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Back to Center: The world does not have to understand or approve of your choices

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Sarah Perron, Certified Coach

Sarah Perron, Certified Coach

Sarah Perron, Certified Coach

Life Coach and Writer

Offering perspectives for personal realignment and empowerment.

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Tue, May 24, 2022


01:36 AM

And you know what else? It doesn’t have to bother you

Back to Center: The world does not have to understand or approve of your choices

The purpose of the “Back to Center” advice column is to provide perspectives for personal realignment and empowered living in the COVID era. Sarah encourages you to reach out to her with requests for advice about self-development and emotional and mental well-being in these complicated times. Please send your questions to Looking forward to hearing from you!

For all other inquiries, please direct your questions to


My brother is among those who totally bought into the story that the COVID vaccine would save us all. I begged him not to get the vaccine – I didn’t have a good feeling about it from the beginning, even before I had any evidence to show him (I mean, how does a vaccine get developed that quickly??) – but he wouldn’t listen to me. He got the shot, and all the boosters. And now, my heart is in agony because he’s having some serious health issues that seem to be adverse reactions from the vaccine. Why didn’t my brother listen to me?? He could have been spared the suffering he’s going through now! Maybe I could have done more to persuade him…I’m so sad and angry, and I don’t know how to handle this…

I am so sorry to hear about your brother’s suffering, and the suffering it is causing you, after you tried so hard to reach him on this. I can tell this is intensely heavy for you.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but if I were to focus in on what seem to be the core feelings to look at, it would be your anger over your brother’s refusal to heed your warnings, and your judgment on yourself that you could’ve done more. 

First, the anger. You went to great lengths to warn your brother, and he didn’t listen. If only he had listened! Let yourself feel this anger; don’t try to push it down or away. The only way to eventually release it and heal is to let it run its course. There are a number of tools you can use to healthily express this anger. You can write a letter to your brother (not meant to be read by him), in which you spill out all the angry things you want to say. You can also do this verbally to a trusted friend or just out loud in a quiet place by yourself, if that works better for you. The key is to do something that allows you to freely express what you’re feeling, to get all that negativity out of you. I think you’ll find that it has a big clearing effect.

On to the self-judgment. Even when we have tried and tried at something that doesn’t succeed in the end, it’s so natural to feel we could’ve done more. That’s a big burden to place on yourself. It sounds to me like you truly did everything you could think of; you did the best you could. “The best you could” has nothing to do with success or failure; it’s simply the best you could do in that circumstance. 

As much as we might try to influence other people, everyone ultimately has to think and make decisions for themselves, and we can never take on the weight of being responsible for someone else’s choices. It’s hard enough sometimes to make good decisions for ourselves! I encourage you to do some witnessing of yourself and write down some answers to the question, “Who was I being in this situation with my brother?” Maybe you can see yourself as a concerned, loving sister; a lover of truth; a person who wants to safeguard life, etc. Give yourself some appreciation and try to absorb the thought that you did the best you knew how to do.

I hope that by focusing on releasing your anger and self-judgment, it will clear the way for you to be present with what is happening now – your brother’s health struggles – and will enable you to be whatever kind of support or help to him that you wish to be. Sending my hopes for reconnection and well-being for both of you!


I got COVID twice, me and my daughters. It was hard because I needed oxygen but still, I got up and took care of two toddlers and a young girl who's 20; she needed oxygen day and night. I can't go out because I'm afraid of getting sick again. I've been like this for 6 months. I'd like to have some emotional support to get over this fear to get infected. Worth mentioning, I'm pregnant and my fear is bigger, I don't go out and I don't receive people in my house. My parents are worried. My husband is the only one who goes out and he's starting to complain.

Thank you so much for reaching out. This sounds like a really difficult situation for both you and your family. I hope that what I share with you here will help start the process of healing from your fear. 

I want to start by acknowledging the traumatic experiences you’ve been through. You’ve been seriously ill not just once, but twice, and at the same time needed to care for others. That is a lot for anyone to handle! It’s completely understandable that you feel afraid to get sick again and are trying to avoid that possibility at all costs. Please take a moment to give yourself some compassion and acknowledgement that all these feelings are valid!

I recommend doing some writing to see if you can define your fear as clearly as possible for yourself. Simply start with “I am afraid of…” and see where it goes from there. Write out everything you are afraid of related to the thought of getting sick again. Feel free to try drawing what your fear looks like too. You could draw specific images or use shapes and scribbles to show what your fear looks like. It can be very healing and clarifying to just get the fear out of you onto the page.

