In a culture so focused on individuality and “every man for himself,” there’s a lot of pressure to conform.
At least 200 times a day, I feel pressure to be something that I not. Any time a client mentions a new healing modality or diet, I feel pressure to be already on top of it. Whenever someone mentions any Boston sports team, I feel pressure to know what’s going on with them. And I feel like I should avoid most conversations about politics, religion, or having children, rather than rattle cages with my viewpoint.
In a culture so focused on individuality and “every man for himself,” there sure seems a lot of pressure for us to conform.
Growing up, I was really good at conforming. I had a natural talent for sniffing out what people wanted and becoming that. It was how I survived my small town high school. It was how I quickly made friends in college. It was even how I launched my career. I figured, if I felt pressure to be all of those things anyway, becoming them would make my life easier.
So I pretended to like my superficial friends. I pretended to be less intelligent than I was. I pretended to not care about life philosophy or spirituality. And I pretended to want the fancy title, the conventional marriage, and suburban house, and the 2.5 kids.
Until I couldn’t pretend anymore. Until I hit rock bottom and got sick. Until I decided that enough was enough—that I had done everything right, and I still wasn’t happy. I figured out how life worked—or, at least, our society anyway. I played my cards exactly right. But I didn’t like the pot I won. The reward was never what I wanted in the first place.
And I realized that—sure, there’s pressure to conform. There will always be pressure to be something you’re not. That’s just life. People are more comfortable with what they know. Yes, even you and me. The pressure isn’t going away any time soon. But your insecurities can.
The second I decided to just be myself—whatever that really meant, I stopped noticing the pressure. I mean, it was still there. Of course it was still there. But I stopped caring. Because I accepted my decisions. I accepted myself.
We can keep blaming it on society, if we want. It’s a good scapegoat. But the truth is that we’ve got an internal battle every single day: Do we do things the way the rest of the world does, or do we decide to just accept our quirky, eccentric selves? And that’s not a decision anyone else can make for us. That’s something we have to decide.
Maybe you don’t want to work in a corporate environment. Maybe you don’t want to get married. Maybe you don’t want kids. Maybe you’d rather be a nomad, traveling every six months instead of settling down. Maybe you can’t stand the idea of a career—and switching around jobs is your style. Maybe one lover won’t do it for you; and you need to bring in more.
I don’t know. I’m not you. But you know. You know what you really want. You know who you really are. And you know what will make you happy.
At the end of the day, when we’ve gotten throw screaming at our parents for ruining our lives and pointing our fingers at society for its toxic pressures, we’ve got to face the real enemy in the mirror. We’ve got to realize that we’re the real judge we need to convince. We’ve got to realize that our own self-acceptance is the thing we’re secretly craving.
Look, folks—there are over seven billion people out there. Of course not everyone is going to agree with you. Oftentimes, not even your mother or spouse or close friends. But there’s one opinion who matters more than any others. And that’s the one we always seem to forgot.
You have to accept yourself if you ever expect others to.
So be honest with yourself. Figure out who you really are. Figure out what you really want. Maybe you’re not really that into sports. Maybe you find romantic comedies boring as hell. Maybe indie films just seem pretentious to you. Whatever your thing—it’s awesome. Because it’s your thing. And no one can ever take that from you, no matter how much pressure you feel.
The thing I like about you is that you’re unique. There’s never been another you before. There probably won’t be any time soon. So it’d be a shame if you just conformed to what you think you should be. Because then we’d never get to see who you really are. And the world would be missing out on a whole lot.
Me? I’m dorky and goofy and smart and spiritual. I like to eat good food, dance around my apartment, argue about healthcare reform, laugh until my stomach hurts, and make herbal teas. Oftentimes, I don’t have the right answer. I’m not sure if I want children. Travel is important to me. And I really just want to inspire people to be as successful as possible.
Screw anyone else’s pressure. That’s who I am. And I accept myself.
Who are you?
Originally published at BostonWellnessCoach.com.
Photo: bobbi vie/Flickr
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