The Idea of Non-conformity: Avoiding the traps of peer pressure

Living life is fun. It’s a long, eventful path filled with so much joy and chaos that we barely give ourselves enough credit for going through it all. 

Surviving, on the other hand, is a different story altogether. Some things in life happen without prior warning and we’re forced to rely on our split-second instincts to make a decision. This leads to errors of judgement, and decisions that we may end up regretting.

To make matters worse, we beat ourselves up for being involved in our own problems before we even face them. That won’t help. Not at all. And believe me, these things happen much more than we’d like them to.

It complicates further. In an ideal world, our problems would affect us and us alone. However, there will always be people that manage to get involved in our personal dilemmas, intentionally or otherwise. Everyone has their opinions and the ironic part is that we allow them to affect us. Everyone is entitled to their own view, but thankfully we as individuals can moderate how much they affect us.

Here, let us draw our attention away from others. Instead, try and focus on you exclusively. After all, this one’s for you.

1. People can be pretentious

I prefer true but imperfect knowledge, even if it leaves much undetermined and unpredictable, to a pretence of exact knowledge that is likely to be false.

Friedrich Hayek, author of The Road to Serfdom

In times where opinions are called for (or not), people will often voice out the first things that come to their minds. Apart from casual rants and annoying complaints, there will also be someone who is suddenly the “expert” on all things related to the discussion at hand.

Sure, there are loopholes in their words, and they lack the experience to say things definitively. Perhaps they don’t cite facts when they talk. But as long as they speak in confidence, there will be naive people who will believe everything they say.

People want others to conform to their own ideals. They might do it out of benevolence, but being well-intentioned doesn’t necessarily mean being a knowledgeable person. Furthermore, it is in being knowledgeable that we keep our expectations and insensitivities to ourselves.

Never do you ever have to fulfil anyone else’s expectations of you. It’s a no-brainer but that saying applies the same to parents. While they may have birthed you but as far as growing up goes, you’re left with the harder parts to own up to. Follow your own path.

People who exhibit pretentious behaviour are among those who wave red flags. All you are to do is to simply ignore them. Don’t bother correcting them either because their apologies may very well be faked, too.

2. Choose to be unapologetic

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Dr Seuss

Do you want to know why emotions are subjective?

It is because they are valid to the feeler but they are invalid to others.

This doesn’t mean people are indifferent to each other’s emotions. It is simply that understanding people is not easy. People are complex, and their situations and individual thought processes are even more so.

Be sure to give people a chance, and definitely hear them out. However, if their irrationality clouds your judgement, you’re going to want to move on without their approval.

The people you consult for guidance could either tremendously aid you or tragically drag you down. Whats worse, they could even take over your role in decision-making entirely. Asking for help is good but it is never a one-person-all-answers kind of deal. 

Have faith in your capabilities and go about your situations the way you know how. Come to your best judgements. Other people often won’t have to deal with the aftermath so you should have the final say in which direction you’re headed.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask why

Sometimes, it’s not the words themselves that hurt, but not knowing what it is they mean.

People will always criticise your actions and habits. It might even be something as ridiculous as them laughing at your sense of fashion. Whatever it is, there must be a reason. So, it is okay to ask for some clarity.

People can be cruel. But ‘these people’ are found just about anywhere; they are everywhere. These people feel so entitled to their own opinions, and they can’t keep them to themselves. Careful now; you might be one of them.

To prevent yourself from getting emotionally hurt, try a different approach; counter their snide remarks with sensible, rational questions. 

Should they give a logical reason worth noting, then congratulations, you are accepting an alternative perspective. Inversely, if it’s for no other reason than the babyish ‘they don’t like it’, then there’s nothing to say or do but move on.

Sometimes, it’s not the words themselves that hurt, but not knowing what it is they mean. To not be given an explanation bothers us to seemingly no end. After all, we aren’t all-knowing, and not everything makes immediate sense to us.

