The downside of finding your guiding principle

I used to know this girl in college, let’s call her Sweet Caroline for privacy’s sake and because that’s an amazing song! She was the epitome of the social butterfly with friends she could hardly count. She was at every party and she was the life of all of them. There was nearly no one who met her and didn’t think she was awesome, and she really was. What most people didn’t know was how smart she was and how deep. She loved books, she loved talking about philosophy, but most of all she had a passion for documentaries and hardcore journalism. Sweet Caroline also really loved staying home and reading, but she hardly ever did it.

I came to know all of these things about her after we graduated college. It started when she admitted that she having a really hard time finding a job. I jokingly suggested she should try to dye her hair back to her natural shade of brown. I felt that her brown hair was a better reflection of who she was on the inside; I believed she was being passed off for jobs because who she was and who she was presenting herself as were two different people. Never did I think my suggestion would work (it did) and never did I imagine that it would serve as the beginning of Sweet Caroline’s painful but ultimately gratifying alignment with her guiding principle. If you don’t know what a guiding principle is, start here.

For years, Sweet Caroline had been dyeing her hair blond. She had started dyeing it in the years of her life where she was highly susceptible to the impression she made on people, a.k.a. high school. Over a series of many years, she had intentionally created a reputation of herself as the fun and sociable girl – and the blond hair was only one of the tools she used to build that reputation. When I suggested she dye her hair, she nearly fainted. I realized soon enough that it wasn’t so much fear of dyeing her hair brown, it was fear of letting go of the comfort of her reputation. She loved her brown hair, she loved books, she loved staying home, but what would people say if she told them she wanted to be this girl and not that other girl they loved?

Sweet Caroline’s problem is one millions of people face: carrying around a reputation that no longer serves them or matches who they genuinely are. But how does one start to let go of the comfort of reputation? What will people say when you start to change in order to align with your guiding principle? Will they think your new plan to change is laughable? Will the people you love leave you? Will you disappoint them? Will people think you’re going through some kind of crisis and brush you off? Will they be angry with you or disappointed? Will people tell you you’re crazy? Will people resist your change?

The spiral is real people.

Well, I’m not going to lie. The answer to all of those questions is likely to be yes. Still, I’m here to tell you that just because the answer is probably yes doesn’t mean you should stay where you are for the sake of those around you. Leaving your reputation in order to live by your guiding principle is in many ways a cleansing exercise for the soul and for your life. You will lose people, as Sweet Caroline did, and this is the most hurtful aspect of finding your guiding principle and living by it. People have come to rely on you to play your part in the great big play of life, but you aren’t a puppet. You are a human with the ability to choose yourself over and over again. You are a human with the freedom to re-invent yourself in a way that closes the gap between what you present to the world and who you really are on the inside.

As you go about aligning yourself with your guiding principle and shedding your old reputation, be prepared for resistance from those around you. The longer you have lived with a certain reputation, the more resistance you will face. Change causes fear in human beings. When people resist your change it’s because they are filled with fear! Be as kind as you can as they face their fears, but remain steady in your search to align with your guiding principle. And if you happen to find that someone is willing to go to extreme measures to stop your evolution, you must be ready to create a large distance between you and that person.

This, my friends, is the one downside of finding and living by your guiding principle. You may lose people. But, every down has an up and the up here is that for each person you lose, you will also clearly see those who genuinely love you. More importantly, you send the message to people that you love them, but not at the expense of loving yourself.

So go ahead and shed that reputation. Start with something small. For Sweet Caroline it was dyeing her hair to a shade she really loved, but there are hundreds of other ways. Need a suggestion? Comment below or email me.

I’ll leave you with a mantra to empower you through this tough aspect of aligning with your guiding principle. It is one of my favorite quotes!

With all my love!

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