necessary to construct our own unique life visions. In an advisory capacity, our teachers are irreplaceable resources. But in order to really utilize them as the valuable resources they are, we must keep their roles in our lives very clear: advisors and guides.
They can be our navigators, in other words. But we must be the captain and command the helm of our own ship.
Be mindful when you consider the input of a therapist, guide, teacher, mentor, or sponsor. Are they asking you questions, encouraging you to develop your own vision of what is real and important, based upon your own values and experiences? Or are they hard-selling their own vision of what you “should” want (which, not coincidentally, is often only available through their exclusive mentorship)?
I realize I might sound like a broken record to some readers of my blog, insofar as I link so many issues back to the central importance of self-esteem. However, there simply is no escaping the fact that unless we establish and nurture a sense of ourselves that is stable, reality-based, and worthy, it simply doesn’t matter what else we do with our lives.
Without self-esteem, it doesn’t matter what techniques we master, what philosophies we employ, what deities we pray to. We will always undercut ourselves, sabotage ourselves, sell ourselves short.
In case there is any doubt, let me remind of you something that you maybe haven’t been told for a few years, if ever:
YOUR vision is important.
YOUR goals are important.
What provides YOU with pleasure and meaning is important.
All the tools that psychology and the personal growth field have to offer you should be at the service of YOUR vision for your life.
You. Are. Important.
Subscribe to Dr. Doyle’s free weekly email newsletter.
Like and follow Dr. Doyle’s official Facebook page.