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How to develop the courage to live for yourself

Develop the courage to prioritize yourself, stop people-pleasing, and live a life you love. Warning: people may hate you for choosing to love yourself.

Ed Latimore
Ed Latimore
Writer, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

One of the top five regrets of people on their deathbed is, “I wish I’d had the courage to live for myself and not what others thought of me.”1

Not caring what other people think is a superpower.

Unfortunately, most people never master this particular skill.

They spend decades becoming a doctor…

Or lawyer…

Or simply not knowing who they truly are because they were afraid of letting everyone else down.

The reality is, you’re going to die someday. And someday you’ll face the same deathbed question: Do you have any regrets?

Don’t let the answer be I wish I’d had the courage to live for myself.

How to live for yourself

Living for yourself means living a life you can be proud of and doing things you love, regardless of what others think. That’s how you show up authentically.

So when you are hiding who you are, you’re not aligned with authenticity.

I wrote a book entitled Not Caring What Other People Think Is A Superpower. Inside, I share the lessons I learned from my boxing days and how it taught me to not care what others thought of me.

I used to be someone who cared immensely what others thought of me. My daily life was plagued with anxiety and worry over what I believed family members, friends, and even strangers were thinking.

Overcoming it isn’t easy. It demands that you’re always improving little by little. But I overcame it. And if I can do it, so can you.

In this article, I’ll teach you how to prioritize yourself, make ‘you’ happy, and finally start living life for yourself.

Get excited about something

The first step to not caring what others think of you is to focus on yourself.

That means investing your time in activities you love and working on your personal growth. Because when you’re living your best life, you realize you don’t have the energy to give to what other people might think of you.

Not everyone gets tapped on the head at birth and immediately knows what they want to do with their entire lives.

And many people struggle to find what they like.

The key to a fulfilling life is doing things that add value to others. It has the benefit of getting you out of your own head and boosting your self-esteem. This can be in the form of volunteering or following a meaningful career path.

If you don’t know what you love, now is the perfect time to pick up a hobby.

I wrote an article that outlines the framework I use to pick hobbies, check it out.

Change your environment

Relationships affect your well-being, mental health, and even how long you live.2

Yet often we remain in environments with people that drain our energy, don’t help us grow, or actively dismantle our confidence.

If you want to live for yourself, you have to get around people that build you up. Prioritize relationships with others that are actively working to improve their own lives. This will serve as a supportive environment and a buffer against negative family members.

Mind your own business

Overthinking and negative self-talk are two symptoms of living for others.

You’re too busy looking at everyone else’s plate, thinking they’ve somehow got it better. That negative thought loop makes you feel like you should be more attractive, smarter, less awkward. And if only you had that one special thing, you could be happier.

The truth is, your inner voice is the barrier between you and building real confidence.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “comparison is the thief of joy.”

Comparing yourself to others doesn’t work because most of us use it to explain why we could never accomplish anything. You simply don’t know what demons the other person is struggling with. Beating yourself up for not having their life is a fool’s errand.

Start a daily habit of encouraging yourself and noticing when you’re being overly critical. Also, developing a supportive inner voice and a practice of gratitude will make it easier to get out of your comfort zone.

Define what is essential

When you don’t know what is essential or important to you in your life, you are in a constant state of reaction. You’re constantly waiting for the next thing to make you happy or sad or to prompt a life change.

Knowing what is essential and where your boundaries are, puts you in the driver’s seat.

Setting boundaries is a statement of your self-worth. Boundaries let people know where they fit in your life. They make you reliable and trustworthy.

Identify who you want to be. You can use ‘I am’ statements to get started.

I am a brother…

I am a teacher…

I help people achieve emotional and mental freedom…

You get the point. The purpose is to decide the standard you want to live by. Don’t worry if you don’t get this right upfront.

If you’re working on yourself, your statements will evolve over time.

Risk disappointing people

If you don’t have the balls to risk being hated, you don’t have the strength to receive love. -Ed Latimore

I had to quote myself there because it’s so true it should be in the bible.

It’s okay to not make everyone else happy or even risk disappointing someone you love.

They’ll get over it.

People-pleasing behavior is simply an attempt to control your environment and others. But the only person you can control is you.

The truth is, once you start living for yourself, you’ll undoubtedly start collecting haters. There’s no way around it because you can’t control other people’s emotions.

Often, parents project their worry and fear onto their children. If you’re paralyzed by the fear of disappointing your parents, try this…

  • Know that loving your parents doesn’t mean doing what they say once you’re an adult
  • Understand they want you to live the better version of themselves but only you get to decide what’s better
  • If they complain, explain without apologizing why you’re choosing a different path

Accept your fears then take action

Living for others comes from two of the five types of fear: Fear of rejection and fear of humiliation.3 You’re afraid of the vulnerability that circumstances out of your control expose you to.

This is a lesson I learned punching guys in the face and learning not to flinch when I got punched in the face. Boxing has a unique way of forcing you to face your fears.

When you live by this fear you end up:

  • Seeking validation from others
  • Hiding your true self and not sharing your real opinion
  • Enslaved to procrastination and in a constant state of indecision

See living for others for what it really is, a thinly veiled ploy to get others to love and accept you.

Embrace that you do care what other people think, that you _are _afraid of being vulnerable or making a mistake, or missing out on god-knows-what. When you face your fears, you start the careful work of dismantling them.

No Regrets

If you want a happy life, live life for yourself. If you want your deathbed confessional to be you never lived with courage, keep living for others.

Here’s how to choose yourself:

  • Focus on the things you love
  • Find a supportive environment
  • Know where your boundaries are
  • Let people be disappointed, they’ll be okay
  • Dismantle your fears, but admit them first

I hope that helps. Go live your best life.


  1. Steiner, Susie. (2013) ** Insider: The 5 Things People Regret Most On Their Deathbed **(accessed Oct 18, 2021) 

  2. Harvard Health Publishing (2011) (accessed Oct 18, 2021) 

  3. Albrecht, Karl Ph. D. (2012) Psychology Today: The (Only) 5 Fears We All Share (accessed Oct 18, 2021) 

Ed Latimore
About the author

Ed Latimore

I’m a writer, competitive chess player, Army veteran, physicist, and former professional heavyweight boxer. My work focuses on self-development, realizing your potential, and sobriety—speaking from personal experience, having overcome both poverty and addiction.

Follow me on Twitter.