When you’re done, you can rip up the pages, burn them, or “send the fear away” in a different way, if you’d like. This symbolism can be very powerful, but don’t worry if you still feel the fear afterward. This is going to be a process. Take a few minutes every day to journal or draw your fear; keep expressing it and bringing it out into the light. You can also write about and draw the emotions you’d like to feel instead of the fear, such as courage, confidence, peace, joy, freedom, safety…Visualize yourself living with those emotions and what that would look like in your life. 

When you feel ready, I wonder if it could be helpful to start going out into nature, to a place where you’re unlikely to meet other people, for short amounts of time (if this is possible where you live). It could be that slowly getting back into the habit of going out in this way will help ease the transition from your long time at home. Another option, if it feels gentler on your system, could be to invite one friend to come to your home, maybe just for ten minutes at a time. The key is to take it slow, at your own pace. 

Years ago, I was in a car accident that left me terribly afraid of driving on the highway for a while after that. Every time I got in the car, I felt completely overwhelmed by the fear of having another accident. What ultimately helped me get over the fear was to just keep getting in the car, over and over again, even though I was afraid. There were no more accidents, and one car ride at a time, my fear dissolved. If you can start taking tiny, consistent steps to overcoming your fear – sitting with a friend for ten minutes, taking a five-minute walk down the street – I believe your confidence will build and the fear will start to melt away.

Wishing you every happiness, health, and freedom from your fear!


My family and I have been planning for a while to visit our relatives overseas whom we haven’t seen since before COVID began. We’re just a few weeks away from the trip now – which we’ve been so excited about – and all of a sudden, my relatives are expressing lots of concern over the fact that we’re not vaccinated. They’re afraid of us getting sick during our travels and maybe making them sick, so they’re urging us to get the shot before we come. Also, they’ve laid down the rules for our visit: we all have to test for COVID every few days and we must wear masks anytime we’re in an indoor space. I can clearly see that they’re heavily under the influence of the mainstream COVID narrative, which of course equals FEAR, FEAR, FEAR, so I understand where it’s all coming from. On the other hand, I really find myself just wanting some respect. They haven’t asked us why we chose not to get the vaccine. There hasn’t been any “How would you feel about us doing things this way during the visit?” or anything like that – no interest in our side of the story at all. It makes me feel like they think we’re being totally careless and haven’t given any thought to our decisions at all, which is anything but true. I feel so sad and misunderstood. Do you have any thoughts to offer?

I can hear that this is really painful for you. You want the reunion with your relatives to be a happy one after being apart for so long, but their COVID rules and prejudices are leaving you feeling hurt and wronged. They seem very focused on the rightness of their opinion and the wrongness of yours, and don’t even really care to know your reasons.

It can be really hard when the people who are closest to us don’t understand our choices, or at the very least, give us their respect even if they disagree with the choices. We all want to feel understood, respected and approved of. I agree; this does not feel good.

I’m going to be pretty blunt here for a moment, because what I’m about to say is really important (and has been a life-changing idea for me too):

Your family – and the world in general – does not have to understand or approve of your choices. They are under no obligation to do so. And you know what else? It doesn’t have to bother you.

Part of being your whole, unique, most actualized self in the world is taking responsibility for the choices you make, which includes the understanding that when you’re doing what is most you, some people may not like it. It’s not fun, but other people’s displeasure doesn’t have to rain on your parade. You can stand calmly, firmly, and decisively in your choices. If others don’t like what you do, your thought can be, “Well, they just don’t get it!”

We live in a world today where so many people are dying to get validation for their life choices from other people. They are screaming, “Approve of me! Understand me! Tell me I’m okay! Tell me I’m right!!” But that doesn’t have to be you. You give yourself that approval; you tell yourself that you’re okay. Don’t wait for it to come from somewhere outside of you.  

I know all of this is doubly hard when it concerns family, especially if you’re talking about parents. The adult child/parent relationship can be so complicated! You as the grown child can sometimes automatically feel in the wrong when there’s conflict because you’re still the child and they’re still the parents. But don’t see yourself as small or feel you’re at the mercy of their approval. You do what is right for you, and at the same time, give them all the respect you wish you were feeling from them.

So, maybe the question is: How do you want to show up during this visit? Do you want your emotional state to be determined by your family’s behavior and opinions? Or do you want to be someone who knows who she is, feels good about her decisions, and gives others space to do what’s right for them? 

May your travels only bring you closer to your family and closer to yourself!


As part of my job, I have to monitor current news stories and world events and have a general understanding of the big things that are going on in the world. Even before this present time we’re in, there were a lot of things going on that could potentially leave you sleepless at night if you let them sink in – it’s not like the world was in such great shape even before COVID. But now, I’m finding it really difficult to stay positive as I do my work. Everything I’m seeing makes me feel like the world is headed toward a very dark place, and I carry this heaviness around with me even when I’m not reading the news. I want to feel lighter, more hopeful again, less afraid. What can I do?

