Let’s talk | Pressure & Society

Living in a society is great. It gives us stability and provides us with values and norms. But with norms comes a certain pressure, the pressure to conform to the system and stick to the morals and ideas we grow up with. Who has felt pressured by society? I am sure I would see all hands going up. Including mine. I like to use my blog as a forum for discussions, especially these including current topics – current topics of society. And over the last few weeks I have read many posts from people feeling pressured especially regarding huge life choices or who feel unaccepted by those around them. That’s why I decided to address this topic on my blog today, so here is my two cents.

As a person who has done a fair amount of things others would consider unusual I know this pressure very well. It started with my decision to go abroad for half a year and I still remember how many nights I spent (over)thinking whether I should go through with it or not.I would lie in the dark hearing all those doubtful voices criticising my thought-out plan. Was I too young to leave the country for such a long period of time? Would I miss out on learning essential content at school? Should I rather go for 3 months instead of 6? Despite being an over-thinker I was also a stubborn young girl who knew exactly what she wanted to do and in the end I followed my gut and ended up going to school in lovely Devon for half a year and these months were undoubtedly amongst the best of my life. And as 15-year-olds are easily influenced this time also had a massive impact on my life, turning me into a more confident person with a huge passion for travelling and all things British. Looking back I realise that this adventure also sparked my interest in writing and I can’t say that I would still be blogging if I hadn’t dared to do this step 5 years ago. Or maybe I would have still become a ‘blogger’ and life would have found another way.
It is obvious why I’m using this example. My decision to study abroad for a while did not necessarily break the values of society but certainly went against the norm and never have I regretted this decision. Not even for a second although these six months weren’t free of obstacles. But this isn’t a post about Devon, this is a post about how we feel pressured by society. After I finished school I experienced even more pressure with people constantly asking what I wanted to do telling me I should not waste too much time and everyone seemed to give me different advice. That advice ranged from going to uni immediately, not going to South Africa as it could be dangerous to taking all the time I needed to figure out what to do. In the end some of these opinion were helpful, most of them weren’t. But luckily this situation taught me some life lessons I will never forget. The most simple advice would be not to ask for advice. Unless it is a person that you think you can confide in and that might be able to help you. If you plan on let’s say going to South Africa it is a fantastic idea to talk to people who spent some time there themselves but discussing this topic in detail with all of your 30 classmates will leave you feeling confusing and it’s unlikely to contribute valuable arguments.This leads me to another point – if you have people putting an immense amount of pressure on you try to talk to them about your feelings or if that doesn’t help, stay away from them. True friends will support you no matter what you decide and no matter if they agree with your decision or not. Don’t confuse pressure with concern though, sometimes your closest friends will know what truly makes you fulfilled while you are stuck between decisions. The reason is simple – while making difficult decisions our emotions play tricks on us and it gets hard to look at obvious facts. But in the end if we manage to feel past the emotions holding us back, past the layers of fear and insecurity we know what is right for us, we can feel it in our gut. Shouldn’t our own values be more important than those of society? Looking back a few years later would you rather say ‘I followed my fear and the norms set by society’ or ‘I looked past my insecurities and followed my dreams’. I don’t think I need to answer that. When we are basing our decisions on the values of society we are basing them on a changing concept, a flawed concept with questionable values. Some values of society are amazing and we have to acknowledge that we have come a long way already but I think we can agree on the fact that we have still a long way to go as well. If we all conformed to the values of society the result would be stagnation. This can be found in novels like ‘Brave New World’ where people are controlled by the state and are kept satisfied. All chances of progress are eliminated in order to maintain a stable society. Great thinkers and philosophers share this opinion and say that the highest stage of moral development can only be reached by basing our decisions on universal ethical values and thus by thinking outside the frame set by society. (I am basing that on Kohlberg.)

So if we follow that principle, alternatives are slowly becoming normal and we are helping our society progress. So in the end we can help society and be part of the change. We need people like that. People who want to try something else, who want to invent, who want to make the world a better place, people who shape new norms. If you want to do something different do it – this is how art is created. This was how Humans of New York was created. This is how ‘The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of A Window And Disappeared’ was written when Jonas Jonasson decided to quit his office job. So if you’re one of these people, who are feeling pressured by society, remember one thing: in the end this pressure can only affect you if you allow it to affect you. And yes, I know how hard it is to free yourself from these boundaries, to follow your own values and to swim against the stream. But I believe it is worth trying. It is worth fighting for dreams. Just like it is okay to take your time to figure out what these dreams are. It took me a while. And this time might have been difficult, but it made me stronger and more passionate and it has taught me a lot. Possibly more than the easy way of going straight to uni would have taught me.

So just to get back to the topic of university as this seems to be a huge source of pressure for many people. It is okay if you need time to figure out what makes you fulfilled, what you are passionate about. Time is never wasted if you do something, whatever that is. Everything shapes us and sometimes life has weird ways of showing is which direction is right for us. And the other funny thing about pressure is that a few years later you will always look back and you will realise how irrelevant some of your worries were and how listening to your gut would have made things easier. I think this might be the thing a lot of us lack, including myself – trust. Not in others, but in ourselves and our decisions. It might be just about time to stop listening to others and to start hearing your own voice that is just as valuable as everyone else’s but that should be the most valuable to yourself. I will end this post with a quote that I really like: “There is no fear for one whose mind is not filled with desires.”(Buddha) With passion comes fears. Fear to break the norms, fear to be judged. It is time fo free ourselves from what is holding us back, little by little, day by day.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. In which situation did you feel pressured by society? How did you deal with it? x

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