What does it mean to live vicariously? (13 tips)

What does it mean to live vicariously? (13 tips)

In this article, we will talk about what it means to live vicariously. We will also explain why it is completely unfair to live vicariously and will give you 13 tips to stop living through others and start living for yourself. 

 Are you living vicariously?

The best way to live and be happy is to focus on your path and continue moving in the direction of your happiness. However, the human being is so complex that we can also live half and waste part of our time when we live vicariously, meaning we have our existence through living the lives of others.

Living vicariously may be possible in people with low self-esteem, in those who tend to depend on someone in their day to day, or in people who feel very alone. People who live the lives of others are those who spend more time talking about other people’s issues than their own in conversations with acquaintances.

It is as if they feel that their life is not interesting enough to be shared. Similarly, they live the lives of others, those who become someone’s shadow under a masked friendship that actually arises from a bond of total inequality.

What does it mean to live vicariously? (13 tips)

People who live their lives through others overindulge in others, lack limits when it comes to giving to others because they have a problem of self-love. I mean, they don’t love themselves enough.

For this reason, the first step to move forward is to become aware of the emotional problem and work on self-esteem as a real goal through the completion of emotional courses, reading self-help books, positive thinking and the desire for change. Don’t settle for being a supporting actor in the movie of your life when you can be the star.

In personal relationships something curious happens: once we have decided to fight for the well-being of the people around us and we begin to sacrifice ourselves for others, our past acts of kindness can enslave us. Or, at least, if we lose control of the situation.

The reason for this is that if everyone assumes that we are there for what others need, to stop offering our help and our efforts become a sign of selfishness or even cruelty. Now, it is possible to break with this dynamic and fight for oneself instead of always doing it for others.

13 tips to live for yourself and not for others

When it comes to gaining autonomy and freedom and not to live vicariously anymore, it is necessary to act both on our beliefs and thoughts and on our habits. Let’s see how to do it. 

  • Work on your self-pity – Some would agree that those who live for and through others do so because they experience something similar to masochism. These kinds of statements are clearly an exaggeration, but they contain some truth. 

And it is that who has become accustomed to always sacrificing himself for other people does so on the basis of a very internalized belief according to which one owes something to the rest; that is to say, that their existence must be constantly compensated by good actions. The reasons why this belief has been adopted can vary greatly depending on the case, but that feeling of self-contempt is there.

That is why it is essential to work on your self-pity, to embrace the habit of not judging yourself constantly and cruelly.

  • Take a distanced perspective – In situations where there are clashes of interests that are usually resolved in one person always accepting the conditions of others, it is good that the one who sacrifices learns to take a more objective perspective.

For this, it is necessary to stick to data that are undeniable and draw conclusions from reflection on them. To do this it can be useful to even use a pen and paper and write down in a table the advantages and disadvantages that accepting this proposal has for oneself, on the one hand, and for the other person or organization, on the other.

  • Learn to say no – Something as simple as saying “no” when faced with certain requests does a lot of good, especially when until that moment we were accepting any request that they put to us.

The complicated thing in these cases is knowing how to manage the anxiety that situations in which we want to decline one of these “invitations” can produce, to strive for another person to benefit from it. In this sense, there is no other trick than to commit yourself, firmly proposing that, whatever happens, we must answer with a clear “no”.

Think of it this way: You may find it cruel to have to do that, but that’s only because you probably aren’t in the habit of making requests and “mistreating” others, and therefore haven’t gotten used to being denied this kind of favours.

What does it mean to live vicariously? (13 tips)
  • Detect forms of manipulation – It is not easy, but to get rid of the habit of living for others, you have to learn to recognize manipulation where it occurs.

For example, accusations of previously asking for favours that were not really attended to or having a lot of free time may seem very evident if explained in writing, but in the course of a real-time dialogue, they can work and make us feel guilty. in an irrational way, without falling into the cynicism of this kind of approach.

  • Accept the possibility of letting people leave – There are relationships that, although in many cases they started well, over time they only continue from emotional blackmail and entrenched conflicts. This is natural and with the passage of time it is almost inevitable that we do not go through one of these situations.

But more important than the pain that toxic relationships like these can produce, is accepting that nothing happens to cut off contact with someone who has been in our day to day for a long time. Basically, because the opposite is that these people can use us as “hostages” so that we do what they want in exchange for them not leaving our side.

