The Path to Living Unconventionally

Goddess Lilith teaches us to let go of society’s expectations and follow our instincts

Photo: Felix Cesare / Getty Images

To be ourselves causes us to be exiled by many others, and yet to comply with what others want causes us to be exiled from ourselves. — Clarissa Pinkola Estés

You likely have some dreams for your ideal life. It could be a nomadic existence, a self-sufficient homestead, or a conventional marriage and family. Or maybe you have no idea and are eager to try out a few different options before settling on one. But sometimes it can be challenging to embark on an unconventional path. It’s not easy to break free from the expectations of others, like your family members or your partner. Sometimes, it can seem easier to follow a more traditional route. You might not have to think or work so hard, for example, if you join the family business. Maybe you’re expected to become a doctor like your mother and grandmother. Or perhaps your partner wants to tie the knot, while you question the institution of marriage. Taking the path of least resistance may have some benefits, like preventing discord, but it’s important not to sacrifice your dreams in favor of someone else’s.

Consider that you are totally free to do anything you want. Even your wildest dreams are within reach if you dare to grab them. You can do what you want, look how you want, and date who you want. You’re free and inspired. Even if some people look at you skeptically, you can remain unfazed because you’re aligned with your heart’s desires. You can connect with the goddess Lilith when you want to break free from other people’s expectations — or even society’s standards — to forge a path custom-made for you.

The goddess story

Lilith is a dark goddess of feminine powers. She embodies much of what women have been encouraged to suppress, including anger, independence, and raw sexuality. Lilith was Adam’s wife before Eve. Jewish folklore says God created Adam and Lilith together as equals. But Lilith wouldn’t submit to Adam. He wanted to be on top during sex, but she wanted to have sex as equals (don’t we all want our turn on top?). Lilith left Adam, and he found a more complacent partner in Eve.

Lilith’s departure was not easy. She was ostracized and villainized. She lived wildly in the forests. Myths describe her as hairy and feral. She was feared as a demon goddess and a killer of babies. But many believed the opposite — they saw Lilith as an escort of stillborn babies, guiding them back to heaven.

Lilith left the Garden of Eden for her independence. It would have been easier for her to stay and submit to Adam, but she bravely charted her own course and has become a symbol of feminine independence and power. It was more critical for Lilith to be true to herself and her ideals than it was for her to stay in the good graces of Adam — and really, all of civilization.

Now, hopefully your path doesn’t lead you down such a dark road. But you can still tap into Lilith’s energy to retain your power and independence, choosing a lifestyle that’s aligned with your soul’s desire so you can live honestly and freely.

The goddess in modern society

In the last 50 years, women have made considerable advances in our society. We make up the majority of college graduates, often earn more than our male spouses, and can choose when to have children. This is all positive. But these advances have also led women to believe they should do it all — have a successful career, a devoted partner, and perfect children. Our opportunities have increased, but the expectations for how we should live our lives have also increased. If we’re not careful, we can start to believe that we need to get married and have children by a certain age or that we have to make more money to buy all the things our culture tells us we should want.

Some stay-at-home moms feel guilty for putting their careers on hold. Some working moms feel guilty they’re not with their children. Some single women have to justify not being married. And childless women must explain when they’re going to have babies. There is no shortage of expectations placed on us by society and our families — and especially no shortage of those we place on ourselves. If we try to please everyone, we won’t get the chance to please ourselves.

Lilith encourages us to pause. She wants us to consider whether we’re moving in a particular direction because it feeds our soul or because we’re trying to please others. As we learn from the myth, Lilith is not a people-pleaser. She is also not averse to conflict. Instead, she is a powerful and independent woman. Her top priority is staying true to herself.

You can begin to connect with Lilith’s energy by spending some time in solitude, preferably in nature. Lilith encourages you to tap into your inner wild woman. You can let your hair go crazy and your face be makeup-free. You don’t even need to worry about shaving. You can dance with reckless abandon. These displays of freedom help us get in touch with our soul’s deeper yearning.

During this time, consider what is important to you and what brings you joy and inspiration. Take the time to identify the things you are currently doing that you would prefer not to do anymore. Consider if you’re doing things to please or avoid disappointing others. Ask yourself if your time could be better spent following your dreams.

Whenever you start to color outside the lines, you may notice that you open yourself up to judgment from others. Sometimes this judgment is well intentioned. The people who care about you want to see you safe. Other times, however, you have triggered something in friends and family members who are not living their truth. Realize that you should accept criticism only when it comes from a place of love and when the person offering the critique actually has experience in that area. Other than that, it’s background noise. It’s best to disregard it and keep moving forward. Don’t let the opinions of others influence how you choose to live your life.

Lilith wants you to protect your independence and stay true to your soul’s calling. While you may have cultivated agreeability and people-pleasing to get along in the world, she wants you to remember that you are also strong and fierce. You get to have a voice. You can say no. You can change your mind. You can chart your own course.

Excerpt from The Goddess Solution: Practical Wisdom for Everyday Life by Lisa Marie Rankin ©2021. Published by HarperCollins Lid. All rights reserved.

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