Would it be better pretending to be someone else to satisfy the ever pressuring social needs rather than living the most authentic lives our body, mind and soul long for? Maybe for some this might be a shocking question to ask as you might have been lucky enough to never worry about such a dilemma.
For me, this shocking reality of how our thinking and decision-making can be shaped by our inner circle or even complete strangers has especially intensified over the month that I have spent in my home country during Christmas time. The shock was mostly caused thanks to the fact that I got so used to being myself in the Netherlands, surrounded by inspirational people, having no family members or former friends around to judge any of my study, work or romantic life choices. The freedom that moving across Europe has brought to my life has opened my eyes enormously. But why is it that one has to move countries and leave the people closest to them behind to find ultimate happiness and freedom? Shouldn’t we all be concerned about living our best life, full of joy and being content with whatever we make out of it wherever we are, physically and mentally? Well, maybe in a perfect world this would be an option but in a world full of people driven by comparison and social media feeding on our societal and personal differences such optimal conditions are nowhere to be reached.
Growing up in Slovakia has created a certain level of expectation that I felt inclined to meet in order to be ‘happy’. Having quality education, good grades, staying out of trouble, only talking to ‘socially acceptable’’ people as well as tattoos and piercings being completely off limits. Or at least as long as one wouldn’t want to be referred to as an outcast, criminal or a lost cause. All of these limitations preceded in my mind thanks to the group of people who made up my social circle, the glasses they put on my eyes and through which I saw distorted reality. Now, two years later, having gone through therapy, a healing process and months of searching for my own authentic self, I am proud of the journey that made me realise there’s so much more to life than the norms of what roles we should play in the society. Naturally, the expectations may differ from country to country, from culture to culture and from society to society. However, there is one thing all these artificial portrayals of power have in common. They all stem from avoiding uncertainty, instead it’s the desire to fit into a bigger picture that impels them. The problem is that these outdated attempts for unity have brought more pain to the human kind that it did prosper. Just take the example of marginalisation of anybody different to the set social norms that still in the 21st century cause immense suffering in the world. Of course, comparing serious matters such as marginalised groups or even discrimination to the personal life crisis one might have due to the social pressure isn’t the most relevant thing to do. However, as one of my friends has once told me, we all do carry our own weight of problems, and their severity shouldn’t be measured on universal scale.
The reason why I am referring to the social norms along with the expectations from our close circles is the relatedness of these two. Over the course of 22 years on this planet I have seen more than enough of my friends or total strangers, or even famous and important people falling into the claws of social wrath. Having their lives destroyed, losing loved ones or in many cases even work, over their efforts to express their truest selves, breaking out of the constant carousel of living up to certain expectations. Get a good job, start a family, get a nice big house to sustain the family, never like a person of the same gender, never be too loud. What happened to doing whatever you want with your life as long as you’re happy and loved? Does that only apply in cases where doing what makes us happy is something that makes the whole society content? So many times in my life I have heard the same old story - always listen to your elders, they know what they are saying. Do they really? The majority of the time I feel as if they have no clue about what is best. The older, more experienced people certainly know how things were done for the past few decades, but are completely oblivious to what the coming generations are facing in the world right now. The conditions the ongoing destruction of climate brings to us; the suffering, loss of lives and uncertainty the war in Europe has brought into our lives recently; what social media do to our mental health and how many women in several corners of the world are up to this date perceived as a commodity. Being sold and bought into slavery and unwanted, arranged marriages. It’s up to us, younger generations, to stand up, to be ‘too’ loud, to be ‘too’ bold, just to be too much of everything to differentiate ourselves from others. To be our authentic selves and to point towards new pathways, eventually changing the way contemporary society works.
Being an outcast, a disappointment, the black sheep of the family are only a few terms that were expressed on my account. However, the more one realises the life we live is the only one we are promised today, and unfortunately there won’t be another chance, the more rebellious, fearless and careless one becomes. Yes, unfortunately, living life completely according to one self might mean leaving certain people or places behind, leaving our comfort zones, saying goodbye to safe habits and stability. But as long as that is the solution to our ultimate happiness, growing self-power and authenticity, it's definitely a risk to take.
By Kristina Cakova