I know what you mean! It’s not so easy to stay positive these days. I’ll share some of the things that are helpful to me when I get into that heavy place; hopefully they will help you too!

For me, one of the most effective cures for the feeling of impending doom is to return to the moment I’m in right now. To breathe. To observe my surroundings. To recognize the things that are okay in this moment. To try to be in the reality that is happening right now, which is the only reality that exists.

It can be easy to feel like everything we read in the news or on social media is happening at this very moment, crashing in on us like a massive tidal wave. But, depending on what you read or watch, only some of it is about reality. Real events are often mixed together with opinion, “facts,” conjecture, prediction, bias, and fear mongering. We’re probably hardly ever getting the real, pure story. So, taking time to remind yourself of the things that you know are real and really happening, in your own personal life and in the world around you, is really important.

Lots of people have lots of ideas about the way the world is headed these days, but the truth is, no one really knows. History shows us many instances where a particular outcome seemed certain, but the course of events was unexpectedly changed by some surprise element entering the scene. We just don’t know. The only way to know what will happen in the coming years is to live them.

What I’m really encouraging you to do is slow down, live one day at a time, and remember that the rest of the world is only living one day at a time too.

When you are not working, put the news aside completely. Fill your time with things that make you feel light and hopeful. If those dark thoughts start to creep in, do some deep breathing and reconnect with the reality that is around you right now. 

I hope this is helpful to you! 


So, we’re just sort of starting to get over COVID (for the most part; I know there are parts of the world where this is not the case yet), and now…monkeypox?? What the heck? It just feels like we’re being thrown one thing after another, after another…it’s like being in the ocean, getting knocked over by a wave, struggling to catch our breath and find our footing, and then immediately being crashed by another wave. I feel like it’s hard to keep breathing sometimes. How can I find some sense of stability and not fall into despair that these waves will never stop coming?

Let’s start off by taking some deep breaths together (I need to do it too!) …

Okay. Yes, I think you described the feeling perfectly; your ocean metaphor is very powerful and right on. This is how the state of the world can feel this days.

As I consider your question, the thought that comes to me is that there is so much noise out there these days, like the crashing of waves at the beach. LOUD voices are shouting at us all the time – warning us about current or impending crises, telling us how we have to live and what we should think, trying to control and manipulate us. 

I believe that a great deal of stability can be found in quiet. In quiet, we can hear ourselves think, we can realign with our values and beliefs, we can feel hope and peace. In quiet, you can ask yourself, “What do I need in order to feel stable? How can I create more stability for myself?”

Maybe it’s time for you to get out of the ocean – the turbulent whirl of loud voices and issues – for a little while and go have a rest on the beach. When you sit on the beach, you get a different perspective on the ocean than when you’re swimming in it. You have a more expansive view, can see different colors and nuances in the water, can enjoy the sound of the waves in a quieter way. The beach can offer safety and refuge from the swirling waters. What could this “beach” be for you in your life? 

The waves of our current times may keep coming, but you don’t have to feel like you’re at their mercy. Choose the daily actions, perspectives, people, and environments that help you to feel stable, and walk away from anything that threatens to crash in and ruin that for you.

These times are not easy, but you are not alone. May you find the peace you are looking for in the midst of these rough waters!


My wife of 25 years left me because of our polar opposite views on COVID. She is fully devoted to the mainstream narrative, fully vaccinated and boosted, fully fearful. For the most part, I haven’t felt afraid of COVID, or believed much of what I’ve heard in the news about it, and there was no way I was getting that vaccine. My wife tried over and over to convince me to change my views, convinced I was going to become seriously ill and infect her because I wasn’t being careful enough. We fought over these things to no end, until finally, she left. I didn’t want things to go this way, but honestly, it was a bit of a relief when we separated because living with her was so intense. But here’s the thing: Recently, she’s asking if we can meet to try to resolve our differences and hopefully get back together. I have really mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I miss her and the good marriage we once had. On the other, I don’t have a lot of faith in her ability to change her controlling, hyper-fearful ways, and I can’t be with her unless she really changes. Should I give her a chance?

I’m sorry for this very difficult experience in your marriage. The pain, anger, and feelings of brokenness when we’re in conflict with the people closest to us can be very intense. And now, there’s a possible chance for reconciliation, but should you open up to your wife again in hopes that she can change?

Maybe a good way for you to approach this decision could be to consider both routes that branch out from this fork in your life’s road. What are the possibilities if you choose to give your wife a second chance, and what are the possibilities if you don’t?

