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Why are so many people afraid of being different?

By Nina Steele 

The suicide of the young woman who felt she was a failure for being childless and unmarried as her 30th birthday was approaching, is a stark reminder of how destructive the need to conform can be. According to media reports, she was aggrieved because she believed other relatives were doing better than her, thus increasing her insecurities and ultimately leading to her death.

It was a sad story that made one realise how much pressure many people feel under. We are constantly being told what is ‘in’ and ‘out’ and some people take those advice quite literally. From the type of men you should date to what car to drive, what clothes to wear, how you should decorate your home and of course having children is a must to complete this seemingly pretty picture of what your life should be like.

Of course, many other people, myself included, have seen through this and are choosing to live our lives on our own terms and have found happiness as a result. Indeed, not having to live your life based on what everyone else is doing, decreases your level of stress and increases your sense of wellbeing. Yes peer pressure cannot be denied, but we must take responsibility for our own lives too. Generally speaking, no one is being forced to pursue a certain lifestyle; it is a choice we make (at least in the Western world). Why then do so many choose to put themselves under so much pressure just to conform?

We cannot always blame the media, although it does contribute to increasing the pressure in many ways. For example, shows such as ‘Sex and the City’ make it look as though no woman can be truly happy unless she belongs to a group of friends, who act as her support network. And so having best friends has become de rigueur. What many people forget is that instead of enhancing one’s life, having friends can have the opposite effect, if you constantly have to keep up with one another. We have all come across people who always try to outdo others around them. They have to have the better car, better holidays, better everything! They like nothing more than to feel superior. Of course these people are profoundly insecure and no one should try to match them on anything. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of courage to go against the pull to conform and many people just give in, making themselves miserable as a result.

For me, nothing matters more than my personal happiness. I am known for being ruthless when it comes to it and I will never hesitate to cut people off, if we no longer share the same values and that goes for close relatives as well. I have seen a hardening of my self as I grow older and everyone around me has got the message. By all means, if people wish to live their lives a certain way, that is their prerogative to do so, but I am not going to be part of it, if it does not enhance my own life.

I know people for example who are drowning in debt, yet feel the need to drive a luxury car, just for show. We as a couple can afford to drive a luxury car, yet for the past 7 years, we have kept the same 8 year old Vauxhall Astra (it is currently on its last leg and so we may have no choice but to replace it in the near future). Thankfully, my husband and I share the same values and have resisted the pull to keep up appearances.

Yes there is a lot of pressure to conform, but equally, people can choose not to. I suppose, in a way, many people feel that it is far easier to look like people around them, than it is to be different. The only problem is that pretending to be something you aren’t can only take you so far, without mentioning the fact that you will never be truly happy. Why put yourself under so much unnecessary pressure? My advice is to always choose your happiness and sanity above all else. This is your life after all!

Childless couples

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