At the basest level, humans go through the same challenges: juggling family and vocation, giving attention to the things that really matter—making and sustaining a living, staying healthy—nurturing relationships. For people in developing countries, poverty is an ever-looming possibility, so there’s a constant battle to stay afloat financially. Add political turmoil and insecurity to the mix, and there’s no doubt that everyone has sufficient burdens to keep them busy. However, there’s a challenge that never ceases to rear its head. One that’s designed to break anyone who isn’t deliberate about self-awareness and authenticity.
Maintaining and living out one’s beliefs is a struggle in a world that seeks to impose. Whether we like it or not, we are perceived a certain way by others, by the larger society. More befuddling is that we are expected to be a certain way. There’s a picture that cuts through people’s minds when they see us and if we do not conform to this image, we leave them frustrated.
The biggest battle you have to contend with in life is holding on to who you are. Your intrinsic self will come against opposition that seeks to break or contort it.
It’s the reason it has become increasingly difficult to come across folks who have remained true to their identity in the face of overt and subtle pressure to kowtow to the whims of others. And so, if you find yourself in an environment where everyone around you is extroverted, you’re likely to have to explain your introverted nature to people who can’t just seem to comprehend individual differences.
If you insist on being an artist in a family of scientists, you can bet your last dime that four out of five people you meet will try to convince you not to circumvent the family tradition. Guarded people are pressured to be loose-mouthed, and the apolitical are coerced into dabbling in the treacherous waters of politics.
People always want you to be like them. Adore whom they adore, bow to whom they bow to, respect whom they respect.
You must first understand this concept, and then fashion out a way to stand firm in your individuality.
The typical workplace is prone to the shenanigans of office politics. Someone is always scheming; cliques are often formed and camps emerge. For the uninitiated, it portends danger. Your insistence on sticking to doing only what you are paid for and minding your business will earn you enemies. They will be upset that you are self-sufficient and without the need for the validation of others to thrive. To be accepted, you must bend to the expectations of others. And so, if there’s a colleague who has the ears of management, you must parley with them before getting anything done.
If you are newly married and have agreed with your spouse not to have kids until a couple of years, our people will frustrate you with questions and probes about your childless state. It never occurs to them that you can choose not to birth children, and even when they know, they still try to convince you otherwise.
Think about it—from the choice of a partner to where you choose to work—people always have an opinion. If they had a perspective on matters relating to you without the need to follow through with the pressure on you to do as they please, it would have been bearable. But that’s almost never the case.
And there lies your biggest fight—doubling down on your values and not pandering to a third party’s notion of how you should be. You must be ready to be maligned and even ostracised if you are going to stand for what you believe.
Your heaviest battles will centre around dealing with the aftermath of speaking the truth even when you are aware of the dire consequences. It will reside in your ability to keep your head down and remain unbothered about popular opinion or the need to play to the gallery to curry affection.
You may not get the promotion due to you. Do not be swayed if you’re constantly criticised and your efforts belittled; hang in there. It’s a test of your grit. If you grovel at the feet of nonentities to live another day, you’ll have to continue in that same manner to survive the rest of your life.
There’s nothing that discombobulates villains like a stoic personality who’s unfazed by their cunning stratagems.
If you must change, change for yourself. Evolve because you are growing from new knowledge or a true conviction that there’s a better approach to things, not because you are eager to please the crowd.
It won’t be easy, but it will earn you peace of mind that all the treasures of the world cannot compare to.