I had spent the majority of my life with friends and family who truly appreciated who I was, and who allowed me the freedom to be whoever and whatever I wanted to be. Unfortunately, many years ago, a new group of friends in a new school made me feel like there was something wrong with who I was. Within 2 short years, that small group of people managed to break the self-confidence and self-belief that I had for the past 17 years. I allowed those people to lead me into believing that who I was or who I wanted to be was not acceptable. Consequently, I spent roughly the next 4 years of my life trying to live up to what I thought were the “standards” or “norm” of the people around me. Through my attempts to conform to what I thought were societal norms, I managed to achieve what I thought I wanted socially. However, I always knew deep down that the relationships that I had started with most people in those 4 years were either fleeting or unfulfilling. I always felt trapped.
Most of us want to be liked by everyone. That is the reason why most people tend to conform to “trends”or give in to social pressures. We try to be like everyone else in order to feel accepted. We sometimes think that if we can be more like the people who other people seem to like, that those people will like us too.
When we get what we think we want by pretending to be someone we are not, it becomes a kind of drug. We get addicted to the positive feedback that we receive from the people around us when we keep pretending to be someone we think they like, the same way people get addicted to the pleasures that come from consuming drugs. Unfortunately, like a drug, the desired effects of pretending to be someone you are not, are temporary and the rewards are quite unpredictable. The moment we fail to keep up “the act”, the change in the way our friends look at us or treat us is immediately concerning. We then feel the pressure to immediately return to “the act”, thus hopefully eliciting a favorable response from our friends once again.
Not being yourself rarely gets you what you really want. When we are not ourselves, we attract people into our lives whom we do not truly connect with and we end up building a lot of shaky relationships. We also end up doing a lot of things we do not really like or want to do. This causes us to loose our self-identities and to live in fear of loosing our fragile relationships.
Once I finally decided to let go of social expectations and pressures, and just be who I wanted to be, I lost a lot of people in my life and I stopped doing a lot of the things that I had been doing for the last 4 years. It was scary giving up the life that I had built over the last 4 years, but I taught myself not be afraid of losing any of it. Honestly, most of those people and that life did not mean that much to me anyway, since it was built at a time when I was lying to myself about who I was. Rediscovering myself has not been easy but my life feels a lot more peaceful now, and I feel much more in control of myself.
Image: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia from Dream Afar