Those who know me are aware that I’ve always been someone who does whatever they want—or at least, that’s how it appeared. That’s also how it felt. But I’m discovering that throughout my entire life, I had one goal: to please the people around me, to do what was considered cool, or to impress someone. Mainly my family, but also friends and colleagues. I lived my life through their eyes. I wanted to discover what I liked, but I could never even figure out my preferences—like what I’d rather eat for dinner when I was with someone. ‘Whatever you want,’ was my default response, or I’d think about what they might want and suggest that.

However, I’m trying to put a stop to it. Because who the hell am I kidding? Only myself. One sentence that stuck with me was that you can always have a preference. So, when you ask someone if they want to go out with you, you can start by saying, ‘my preference would be this or this.’ This approach has helped me greatly. I started to think about what my preferences were, and of course, I had to start accepting those preferences.

I’ve always wanted to appear cool to other people. The thing is, I never considered that I might be cool without trying. My life has never been average and will never be that. However, I tried to conform to what, in my eyes, was the status quo. Side note: what the hell is the status quo? This could be so different for each person, group, or place. But I guess I wanted to conform to the status quo that, in my eyes, was the ‘cool status quo.’ Believe me, I tried. I tried until I had two burnouts and two depressions behind me. Apparently, you get burnt out and depressed when you are trying to live a life that’s not fit for you.

I think that getting older also helps. Because, having tried so many things— or at least, I did—I kind of figured out that my methods weren’t working. That’s because I ‘wanted’ to like something. The thing you should figure out and accept(!) is what you DO like. That means you have to stop people-pleasing and stop doing what you think is cool, because you’re probably not pleasing anyone. People feel you’re not having a good time. Also, people are busy with themselves, so why bother trying to please people that are probably trying to please you or are too busy worrying about something else.

Please try to find out what your preferences are. Your real preferences. And start small. How do you really like your coffee? Do you even like coffee? Do you like to sleep in pyjamas, lingerie, or naked? Do you hate the rain, or do you secretly like it? If you start focusing on these small things that wouldn’t hurt anyone, and also, not one person really cares if you hate the rain or not. If you start training this, you can go a step further. Do you like this person? Why do you like them really, and what do you dislike? Is your friendship good for your reputation, or do you really value their company? And then, do you want to be in this relationship/job/city/country? Take small steps. It can really help to write it down. Every day again and again. Write something about your day, describe your opinion, and then question that opinion. Ask yourself; what do I think? What do I feel? And then, just to be sure; what do I really think? Be strict with yourself. You have to be honest. You might be scared to admit some things to yourself because you have been trying to fool yourself for years! You might discover that you hate this one friend you just spent years on because they were so down on their luck and you just wanted to be a good friend. Or you wasted a lot of money on a new couch that looked perfect but is uncomfortable.

You might even feel shame because you’ve wasted so much time or money, but really, better late than never. Admit it to yourself now and stop wasting your time! Don’t be scared; you don’t have to do anything just yet. If you hate the couch, admitting it can be enough to make peace with it. If you hate this one friend that only sucks energy, you don’t have to break up with them just yet because you want to be a decent person. Or you can decide you’re fine with the things you don’t like about them. But it helps to have your own thoughts, your preferences, your opinions, so you can start to live your authentic life.