Getting calm, proper justification from a handful of trustworthy people is sufficient. With that advice in mind, all that is left to do is make your decision. Ask yourself, “is this really worth losing my mind over, or could I just forget it?”.

4. Just say “No”

You can still love a person and not abandon your own principles.

When that two-letter word is spoken at the right moment, it feels very empowering. The first time you do it, it feels euphoric; it feels like the world is finally yours for the taking.

When you voice such an undeniable response, a response that’s faithful to your principles and your right to defy others’ views, it feels like the best thing ever. Once you’ve done it once, you’re going to want to do it again, and again, and again… .

Saying ‘no’ is the result of effective personal development. It is the evidence of genuine self-empowerment. Conformity is a modern form of slavery. It’s an easy trap to fall into yet a difficult one to get out of. Nevertheless, it is surmountable.

You can still love a person and not abandon your own principles.

You can still love a person and say “no”.

True love is one without compulsion. Love is about seeing past flaws and moving on from disagreements. Still, all the way through, you should exert your own strength and will, never submitting to others.

5. Take the opportunity to grow

Every action, mistake or success, forms who you are and who you will be.

So, grow out of this so-called “norm”. People conform because it is the only way they know how to be. It feels rewarding, for sure, and you feel accepted. But be honest with yourself; you really are capable of so much more.

The rewards that conformity presents us with are too short-lived to ever be called worthwhile. As soon as people walk out the door your validation goes with them, and you’re left with your now-unsuppressed chagrin.

It only gets more serious or complicated if regret starts bleeding into your thoughts. Don’t beat yourself up about a past mistake. Every action, mistake or success, forms who you are and who you will be. Make the most of your failures.

It won’t be an easy ‘walk in the park’ scenario. It’s far from it. Peer pressure is a toxic component of your social and personal lives. Negative influences should be managed and removed.

However, should you overcome the torments of it, you will reach a whole new level of maturity and independence. You will soon come to realise that other people’s opinions of you do not reflect who you really are. When you pull through, you’re going have much more love and respect for yourself.

It’s the truest kind of love there is. One where you are not bound to any other object or persons. One where you appreciate how far you’ve come, and where you’re pleased to say that you did it all by yourself.

6. People are often envious

The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.

William Penn

We are social by nature. Therefore, our tendencies to go attention-seeking aren’t always easy to suppress. Sometimes, we go to such lengths to fulfil our need for recognition that we put someone else’s pride in the dirt.

When you are dealing with that sort of person, or perhaps dealing with that very habit, you can either be a supporter or an enabler to the custom. You should support and acknowledge a person’s place within a social sphere. Equally you should also think twice about enabling them hurt other people’s feelings.

Attention-seeking that is ‘rewarded’ often enables a dominating behaviour where one expects total control over every aspect of another behaviour. The issue is that even if others put in the effort, they could never be good enough in your eyes. 

Envy forms shackles that are hard to break free from. Regardless, you should always uphold your self-esteem positively, in a way that does right by you and by others.

In envy, no one will be good enough for you. Not even yourself.

7. Reward yourself

It’s okay to be proud of yourself for doing the bare minimum.

You can reward yourself for and with anything. Focus on celebrating small victories. If you can burden yourself with even the most minute errors and flaws, then you can enjoy the smallest of your achievements.

Reward yourself because you know you’ve earned it.

Reward yourself because you want to encourage productivity.

Reward yourself simply because you can.

It’s okay to be proud of yourself for doing the bare minimum. It is very unfair to overlook your wins only for you to overthink your problems at a later date.

Give it a try. You are by no means reinforcing narcissistic behaviour. It’s not all about you either. It is a matter of knowing what exactly it is that you deserve.

We can be biased against ourselves and self-rewarding doesn’t come easily to the modest. Just do what you have been trying to do from the very start. Do things the best way you know how. 

Have faith in your capabilities and go about your situations the way you know how. Come to your best judgements. Other people often won’t have to deal with the aftermath so you should have the final say in which direction you’re headed.

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