Putting pressure on things
Today I want to talk about putting pressure on things, i.e. following widely accepted social norms, even when they may not resonate with what you personally want to do. I’m talking about those instances when you feel like you “have to” do something, even though it may not be what you necessarily “want to” do, either because somebody expects it or you perceive this to be case. A well known example is when your friends are going out partying one night, but you’ve had a busy day and really can’t be bothered and would much rather have a night in. You might conform and go out, in which case there are two possibilities: you will either have fun or feel out of place because you weren’t in the mood to begin with. Or you might opt for the night in, in which case there are, again, two possibilities: you will either enjoy your quiet night or spend it feeling bad and regretful because you didn’t go out.
The funniest part about this is that these kinds of decisions should be easy… It’s just deciding whether to go out or not, right? The problem is that humans are social creatures, we have an innate need to feel like we belong in a group. Therefore, if we don’t go out, we might feel as if we risk being excluded. Doesn’t seem so easy a decision to make now, does it? After all, if we perceive a threat of being excluded, this may unlock all sorts of anxieties and the fight or flight response, which I talked about in my first post. In reality, things are very rarely so dramatic. Your friends of many years will unlikely decide they don’t like you anymore because you weren’t in the mood for partying one night. Also some people have a natural tendency to care about other people’s opinions, which I think makes putting pressure on things a big problem for them. But even those of us who don’t care as much about what others think find themselves putting pressure on themselves in various situations and sometimes whole areas of their lives.
So how does all this impede personal development? The first obvious reason is that putting pressure on things can lead to anxiety, and we already know that anxiety can be detrimental to personal development. The second reason is that feeling that we are missing out if we don’t conform and do what we perceive society expects us to. The fear of missing out can make us do things we don’t want to do, which can harm personal development because we lose focus of what’s important to us. The key to tackling that is to evaluate whether we are truly missing out, or whether this is all in our head, the guilty conscience that cares so much about what other people think. Wait But Why have a great post on why you shouldn’t care about what others think, explaining in detail all the evolutionary reasons behind it, have a read here if you haven’t already seen it.
One coping mechanism I have used is to tell myself that I don’t want to live my life doing things I don’t want to do, just because my mind is tricking me into believing that by doing them people will like me more/better. We are lucky enough that in the developed world there is a focus on individuals, rather than the group and that we have the freedom to decide what we want to do and where we want to be. Why waste that opportunity and lock ourselves in a world where these things are decided by other people, when the only one letting them do that is us?