As teenagers, we’re constantly warned about the perils of peer pressure. No one talks about it so much for adults, even though it’s just as much of a problem. It’s not so black and white as the stereotypical “cool kids trying to get you to do drugs” situation, but this subtler adult version can still lead you to behave a certain way in order to control what people think of you. It’s not just peers, either; we care about what many people in our lives think of us, be they family, coworkers, the people at your gym, whoever. Here’s the thing: you can’t actually control what anyone else thinks, so why let that dictate your life? It’s time to start doing whatever you want, and here are six reasons why:
I know this phrase should have been left in 2013, but I’m reappropriating it for 2014. I’m going to tell you to take it totally seriously. The point is this – you do in fact only live once (unless you believe in reincarnation), and do you really want to spend your time doing stuff for other people’s opinion of you? False. When you’re old and sitting in a rocking chair on your porch, you’re not going to think “Oh, I really wish so-and-so had thought I was cooler,” you’re going to think, “Remember that time I went to that Star Wars convention? That was awesome!”
2. You’ll make new friends.
So your friends are making fun of you for wanting to go vegan, take up knitting going to ComicCon or wanting to move to Portland. Let them, then do it anyway. The great thing about doing what you want to do is that you’re more likely to meet other people who also like doing it.
3. It’s your party, and you’ll invite who you want to.
I spent way, way too much time in my early 20s agonizing over Facebook invites and the CC lines of emails. “Well, if I invite him, then I have to invite these three other people, because otherwise they’ll know I had a party and they’ll think I’m rude; I really don’t like her but she invited me to her birthday, so I guess I’ll add her…” And then you end up with this social gathering where you don’t even enjoy yourself because you’re so stressed out trying to avoid people you don’t like. I finally learned that if you’re hosting an event, you invite exactly who you want to see at it, and no one else. Yes, you might offend some people, but your real friends are the ones you invited to the party, so does it really matter?
4. No one cares as much as you think.
I’m going to let you in on a disappointing little secret – no one cares about you as much as you think they do. Turns out, we humans are pretty self-centered creatures and everyone’s kind of wrapped up in their own stuff, and they really don’t have all that much time to devote to thinking about what you’re doing. All that time you’re spending agonizing over what so and so thought of that thing you said, and she’s actually worrying about a work presentation or trying to decide what she thinks of The Bachelor this season. Unless someone actually tells you they’re bothered by something you’ve done, you can rest easy that no one really cares that much.
5. You are the boss of you.
Seriously, what sounds better – doing what other people want you to do, or what you want to do? There are exactly two situations in which you need to do what other people want you to do, they are called “school” and “work” and you’ll know because you’ll be in a class, or you’ll be getting paid. In these situations, there is an actual reason to do stuff, and so you should probably suck it up and stop playing Flappy Bird and do what your actual boss is telling you to do. In most other situations, the only authority other people have over you is the authority you’re giving them, so stop. You’re in control of your own life, so embrace that, rather than letting others’ opinions dictate your actions.
6. You’ll be a better person.
I spent most of my early life being something of a people pleaser. Yes, it’s nice to have other people like you, but it’s also a really easy and convenient way to go through life, because you never have to make any choices, you just let other people dictate what you’ll do. It’s easy, but it’s also not particularly satisfying when you get home from yet another party you didn’t really want to go to with the knowledge that you’d rather have stayed home with a book but didn’t want people to think you were lame. It’s honestly way harder to figure out what you want to do and start doing it, because it forces you to think about who you are and what you want, and have actual reasons for your choices instead of deferring to others.
You’ll have to have accountability for your actions, rather than making the excuse of “Well, I only did it because so-and so would have been mad if I didn’t.” Sure, you may still do something because it’ll make your parents or friends or someone else happy, but in that case it’s because you’ve chosen to make your relationship with that person a priority and are thus acting according to their wishes, rather than just doing something because someone will think about you a certain way.
I really believe there are few things more liberating than deciding not to care what other people think, so try it! I think you’ll like it.
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