Why You Need To Stop Caring What Other People Think Of Your Bucket List

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All I could do was blink at the screen. My body felt lethargic, drained of any semblance of motivation. I was staring at my bucket list and I had no desire to complete the next item I was supposed to accomplish.

Ugh.

What was I thinking? I thought to myself. Back when I was making this list it seemed like this item might be a fun thing to do, but now it just seems boring. I have no desire to cross this off my list. Why did I even put it on here? 

And then a thought occurred to me.

Typically when I’m feeling drained at the thought of accomplishing a bucket list item, I make myself do it anyway. I do it because normally my resistance comes from fear that I won’t be able to achieve the goal and I’ll feel like a failure, so I make myself get out there and finish what I started.

But not this time. This time it felt different. The lethargy was stemming from somewhere other than the worry that I wouldn’t get it done. My internal dialogue was pushing back because this wasn’t something I actually wanted to do before I died. This bucket list item staring at me through my computer screen was something other people wanted me to do.

And that’s why I’d put it on my list.

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Hanging out in Kenya with some new friends!

We put items on our bucket list for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we actually want to accomplish them. Sometimes we know it would make our family members or friends proud. And sometimes we do it to impress other people.

To make ourselves seem cool.

That’s exactly what I’d done.

I’d added an item to my bucket list that I didn’t actually care about, but that I knew would impress other people. When I was making my list, I’d imagined myself talking about it at parties. Yeah, when I was visiting so-and-so, we did such-and-such I’d say, and everyone would ooh and ahh.

Isn’t that dumb? Doesn’t it make you want to puke?

The point of a bucket list is to motivate ourselves to accomplish what we really want to achieve before we die. It’s a conglomeration of all the goals, aspirations, and wildest dreams we’ve kept buzzing in the very backs of our brains, too scared to pull them out and show them to other people for fear of being judged as too unrealistic, too ambitious, too much of a failure to really do what we want to do.

We worry people will whisper behind our backs. She’ll never be able to start a nonprofit, they might say. He could never finish the climb to Macchu Pichu.

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Livin’ large in the Big Apple!

And what would they be saying if they talked about us like that? Their words wouldn’t just be a statement on our abilities, a surface-level impression of our chances of success. At their core, those comments are assignments of worth.

By telling us we can’t, they’re saying we’re not good enough. Not deserving enough. Not smart enough, hard-working enough, talented enough. Not enough.

And statements of enoughness, as I’ll call it here because it’s kind of a fun Dr. Seussy word, hit us at our core. Because we all want to be accepted and loved. We all want to be fully seen and known, and still loved and accepted. As human beings, we need validations of our humanness. We want our enoughness confirmed

But we don’t always get that. People see only parts of us and they determine the whole of us. They see our outward appearance and tell us that this is what defines who we are and whether we’re worthy of acceptance. They see our disabilities and scars and discard us as undeserving of love, of greatness, of life.

But who defines our worth? At our core, we know that only we, the people who know ourselves the best, can take up that aim. We see all of ourselves because we spend every waking and sleeping moment in our own bodies, minds, and spirits. We are the only ones qualified to define our own worth.

And allowing ourselves to dream big and high, no matter what others think, is an important part of the process towards validating our own enoughness. 

So what if a colleague says I’ll never get that promotion? Watch me prove him wrong. And that girl who told me I’d never be able to live away from home for longer than a year? It doesn’t matter — I’m doing it anyway.

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I used to think I’d never be able to run a half marathon.

Bucket lists enable us to be brave. They allow us to cast off concerns about the ideas of others and just go for it. To just dream. We allow ourselves to be fully ourselves and fully real, vulnerable to failure but honest about our intentions, uninhibited by the limitation of thinking we can’t.

We tell ourselves we’re enough. 

We can do it all, have it all, dream it all.

In other words, bucket lists are supposed to unchain us from the expectations of others and the desire to impress. Bucket lists are one way we love ourselves.

How does this relate to my flashback at the beginning of this post where I talk about how I put an item on my bucket list because I knew it would impress someone, even though it’s not what I really wanted?

Well, by adding in items I didn’t really want to do for the sake of others’ opinions, I was tainting the beauty of the bucket list. I was letting the desire to impress others, which is based on a desire for validation of my enoughness, seep into a sacred place where I am supposed to be able to be free of such things.

Adding bucket list goals that are not my own is contrary to the spirit of what a bucket list means. By crossing items off my bucket list to gain praise from others, I forfeit the statement I am making to myself by having a bucket list in the first place — that I am enough even when others don’t think so.

So, folks. What’s my point in all this?

We have to watch ourselves. We have to preserve the beauty of the bucket list. If you find yourself putting things on there that you don’t actually care about the way that I did, ask yourself why. Uncover your true motivations.

Keep your bucket list sacred, because you are sacred. You are enough.

What do you do to remind yourself that you’re enough?

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5 thoughts on “Why You Need To Stop Caring What Other People Think Of Your Bucket List

  1. Love this post. Yes! Disclaimer: I love reading about other people’s bucket lists but have found through trial and error that they’re not ideal for me. One of my very best friends (a bucket-list lover if ever there were one) recently asked me how I accomplish anything without a list. We were casually comparing various experiences over drinks and good food & her question is one I’m still pondering months later. I *think* the answer (or part of it) is that I’m good at grounding into moments and I spend time with myself & my thoughts daily (or at least regularly.) The older I get the clearer I get on what I want and what I find fulfilling while expectations from others (even the speculation of those expectations that are likely only in my head) more easily fall away. I wish you all the best on your journey. I encourage you to continue seeking what YOU truly want. Lists are wonderful tools as long as most items on them are things we truly want (as you wrote about so eloquently in this post.) I very much look forward to reading about your journey.

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    1. Great thoughts! I totally agree – bucket lists aren’t for everyone, especially because some people (like you!) are so good at keeping themselves mindful about their lives and what they want to accomplish or experience. Brava to you! And thanks for your insights – they are so treasured around here.

      Liked by 1 person

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