"I've lost one stone since I started my new diet," Amy gloated. As the words reverberated in my ears, I could not control the next sentence that came out of my mouth, "Oh, I've lost more than that since I gave up bread. If Kit Harington (actor - Game of Thrones) can do it, so can I!"
Although I'd lied to Amy, I didn't feel an ounce of guilt. In fact, I felt pretty good about getting away with the deception, otherwise known as a 'cheater's high'. I couldn't give her the satisfaction of making me feel incompetent.
I'm sure there are others like me who have faced similar instances that might have led you to: exaggerate your grades, soup up your resume or overstate your salary package.
We live in a society where it is more socially acceptable to lie, than to be honest. In the online aspect of our lives, isn't it a common phenomenon to flaunt our seemingly perfect world in order to look important, boost our self-esteem and gain a virtual sense of belonging? Since everyone paints an unrealistic portrait of themselves online, no one wants to keep a realistic, boring profile that wouldn't be acknowledged or approved by their friends.
How often do we not say or do something because we're worried about how it will be perceived? If a stranger asks you: "Have you thought about having kids?" it's not socially polite to tell them to mind their own business. In fact, it puts you under obligation to satisfy their curiosity and find ways to cope with the pressure these nosy people pile on. Similarly, if you are sitting with a group of women whose mission in life is to gossip, you can't just walk out on them because you would rather spend your time talking about something more intellectual. After all, you don't want to be labeled as a 'snob'.
We've been taught by our parents, teachers, friends, spouses, the media and others, that it's more important to be liked and to 'fit in' than it is to be who we truly are. Moreover, many of us assume that who we are is not good enough. As a result, we constantly struggle to fix ourselves or resort to imitate others who we 'think' are better than us. This means that our self-worth is always tied to what someone else thinks about us.
We may say, "We are capable of making decisions on our own and none of our friends, or the world in general, are able to influence our choice." But is it so?
How many of you find yourself succumbing to societal influences in determining what you buy, what you wear, the car you drive, the type of house you live in, how you decorate your home, where your kids study and how you reason?
This might sound familiar: "Am I wearing the right dress for this crowd?", "What will they think if they find out I don't smoke or drink?", "How can we send our kids to a public school when all our friends send their children to private schools?"
Herd mentality creeps up on us in the most subtle way. It is often influenced by peer pressure, conformity, the need for social acceptance and the desire for a sense of belonging. Consequently, people are driven to behave in a manner that society dictates.
Many of us mindlessly stifle our voices in order to meet the world's expectations and maintain the status quo. We are either too afraid to be our true selves or we've lost our essence so we no longer know who we are.
Why are we so afraid to be ourselves? Perhaps being real exposes us to vulnerability and judgment, which is a scary thought...
The choice is yours: You can continue to live life to please others, trying to fit in no matter what the cost to yourself or "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken." (Oscar Wilde)