I think everyone knows deep down what they need to do. But this is often muddled by competing voices in our head questioning and resisting everything – such as by procrastinating. This is more true the higher the perceived risk like starting a business, quitting a job, asking someone out, ending a relationship, doing something adventurous. Anytime we attempt to leave the comfort zone, there is that voice in the back of your head questioning “do you really want to do that!? Why not stay here and play it safe?”
Of course the greatest reward entails the greatest risk. By giving in to the resistance, you not only forgo the greatest reward in life, but you compromise your true self and become a weaker version of yourself less capable of making the right decision, and more likely to give in to future resistance. Keep compromising yourself and you’ll start feeling like crap and hating your life.
Ignore the irrational emotional part of your brain, and do what you logically know you need to do. You’ll not only be living more authentically, but you’ll strengthen the muscle of making the optimal decision for the long-term. Even if that risk you chose to take doesn’t work out, you’ll still be better off because you did what was most authentic to yourself given the information you had at the time.
For example I write this from a mountain town in the Himalayas in India, where I was very skeptical to come but ultimately am glad I did. Even though I’ve been to many countries (46), I’ve historically been fairly lazy with my traveling – sticking to big cities with airports. This time I decided to be more adventurous than usual, and I ended up really enjoying my time here and staying longer than expected.
Don’t regret paragliding
That being said it’s not as if every place I went or activity I did met or exceeded expectations. I took a 2.5 hour taxi ride to a little town called Bir to go paragliding because it’s considered one of the top paragliding spots in the world (and only 2,500 rupees, or $30 – including the 40 minute drive up the mountain). There was a part of me that was hesitant – especially after hearing that there was an accident a few months ago that resulted in fatalities – but I really wanted to try it out.
Although I enjoyed the experience and found it relaxing, it was not nearly as exhilarating as I expected. I wouldn’t recommend anyone on the fence to travel to Bir just to paraglide since the town otherwise doesn’t have much to see (if I were to paraglide again, it’d be after hiking to the top because I think that’d be way more rewarding than being driven in some taxi) – but I definitely don’t regret going because it was something I really wanted to try out. Had I not done it despite logically knowing I wanted to do it, I would’ve become less authentic to myself. (also I discovered some great music through a guy I met there and learned/re-learned how to play Rummy)
I regret not going to Carnivale in Brazil
I’ll contrast this with another clear regret I have where I wasn’t living true to myself – not going to Carnivale in Brazil and visiting Florianopolis.
Basically I was geographically separated from my girlfriend at the time because I’d hit the limit on my European Schengen visa and had to leave the Schengen zone for 3 months. During that time I’d wanted to visit Florianopolis, Brazil and experience Carnivale in Rio de Janeiro, but my girlfriend at the time didn’t like the idea of me being surrounded by hot Brazilian girls and was very opposed to the idea. She didn’t trust that I wouldn’t try to get with other girls, and saw this as further evidence that I’m incapable of settling down somewhere and constantly need to be traveling. I remember after the heated call going on a walk and being super angry at her because she wasn’t allowing me to be my authentic self and live my authentic life. I told myself I was going to go to Brazil anyways, and if someone won’t accept me for that then they shouldn’t be in my life anyways.
Unfortunately that courage only turned out to be temporary. I decided I didn’t want to risk the relationship ending over this (in hindsight so stupid because if it were to end over this then it clearly wasn’t meant to be), and I figured it might anyways impede on my work productivity on the job I’d recently started. Also conveniently an apartment in NYC was available for me to stay for free for a couple weeks, so it felt like the fiscally responsible thing to do (even though I’d already just spent 2 weeks in NYC).
What happened was I ended up having one of the most depressing couple weeks of my life holed up in an apartment in NYC winter as the relationship slowly fell apart, and I lost the job. I could’ve been out in Brazil living my most authentic life, but instead I compromised myself for a girl who wouldn’t accept me for who I was, and ended up losing the girl anyways.
I had compromised myself in multiple ways:
- Not going to Brazil even though it’s what I wanted to do
- Staying with a girl who wasn’t right for me and wouldn’t accept me for who I was (not to imply that someone needs to accept genuine behavioral flaws, but wanting to travel to Brazil while you’re geographically separated due to visa reasons is certainly not one of them)
By the way I’m not even trying to imply that Brazil would’ve necessarily been some magical euphoric time. Maybe I wouldn’t have enjoyed it due to the breakup (though let’s be real, I would’ve enjoyed it). But I’ve found that in general – you feel wayyyy shittier when you’re not living authentically, because then you have the added guilt of having betrayed yourself.
For example I still remember one time a long time ago meeting some girl I thought was cute, having no clue what to say or real confidence in myself, and asking my friend what to text her. He told me to text her something I thought sounded really stupid, but I hesitantly did it anyways. It didn’t work out, and I felt so shitty that I vowed to never ever text anything a friend suggested unless I agreed with it. Not only had I been “rejected”, but I’d rejected myself by being inauthentic. What would’ve been a typical “rejection” felt 100x worse due to the self-betrayal (I put “rejection” in quotes because I don’t believe it should be viewed as rejection, but instead as two people not being meant for each other. Anyways it turned out she had a boyfriend).
Authenticity of course isn’t a license to give into every impulse you have. You need to be smart about what you do, otherwise you could end up a homeless heroin junkie. If your “authentic self” is to be manipulative or deceptive, well those are toxic character flaws that you need to fix. Although I prefer radical transparency, I’ve learned that sometimes information doesn’t need to be volunteered (eg. “do I look fat in this dress?”).
But too often we compromise ourselves – doing what’s easy and convenient instead of that difficult, ambitious thing that deep down we know we’d rather be doing.
Don’t betray yourself. Be authentic. Those who won’t accept you for your authentic life don’t belong in your life anyways as you wouldn’t be happy if they’re only around when you compromise yourself. Being authentic will attract more of the people who do belong in your life, and bring real connection that doesn’t require the guilt of self-betrayal.