"The purpose of your life is not to do as the majority does, but to live according to the inner law which you understand in yourself." Marcus Aurelius, Ancient Roman Emperor, Philosopher
Peer pressure is often described as an issue for young people, as if it's something we grow out of once we reach adulthood. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Consider all the ways that we're judged by, and in relation to, our peers: our education, our profession, our income, where we live, how we dress, how we speak, where we vacation, how often we vacation – the list goes on and on.
It feels great when you connect with like-minded individuals who share your interests and values; when you "find your tribe" to use the latest buzz phrase. On the flip side, it can be highly distressing to be in a situation where you clearly don't fit in, all the moreso if this lack of connection is coupled with even a hint of ridicule or hostility.
There's also that in-between state where you force yourself to fit in, in an attempt to alleviate the distress of feeling isolated or like an outsider. While this approach may seem to work on the surface, it's not really an effective solution. This becomes extremely stressful and draining over time. It takes a whole lot of work to actively discount who you are while pretending to be something that you're not, and it eats away at the depths of your soul.
Modern society is such that even though we're surrounded by people, it can be really hard to find even a handful of people that you truly like, trust, and connect with. While there are no easy answers or shortcuts to resolving this dilemma, there is enormous truth in those words of Marcus Aurelius quoted at the beginning of this post. Those words were expressed centuries ago, but they're just as valid and relevant today.
It's one thing to be flexible and adaptable – those are really good qualities when you're dealing with other people! But your life purpose isn't to conform to the majority; it's to be you, plain and simple. Deviate from honouring your true self and pretend to be someone you're not just to go along with the majority, and you'll inevitably run into problems sooner or later.
Sometimes, the "noise" of the world around us can make it hard to tune into our inner self. If that's the case, look for ways to get back in tune, whether through nature, meditation, or simply doing something that you genuinely enjoy. Most importantly, never dismiss that inner law which we all understand within ourselves.
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