  • Treat yourself – Starting to respect yourself is a way to make our actions begin to form new beliefs about our own identity. And it is that if we usually treat ourselves with respect and affection, in the end, our own self-image has many possibilities of adjusting to this new reality, detaching itself from preconceived ideas of guilt. Self-esteem is also key to this process.
  • Jump into new personal projects – If everyone seems very busy and asks you for things to help you meet other people’s goals, it may also be, in part, because you don’t have important goals to meet. 

Therefore, start adventures and develop projects that really interest you. Thus, it will be up to you to use your time in activities that fill you up, and not always to please others.

What does it mean to live vicariously? (13 tips)
  • Write a plan for the next 20 years – Yes! 20 years! There is no typo. A clear plan, based on your most important values, will help you make wise choices that will reduce the number of failures. 

Describe the life context in which you want to live (I suggest you write in general, without fixed data about places, people, jobs, etc.). What would bring you maximum satisfaction in the life you want? What would be the places and society in which you live?

  • Use more time to think, to reflect – The most effective people are those who reflect on things more than others. Think about how you want your life to be and what it means to you… How can you add value? Think about what is wrong in your life so you can make changes.
  • Create a balance – Creating a balance between the two areas of life – personal and professional – is not easy. It’s a daily challenge. But the good news is that you can make considerable improvements. So: plan to exercise / sport, make sure your family and loved ones have the priority they deserve, spend time alone with you to recharge.

Because when you feel better you will be a source of positive energy for everyone around you.

  • Learn to risk – Every 7 days do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. The things you are afraid to do are the things you should do first and foremost. Remember that on the other side of fear is your expansion and development.
  • Be different – Live your life according to your criteria. Follow your true values ​​for yourself. You remain an idealist. Leaders, by definition, do not follow the crowd.
  • Be more loving – Be loving, polite and compassionate to those around you and yourself. It is not a sign of weakness… on the contrary, it is a sign of strength. This does not mean trampling on your values ​​and principles of life or taking second place. 

Remain the most important person in your life! Great teams are built by authentic leaders, who are not afraid, to tell the truth, and show kindness, being authoritarian when necessary.

What does it mean to live vicariously? (13 tips)

FAQ on Live vicariously

What does it mean to live vicariously?

To live vicariously means to live through someone else’s experiences, bad or positive ones. Living vicariously may be possible in people with low self-esteem, in those who tend to depend on someone in their day to day, or in people who feel very alone.

Is living vicariously a bad thing?

Unfortunately, yes, living vicariously can be considered a bad thing. You end up being dependent on other people’s experiences, rather than focusing on creating your own path in life. 

What does it mean to live vicariously through your child?

To live vicariously through your child means to have your life centred around your child’s experiences and activities. Although it doesn’t seem like something wrong, to live vicariously, in this case, means to lose your identity as a woman/man. 

What does vicarious suffering mean?

Vicarious suffering means suffering in the place of and for the benefit of others. 

How do you stop living vicariously?

To stop living vicariously you need to practice more self-love and self-care. Learn to say no, work on personal projects, treat yourself, learn about personal boundaries. 

Conclusions

In this article, we talked about what it means to live vicariously. We explained why it is completely unfair to live vicariously and we also gave you 13 tips to stop living through others and start living for yourself. 

Living vicariously may be possible in people with low self-esteem, in those who tend to depend on someone in their day to day, or in people who feel very alone. People who live the lives of others are those who spend more time talking about other people’s issues than their own in conversations with acquaintances.

Creating a balance between the two areas of life – personal and professional – is not easy. It’s a daily challenge. But the good news is that you can make considerable improvements. So: plan to exercise / sport, make sure your family and loved ones have the priority they deserve, spend time alone with you to recharge.

Because when you feel better you will be a source of positive energy for everyone around you.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know!

Further reading

A Practical Guide to Building Self-Esteem: Accept, Value and Empower Yourself, by David Bonham-Carter 

Know Thyself, by Mitchell S. Green 

Empath Strategies: How To Overcome Any Overwhelming Situation As A Sensitive Person, by Joseph Salinas

Self-Care for the Real World: Practical self-care advice for everyday life, by Nadia Narain 

Calm Parents, Happy Kids: The Secrets of Stress-free Parenting, by Dr Laura Markham 

References

Better Help – Is Living Vicariously Through Others Dangerous?

Personality Growth – Here’s Why You Live Vicariously Through Others

Lifehack – How To Live a Good Life

What does it mean to live vicariously? (13 tips)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.