Let’s say that you say yes to your wife, that you will try to repair the relationship with her. One possible outcome is that it could succeed! Maybe she really is sincerely determined to change, to give you more space to make the choices that seem best to you, to cultivate more respect and an agree-to-disagree outlook in the relationship. Maybe she’s realized that she went too far before. 

Another possibility when you say yes is that trying to resurrect the relationship might not succeed. This “yes” option does carry risk with it, as there is always a risk when we choose to be vulnerable and open with others. We might experience pain, further conflict and rejection. You have to decide for yourself if it’s worth the risk.

Now let’s look at taking the “no” option; imagine that you decide to say to your wife, “No, I’ve had enough of this, thank you very much. I’m not interested in trying to sort things out.” This no closes the door on your marriage and any possibility of reconciliation. Taking this route could also open other doors in life that it might not have been possible to walk through before. 

I believe the question is not, “Should I give her a chance?” but “Do I want to give her a chance?” What do you want in this situation? Where do you want your life to go from here? Only you know the answer to that, and I believe you can find it if you look within yourself.

I hope that whichever door you choose to walk through, that happiness, love, and peace are waiting for you on the other side!


I have a relative who works for Pfizer (I’m ashamed to admit). I cannot get my head around how he can be part of that company. I’ve tried to talk with him many times about it, asking him how he can work for a place that is hurting and lying to the world in such devious ways, but he just kind of shrugs it off, says it’s a good job and that all those claims I’m making against the company aren’t true – that Pfizer is doing so much to help the world. It’s not clear to me whether he really believes that, or if he’s trying to cover up what’s really going on. Either way, it makes me crazy to think that one of my own family members is wrapped up in all this…and it’s sad because we were really close before. Thoughts??

Wow, yes – I can tell this is very heavy for you. We want the people closest to us to be involved in good, noble things in life, and when we see them contributing to negative, harmful projects and movements instead, it can be very hard to swallow. 

I think your question highlights a truth that is also very hard to swallow, and that is: We cannot control other people’s decisions. We can definitely try to talk with them about their decisions, as you have done with your relative, but at some point, we’ve said all we can say, and they have to do what they’re going to do. When we push past the point of having said enough and keep talking, sometimes it only serves to put up more walls between us and the other person. I encourage you to try to gauge for yourself whether you have anything else to say to your relative about his job that would be productive, helpful, or convincing, or if it’s time to take a break from talking about it.

The next thing I’d like to suggest is that you focus on other ways to connect with this relative and show him your love. What things is he doing in life that you can support? What are the things that you appreciate about his personality and character? See what you can do to home in on the positive things in your relationship with him; focusing more on those, and less on your feelings about where he works could help ease that feeling of conflict and restore some of your former closeness.

In closing, one of my favorite remedies when I feel the urge to try to control the things I can’t is to focus on what I can control in my own life, and on how I can take more responsibility for who I am being in the world. I know that when I try to be the best version of me that I can be, it ripples outward to the people around me with visible impact. Maybe working on being the best you that you can be will impact your relative without you having to say much of anything. 

All the best to you! 


My husband and I have been married for a few years, and we don’t have any children yet. We knew we wanted to have kids from the start, but lately, we’ve been wondering if bringing a child into this world we’re currently living in is the right thing to do. The future seems so uncertain and scary, and we’re afraid of what our child might go through if born while these crazy people are trying to dominate the world. What is the right thing to do?

Even though your question is a weighty one, I want to acknowledge that the fact that you’re thinking about starting a family is so exciting! I hope I can offer some helpful thoughts. 

I know the times feel crazy right now, and there are lots of scary question marks and worries to be had if we let them in. But the truth is, the world is always changing and shifting, and the future is always uncertain. It can be easy to feel that before COVID and everything that’s happened over the past two years, our lives were normal and straightforward. But the world before COVID had its own challenges, unknowns, and destabilizing forces. 

My point is that when it comes to having children, or making any other big, life-changing decision, don’t wait for the “perfect” time; a time when everything feels calm, stable, convenient, and exactly the way you want it. That idealized time probably won’t arrive, and then you’ll miss your chance to experience all the joy you could’ve had. 

The advice I give myself, and which I’ll share with you here, is that when there is something you know you want, go for it. Don’t wait. There’s a reason that desire is in your heart; it wants to be expressed! 

I think that having a child right now is one of the most hopeful things you could do. You would be bringing bright new life into a world that is struggling with darkness, and you can choose to raise that little boy or girl into a person who brings more love, compassion, and respect for others into the world. We all need more of that right now!

