…by Suzanne Falter-BarnsHave you ever felt like the life you are living is not the one you
originally had in mind? Back when you were a kid, there might have been
other things you thought you were going to be, like a Broadway diva or
a country doc. That was before so-called reality hit, back when the
only voice you listened to was your own.

Fast forward to today. If you\’re like most of us, you lost track of
those dreams and ideas some time ago. Other factors came into play,
like earning a living, the impossibility of going back to school, or
the queasy fear of looking stupid. You might have even heard your
parents in the background, quietly chanting. “Get a good job, honey.
You need the security.” “You expect too much from life!!” “Who said
work was supposed to be fun?”

In her book, Losing Your Parents, Finding Your Self (Hyperion),
Victoria Secunda interviewed 94 men and women who had lost at least one
parent about the impact their parents\’ death had on their lives. What
she found was that after that parent\’s death, 50% of the respondents
changed their career — and 69% of that group did so as a direct result
of the death. The reason? Respondents no longer had to worry about
pleasing or displeasing that parent. “The credit, or blame, for their
success and failures fell almost entirely on their own shoulders,” says

When we begin to listen to our own voice, and throw off all those other
helpful ones in our head, life really starts to make sense. Not only do
the wheels of progress finally turn in the direction we want, but we
begin to put more and more credence in that small, lesser known part of
ourselves that is the seat of both our vulnerability and our power.
This is the place where our creativity, our imagination, and our own
unique \’I-ness\’ really lives. It\’s also the place we operate from when
we\’re truly connecting with others.

Having the courage to live up to your own ideals is truly refreshing.
When you move from thinking about it to actually doing it, you are
amazed by the flow and the ease with which you can suddenly operate.
You may also be struck by how long you waited to finally get on with
the real joy in life.

Getting there, however, can be the hard part, because it all begins
with awareness. Often those voices in our heads, whether they belong to
parents, well-meaning friends, former bosses, spouses, or even nosy
neighbors, may have been playing so long and so loudly we can\’t even
hear them.

Emme, one of the world\’s top plus-size model, grew up listening to the
abusive voice of the man her mother married when she was 5. At age 12,
he instructed her to strip down to her underwear, then circled in
indelible magic marker all the places on her body where she needed to
lose weight. Even though she\’d tried to scrub them off, her next trip
to the local pool was a humiliating nightmare. “After that,” she told
an interviewer, “I didn\’t allow myself to feel … Finally I went into
therapy and said, \’I\’m angry. I need to find out why.\’” Emme\’s work
with a therapist gave her a fuller understanding of the influences
she\’d been spending a lifetime silently wrestling with — voices she
has since moved beyond in her work as a model, and role model, for plus
size women everywhere.

Ultimately, unplugging all those inner know-it-alls rests on nothing
more than your desire to be who were you always intended to be in the
first place. Are you willing to rise above everyone else\’s agenda for
you, and carve out the niche that is rightfully yours? Are you willing
to let go of what others will think, and honor your greater self
instead? Are you willing to be known as the tremendous, quirky soul
that you are?

Perhaps the best example of this is Roger the Jester, a wonderful,
original performer based near Great Barrington, Massachusetts. After
unsuccessful stabs at psychology and photojournalism, Roger landed on
jesting by asking himself what he wanted to spend the rest of his life
doing. “What I really liked was making people laugh, and goofing off.
Once I got booked for a show and they told me, \’We\’d just like you to
carry on.\’ Well, that\’s what my mother used to yell at me — \’Will you
stop carrying on?\’ And now, here I was, carrying on and getting paid
for it.”

Take a moment right now to complete the following questions in a
journal or notebook. They will help you clear the many voices in your
head, so you and your niche can emerge…

I would complete my dream, except that my father _________________________________________________

When I think of my dream, I think of my mother

Everyone keeps telling me _________________________________________________

I don\’t pursue my dreams because

The truth about my dreams is that

If I could truly do anything I wanted to in life, I would

Now write down a list of everyone in your life you truly does honor
your own, unique spirit. This is your new list of voices — be sure to
ask for their support when the going gets rough. And then, of course,