By Alison Znamierowski, Regular Contributor December 1, 2015
When I was in college, I felt a lot of social pressure to be a certain way to fit into the ‘ideal Wesleyan student archetype. This included being: always social, popular, hard-working, funny, inspirational, creative, sensitive (but not too sensitive), unique, spiritual, fit, smart, authentic/genuine, quirky, progressive, artistic, attractive, hip, knowledgeable, passionate, well-adjusted, and constantly mentally-well. And the list goes on and on.
These different characteristics vary based on where you live or go to school, but I think they exist for most every community. Pressure to fit in, no matter the specific traits, is ultimately exhausting. It takes a lot of energy to try to constantly and consistently embody an ideal. Some days at college, I didn’t have social energy. Some days, I didn’t feel creative at all. Some days, I felt anxious or depressed or stressed. And constantly suffocating my own sense of self with these expectations of what I “should” be was certainly not helping.
So I have a new mantra: “Become more yourself every day.”
I have begun trying to quiet the voice that says things like, you aren’t good enough. When I catch myself being particularly self-deprecating, I try to imagine someone else saying to me what I say to myself. Would I want to be friends with that person? The person who is constantly doubting me, disparaging me, and refusing to believe in me? No, thanks. It makes me wonder: why am I not kinder to myself?
I think there’s a lot of anxiety around letting ourselves be as we are.
There's a fear that we’ll become lazy and never get anything done unless we pressurize our current selves into feeling uncomfortable and inadequate as a means to action. But I don’t believe that. I think everyone has different ways in which they are inspired and motivated — and I think that pressure, discomfort, and feelings of inadequacy are ultimately not as sustainable as the life-energy that comes from pure passion.
It’s like swimming against the river versus letting the river guide you; when you’re swimming against the tide, you meet a slow and exhausting resistance, and most of the time you end up stagnating — stuck between the ego’s assertion of I should be able to do this, and the river’s power. When you let the river take you, it’s effortless — and as much as you might not believe it, you are going somewhere in an amazing way that only you and the river could together.
“Become more yourself every day” is about letting go of the ways in which we are exhausting instead of nourishing ourselves. It is about acknowledging that we are in a state of flux and embracing that constant change. It is about moving away from fear or anxiety and moving toward curiosity, exploration, and excitement about becoming who we are. In the end, it is about loving and truly getting to know ourselves.
How do you avoid pressure and stay true to yourself? Tell us below!
Alison Znamierowski graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in Sociology. Her favorite activities include picnicking with friends, barefoot wandering, and engaging with spontaneous impulses for adventure. Her little corner of the interweb universe is here: nowastespace.org.
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