Ever feel like you are moving to the beat of someone else’s drum? Making decisions based on parental expectations, sticking with an unfulfilling career or relationship because it meets the “plan” you created for your life or conforming to societal guidelines when your true self would like to take center stage? Unfortunately, it happens all of the time. And there’s a price to pay, as living to the beat of someone else’s drum can diminish your fulfillment, happiness and authenticity.
“You will never live your life or fully experience your gifts and legacy when you hang on to the drumbeats of other people,” said Leadership Coach Cat Williford, MCC, CPCC. “It’s convenient and easy to hang on, especially when the expectations of others match what I call our masks. Masks are those game faces we’ve hidden behind for a long time to get us through something difficult.”
That was the case for Philippe Danielides. Growing up in a driven, educated, Greek-American household strongly shaped his definition of success. His plan was to attend academically stellar schools and then become a highly compensated lawyer. Along the way, Danielides sometimes questioned if this was the right path. However he ignored and suppressed his inner voice, feeling it was just another challenge to overcome.
Danielides reached his career destination as planned by his late twenties, but it was a big letdown. “I was waiting to feel fulfilled, happy and free, but it didn’t come,” he explained. “I thought other people’s expectations and views of success were right and that voice inside of me was wrong. I felt stuck because of the years spent actively distrusting myself, my instincts, my intuition, and my inner judgment about who I am and what I care about.”
Getting sick and requiring thyroid surgery at age 30 caused him to pause and become introspective. Danielides saw a therapist, got coaching and started to ask himself deeper questions about himself after spending so much time trusting other people’s expectations over his own desires.
Danielides left the legal profession and detoured into communications, which proved to be a temporary band-aid. After continued personal growth, he couldn’t ignore the divergence between his day job and interests anymore. The pain of staying trapped in an unfulfilling life became greater than the fear of leaping. He quit his job, got rid of his apartment and bought a one-way ticket to Costa Rica.
After becoming a professional coach, Danielides launched a practice in 2017 to help unfulfilled high achievers grant themselves the permission to acknowledge and pursue the lives and careers they genuinely want. He moved back to New York in early 2020 to put some roots down again. Then COVID-19 struck.
Stuck in his apartment, he found himself working a lot. “Everyone was feeling fear,” he noted. “And for entrepreneurs like myself, I worried about not having a paycheck to rely on coming in. That fear drove me to work even harder and try to get as much done as I possibly could.”
Professionally, his coaching business remained strong. But he was stressed out and exhausted. Using his dual passport, Danielides visited Greece for seven weeks over the summer. That experience allowed him to rest and regain a more balanced perspective.
“The concept of being true to yourself has been coming up a lot in my conversations with clients,” he added. “One of the opportunities of this time is that it has challenged the belief that there’s only one ‘right” way to beat a drum. People have realized that the only way their life is going to move forward is if they pick up that drumstick for themselves and take responsibility for it.”
Want to gain a more authentic life? Here are four ways to get started:
- Acknowledge the fear. Change can be intimidating and downright scary during the best of times. Add in a pandemic and it is easy to feel paralyzed or trapped in place. Accepting the fear that you feel as normal can help lessen its hold. Consider journaling about it, talking to a friend or turn to a trusted professional for help to explore why it exists and how to diminish that fear response.
- Look inside. What truly thrills and excites you? Is it being outdoors when you used to spend most waking hours grinding away in a crowded office tower cubicle? Connecting with others online or in person instead of solitary pursuits? This can be a terrific time for self-exploration and educating yourself about a new way of life.
- Give yourself permission to change. You might have already been in the process of making big changes to be true to yourself before 2020 showed up and kicked your butt, or about to start on day one. The world is rapidly changing around us no matter what you do. It makes sense to jump in the driver’s seat and give yourself permission to influence that change.
- Embrace the benefits. Williford says you gain a true “authenticity advantage” and better relationships by doing the hard work. “There is an advantage in the peace of mind you’ll gain, and feeling that you don’t have to pretend anymore,” she explained. “People respond more truly to us when we are being true to ourselves. When we are true to ourselves, we know our preferences, which is empowering. Being authentic gives us a leg up in our own lives.”
How have you gained a more authentic life?