In a perfect world, we would all be free to be who we are, it wouldn’t affect anyone else, and no one would care if we were different.
But that isn’t how the world works; instead, we are constantly bombarded with pressure to fit in and be like everyone else.
Let’s explore why it is so challenging to be our true selves.
Being different is hard.
Let’s face it, being different is brutal. This is because people tend to judge what they don’t understand and are attracted to what is familiar.
The interesting thing is that what is different depends on where you are. My wife stands out where we live, but where she comes from; I would stand out.
It is never easy to get teased, and it is no fun to be ignored.
When we are in school, there are many different crowds, and it is easy not to be cool enough to fit into one. In some cases, people tease, make fun of, or bully. In others, these same people get ignored.
Everyone goes through challenges when they are trying to fit in. And some people’s situations are worse than others, as being different often makes us a target of torment.
The discomfort that people who are different feel might serve as a warning for those who may be tempted to try and be different.
Social media shows us a limited definition of success.
If you ever use social media or follow influencers, you will often see that they live a life of luxury. They might eat at fancy restaurants, drive nice cars, and travel to distant places, but most regular people’s lives are not like that.
Part of the force that pushes us to fit in and be like everyone else is the pressure social media puts on us to fit in, be like everyone else and not stand out. Even worse, social media seems to push us towards a particular way of being.
Everyone online is selling something, but mostly, it’s a consumerist lifestyle.
Going through life, we strive towards the goals that we know are possible; you’d never think to be a pearl diver if you’ve never seen the ocean.
Social media plays a big part in our understanding of the world and its possibilities. For this reason, social media plays a significant role in telling us who we should be and what is acceptable.
You might not believe what you see online, but it subconsciously persuades us on how we should live.
Our friends often expect us to be like them.
Often we are connected to our friends because of some shared interest, hobby or location.
This means that we are united by similarity rather than difference. And while as individuals, we may be different from the crowd, as a friend group, we tend to be similar.
The social pressure our friends put on us might not be so obvious; no one will say, “I don’t like John because he is different.” But the group might causally make fun of John for being different.
When friends tease someone for being different, we fear the same response if we were to change.
Our friends might want us to stay the same because that connected us in the first place. But even if no one says it, we might fear being ousted from the group, so we try to keep up a facade.
A lot of the social pressure to fit in comes from our friends, as we don’t want to risk being outcasted by them.
Our parents desire us to live their ideal.
Our parents mostly want what is best for us, but they also want us to live up to their expectations and make them look good. Parents sometimes say, “you have to study hard; otherwise, you won’t be able to get a good job.”
It isn’t that our parents want to restrict how we live or who we can become. More likely, they have a preference for what we should be, and they encourage us to live that way.
Our parents pressure us to live the way they think people should live.
You might want to be an artist, and while that would be a great career, it is probably pretty difficult to find success. As a result, your parents might discourage you and suggest trying something more practical, like being a lawyer.
Parents want what is best for us, which sometimes means that they unintentionally kill our dreams and pressure us to live a more boring life.
The media covers a limited set of possibilities.
Have you ever noticed how most TV shows are about doctors, lawyers and police? Why is that? Could it be that those are common careers? Or maybe it is because it is easy to create serialized stories about those characters.
The media sets the agenda for what is acceptable, and we mostly go along without even realizing it is happening. So many people strive to become lawyers because that is the job they see successful people doing on TV.
The media tells us what is expected, so most people stay within those limits.
Even if we don’t watch TV, the TV still plays a vital role in telling society what is acceptable and within the realm of possibility. This, in turn, creates social pressure that pushes us to live how we have been told is good.
Being true to yourself sometimes requires stepping out of what is considered normal, which is made more complicated by the media.
It takes a lot of courage to go against the herd.
We primarily want to be happy, and it is hard to be happy if everyone around us gives us a hard time. It is one thing to be teased by people at school, but it is much worse when it comes from strangers or your family.
Being different is hard; it often comes with consequences that we can’t do anything about and make our lives harder. Some people dare to challenge the norms and do it, while others hide in the shadows to save face.
If you want to change the world, you need to be willing to be different.
No one said that life was easy; life is tough if you want to do something consequential. And so, you need to be willing to ignore the haters and go with what feels right, even if people give you a hard time along the way.
Most people won’t encourage you to be different; they will pressure you to be the same. Not necessarily because they disagree, but because they are trying to protect you or themselves.
Not being yourself is easier than being different.
It is hard to be your true self and push yourself to be different from those around you. Most people will rather live without pain or challenge if it means that people will, for the most part, leave them alone.
For this reason, it is easier to focus on fitting in and not rocking the boat. The truth is, there is nothing wrong with that; if you are ok with the way things are, then there is no reason for trying to change things.
But if you think that something is off and the world needs changing, then you need to be willing to push against social pressure and be who you want to be.
It is easier to go along with the crowd, but will that make you happy?
Being who you are is a challenge for everyone, especially when we are different or stand out from the people around us. But that doesn’t mean we should give in or not push ourselves to be true to ourselves and who we want to be.
Instead, it means that we need to understand what we are getting ourselves into and know that it might be painful, but it will be worth it in the long run.
Being who you are is challenging, but you don’t have to succumb to social pressure and live a less-than-ordinary life.
Do you see yourself as an outsider? Are you willing to challenge norms and be who you are, even if it means people will make fun of you? What advice would you give someone who feels social pressure to fit in?