When I was eleven years old, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. As the daughter of Dominican immigrants, I understood the importance of hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance. My parents worked tirelessly to provide my sister and me with a safe home and the best educational opportunities. I was determined to make good on those sacrifices. I intended to “make it,” and I would do it by being a lawyer. 

After law school, I passed the bar and joined a large law firm’s litigation group. Being one of the few Latina lawyers in the Boston office, I was laser-focused on performing at the highest level, acutely aware of how I was perceived. I was determined to become a partner, not just for myself, but to show Latinas coming after me what was possible.

Mentors and senior colleagues at the firm, both of color and not, supported me and gave me impactful work that built my skills. These mentors and sponsors became critical to my journey, opening doors I couldn’t have imagined. However, after the birth of my first child, I underwent a massive identity shift, and I realized my job as a lawyer no longer aligned with my true passions.

I decided to leave the firm and my old dreams behind

Many of my colleagues and mentors questioned why I would leave after working so hard for so long. They couldn’t understand why I didn’t at least try to make partner, seeing it as a critical step to more opportunities.

I began questioning myself and my decision. “You should just be grateful to be where you are,” was a recurrent thought. That idea would start spiraling other thoughts: “Look at you. You’re so ungrateful. Other people would give anything to be in your position, and you’re going to throw it all away? What are your mentors and people who’ve invested their energy and time into you going to think?”

I realized I was using gratitude against myself, suppressing my deepest desires and needs

Oftentimes in my career, I felt guilty for wanting something different, thinking I should be grateful for opportunities others would covet. I didn’t want to disappoint those invested in my journey.

However, after much reflection, I recognized that staying true to myself was more important than fulfilling an outdated dream. I had to confront the uncomfortable truth that my goals had changed, and it was okay to pursue a new path that aligned with who I had become.

During my career pivot, I learned invaluable lessons on the importance of recognizing and overcoming weaponized gratitude.

I allowed myself to pursue paths that truly aligned with my curiosities, passions, and values rather than feeling obligated to follow a predefined script of success.

If you’re working through a life transition and experiencing similar feelings, here are a few ways to overcome the fear of letting others down.

Embrace your true desires

As I approached partnership, I left the firm and my old dreams behind. This decision stemmed from a growing realization that I was using gratitude against myself. I was grateful for the opportunities I had, but I wasn’t being true to my evolving desires.

It’s essential to recognize when gratitude is masking your true aspirations and to give yourself permission to pursue what truly fulfills you.

Honor duality in your journey

I learned that you can appreciate how far you’ve come and be grateful for the support from mentors, sponsors, and family while choosing a different path.

Embracing this duality can be challenging, especially for high-achieving Latinas and women of color who have been conditioned to put their heads down, work hard, and prove their value over and over again.

Acknowledge both your gratitude and your desire for change, allowing them to coexist.

Trust your inner knowing

Trust your inner knowing and truth despite the guilt and pressure to continue on a familiar path.

Your internal compass is more powerful than external expectations. Remember, you are in the driver’s seat of your life; you were never just a passenger.

Trusting your instincts and listening to your inner voice can guide you in a more authentic and fulfilling direction.

Redefine success on your own terms

Redefine what success means to you. It’s not solely about external validation or meeting others’ expectations. Success should align with your values, passions, and overall well-being. By defining success on your own terms, you create a path that is uniquely yours and truly rewarding.

Arivee Vargas is a Women’s Life and High Performance Coach and the founder and CEO of Humble Rising LLC. The company empowers high-achieving women leaders and lawyers to create lives and careers full of joy, fulfillment, purpose, and personal alignment.