maskIt’s a nice idea to think that we are all blessed with total autonomy, that every choice we make is completely our own. But it’s no secret that this is effectively only a pleasant fantasy, even outside of determination theories.

Social pressure affects all of us on varying levels. For some people, it defines their entire life – their friends dictate what they wear and what music they listen to, their parents preside over their career and their relationships. For some, the impact can be as minimal as having to own a pair of sensible shoes for formal occasions. Some people see the world’s expectations as restrictive – sometimes even discriminatory. Others find it useful as a guide to getting along in life simply and peacefully.

But there’s no point pretending it isn’t there.

When was the last time you seriously considered wearing your Batman pyjamas to work?

You didn’t. Because that, while not illegal, is frowned upon. By someone.

And it’s true that there are some social conventions that it does make sense to follow. Batman pyjamas doesn’t exactly exude an air of authority or professionalism. No matter how cool and comfortable you feel wearing them.

But that doesn’t mean society doesn’t maintain some traditions or beliefs that aren’t outright silly. And, here, ‘society’ can mean anyone you feel makes some impact on your personal choices through their opinions of them. It could mean your culture as a whole judging you for dipping your chips into your milkshake. It could mean your best friend disapproving of that shirt with those shoes. Or it could mean your mother pressuring you to hurry up and make her some grandchildren.

When faced with that sort of influence, it’s tempting to smile, agree and go along with whatever you’ve been asked to do. To pretend it’s what you want too. To act like you know it’s disgusting, you just wanted to see them squirm. To say you’re just kidding, you’ll show them now what you’re really wearing. To make a life-changing decision based on what someone else wants.

It avoids some short time conflict, but it doesn’t make you happy.

So stop hiding what you really want. Stop pretending in order to make other people happy. Eventually, you’ll have to tell them that some people have different tastes, that popular culture doesn’t have to dominate your unique style, that not everyone wants kids and that it’s up to you to decide how you want to live your life.

When the person pressuring you is someone you love – a family member or a close friend, someone you don’t want to disappoint – it can be difficult, even painful, to show them your true self.

But if someone who is supposed to care about you can’t accept you for who you really are, then you deserve better.

Wear what makes you different with pride. Disregard anyone who tells you that standing out is not okay. Be happy being you.

Kirstie Summers,

Daily Zen.

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