 Whatever you decide to do, I hope you will listen to your hearts first, rather than your fears. All the best!


My son is the only one in his middle school class who didn’t get the vaccine. He told me recently that he’s being bullied because of it by a few different kids. My heart broke to hear it. I know that I’m making the right decision – my son is NOT getting that vaccine – but it’s so hard to see the social impact it’s having on him. I’ve spoken to the principal, and she’s talking with the families of the kids who were involved in the bullying, so hopefully it will stop. But my question is: How can I help my son feel okay about being the only one, and even feel proud to swim against the stream? 

I’m so sorry to hear about what your son is going through at school. It is hard to be the only one, in any situation, even if you totally believe in what you’re doing. Your question is a really important one.

It seems like the first step to helping your son in this situation is just to listen. Let him know that you’re here for him, and that he can share anything he’s going through or thinking about with you. Then, just listen and support. 

When it’s a good time for you to do some of the talking, making sure your son fully understands the reasons behind your refusal of the vaccine for him could be very important. Walk him through how you made the decision and why you don’t think the vaccine is safe/effective/appropriate for him. Maybe you can even talk about some reasons why other families might have decided in favor of the vaccine for their kids. Ask your son what he thinks about all this. 

Let your son know that doing what’s right and standing by your decision even when others give you a hard time about it can be one of the hardest things to do in life. Acknowledge all the tough feelings. It can be so powerful to just hear another person say, “Wow, that’s really hard. I can see this is really hard for you.” Encourage him by letting him know that you believe he is strong enough to handle being different, and if anyone gives him trouble about it again, he should feel empowered to speak up for himself and get help. You can also help him identify other friends and adults who can be safe sources of support for him.

Another idea that could be inspiring and fun is to learn together about some historical figures who also swam against the stream or stood apart from the crowd. Often, these are the people whose personalities and achievements we admire most today! Maybe it will be a source of strength for your son to see that being different can be amazing!

You know your son better than anyone else. Take any of these suggestions that you think will resonate with him and leave the rest. The most important thing is to let him know that you’re right here with him, that you’ve got his back.

Give your son a big hug (if he’ll let you; he is in middle school, after all!). Best wishes to you both!


My grown daughter is dating a lovely guy whom my husband and I think is great. We’ve known him for a little while, but my daughter only met his family earlier this week when they got together for lunch. Afterwards my daughter called me in tears. Somehow, it came out during their time together that she didn’t take the COVID vaccine, and the response of her boyfriend’s parents was stone-cold. Apparently, they are super pro-vaccine, and they said some extremely unkind things to her. My daughter thinks they’re going to discourage their son from seeing her anymore. This would be so sad; they’re so right for each other and happy together. Do you have any advice for my daughter?

Oh, I’m so sorry to hear about this. The lack of human compassion that COVID has brought out in some people is nothing short of tragic. I hope that I can offer some helpful thoughts here.

The questions that come to me first for your daughter are these: Just how important is this relationship with her boyfriend to her? Is it important enough that she would be willing to potentially go through some discomfort and insult to keep it? 

I ask because if the boyfriend’s parents reacted so inappropriately toward your daughter in their first meeting – mistreating someone they barely knew – it may mean that there are more turbulent waters ahead. It would be important for her to decide what she’s up for, how willing she is to speak up for herself, how much she wants to fight for this relationship. It would be good for her and her boyfriend to also have a conversation about this as a couple. 

That being said, when a couple decides they want to be together come hell or high water, there’s not much that can stand in their way. It can be difficult to not have the support of your partner’s parents, or your own, but it’s not everything. Situations like this can really strengthen a couple’s relationship as they stand together. 

The best course of action might be for your daughter and her boyfriend to decide on how they want to respond to his parents, and what they want their relationship to look like going forward. Hopefully, his parents will realize they acted badly, apologize and they can start over together. But if not, your daughter and her boyfriend are grown-ups and have the power and right to make their own decisions about how they want to live, whether others like it or not.

I hope these thoughts give your daughter strength and clarity! All the best. 


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Sarah encourages you to reach out to her with requests for advice! Please send your questions to

Sarah Perron is a Certified Transformational Life Coach. Her passion is to help people create a powerful vision for their lives, identify and eliminate anything that holds them back, and step into their own unique greatness and mission in the world. She believes deeply in the power of coaching to bring fresh perspectives, ideas, and motivation to anyone who wants to thrive in life. Sarah works with clients one-on-one and in group coaching programs and presents exciting workshops on self-development topics. You can follow her on her YouTube channel Find Your Fire.

You are invited to book a complimentary coaching call with Sarah! Please visit to choose a time that's convenient for you. She looks forward to meeting you!




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