The 21st century comes with varying degrees of social pressures to conform to certain expectations and these conformities cme with grave dangers. The ability to handle social pressure, therefore, becomes an important skill everyone needs today.
Below are practical steps you can take to be free from social pressure.
How To Overcome Social Pressure
1. Find what matters most to you
The first step to overcoming social pressure is by finding what matters most to you and where you fit. This is important so that there is a clear distinction between what should be or what you want to be, and what society is trying to push you into.
In simple terms, find what you want! If you don’t know what you want, it would be difficult to get free from social pressure because freedom from social pressure is a movement to what truly represents your innermost desire.
The process of finding yourself, where you fit, and what matters most to you, will require several times in introspection and various engagement. I have explained the process in detail in the self-discovery cycle.
2. See and treat yourself as an independent individual
The mindset that will empower you to be free from social pressure is seeing and treating yourself as an independent individual. This means, see yourself as if it is just you, and really, it is just you.
Although you must have connections with other individuals to live on earth, that doesn’t make you joined with them or dependent on them (some particular persons).
A clear proof of this is your death or the death of anyone. After their death, life continues. If you can fully grasp the concept of being just yourself, getting free from social pressure wouldn’t be difficult anymore. This is because the process of freedom from social pressure is saying to society, “let me be me.”
If you want to tell society to let you be, you must be convinced that you truly should be let to be. This mindset shift also includes a refusal to compete or compare yourself with anyone.
Some of the social pressure we face, especially societal norms, are a result of our comparing ourselves with others. If you see yourself as just you, you wouldn’t care what anyone does or doesn’t do, achieves, or doesn’t achieve.
This lack of care, on its own, is freedom from social pressure– peer pressure, social media, and societal norms.
3. Insist on becoming what matters most to you
This is a build-up to your mindset shift. Since you have discovered what you want and decided that your life is just you, now decide that nothing will stop you from becoming just that. The first three steps to freedom from social pressure are internal or mindset steps, but are inevitable for your freedom.
There is not so much twist to insisting on becoming what matters most to you. It is just in response to the question, do you want to be free from social pressure? If yes, then insist on being free. This will come with some frictions, of course, but it will pay off.
These three articles will help you in learning how to insist on what you want.
- How To Change Your Friends Without A Fight
- How To Make Everyone Leave You Alone
- How To Enjoy Self-Discipline And Love Difficult Things
4. Develop a plan of action and commit to developing yourself in that area
After discovering where you fit, you need to take time out and develop a plan of action that can take you from where you are to where you should be or want to be. This will involve considering all the physical, social, and environmental limitations stopping you from what you want, and considering how you can alter them to achieve your goals.
Now you might not be able to alter those limitations yet, but still, identify the alterations that will bring your desires. Once you have identified the necessary alterations your environment needs, commit to working them out little by little, every single day.
For example, if you want to choose a career path your society doesn’t support, possible alterations will include finding an alternative way or somewhat passive way of learning some necessary skills in that career e.g. watching YouTube videos and making friends who are into it already.
Little changes everyday, will accumulate into big differences over time. This might seem counter-intuitive at first glance. Because you are actually saying, this is what my environment is saying I should not do, so I begin to immerse myself with it I begin to adjust my view of it and make it look normal to me.
This stage doesn’t necessarily mean you confront the pressure because most times, social pressure is subtle. Instead, like the nature of the pressure, subtly introduce a new normal to yourself. Intentionally surround yourself with an environment that supports what you want. The internet is a great help in this.
All of these are to arm you for the battle of freedom. Your reflex behaviors stem from your beliefs; once your beliefs are challenged, the behaviors will be challenged also.
5. Confront when necessary
Confrontation is not a fun thing to do, at least not for most of us, especially when the person to be confronted is someone dear or respected. But it is very necessary.
If you don’t see any need of going as far as confronting, you might want to read the dangers of social pressure again. But confrontation works! Based on my experience, this is the strongest force that frees people from social pressure. I was a victim.
I was once pressuring someone unknowingly, and they kept on being frustrated without my knowing. Finally, they got so frustrated and confronted me. Although it was emotional and a dreadful experience, it was effective.
I was called to order and my respect for them increased, maybe because they dared to speak up. This was someone who couldn’t look at me in the eyes before.
I shared this story so you can understand what confrontation looks like from the perspective of the one being confronted. I have also confronted others and it worked too.
Confrontation is not going to explain to the person and begging them to stop what they are doing; it is going to tell them you have had enough and won’t continue being pressured.
If your confrontation destroys the relationship, it has only made it clear that it was an abusive relationship, after all. Healthy relationships should adjust when one party is being severed, even if that adjustment comes with pain.
6. Intentionally avoid the sources of pressure and intimidation
Some pressures or sources of pressure won’t respond to confrontation, and some don’t even need confrontation at all— they just need to be stayed away from.
This was a practical case for me when viewing WhatsApp statuses was the source of pressure; there was no one to confront; all I needed to do was stay away.
There are really very few sources of pressure or relationships you can’t stay away from. But for the bulk of them, there are times when letting the relationship go is the best option. Again, it is a painful option, but nothing should be traded for your well-being as an individual. Remember, it is just to you.
7. Seek and associate with like-minded people
If your journey towards freedom from social pressure cuts away close relationships, two possibilities can occur if you don’t associate with like-minded people
(i) you will feel lonely and guilty for seeking freedom and will end up being more miserable, regretting why you got yourself free in the first place (ii) you might be tempted to return to those relationships and continue being pressured than to live a life of guilt and loneliness.
Read this post to understand the nature of loneliness.
To prevent any of these, find new associations that cherish what you cherish and can relate with your desire for freedom. Not only will this type of relationships set you free completely from the previous pressures, they will also strengthen you to get freedom in other areas where you are still being pressured.
Right relationships are empowering.
8. Forgive yourself for seeking freedom
Seeking freedom is not an offense but you might feel guilty after the fight. Forgive yourself! Your life is not to be a frustrating one; you weren’t designed to thrive under pressure. So, your desire for freedom is only a desire to live your life as it ought to be and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Instead, there is something wrong with the mindset or anyone that thinks you should continue to remain under pressure.
Related: Why Do You Find It So Hard To Forgive Yourself?
There you have some tips to get free from social pressure. To overcome social pressure, you must find out what matters most to you, treat yourself as an individual, insist on becoming what you want, confront when necessary, avoid the sources of pressure as much as you can and forgive yourself for wanting freedom.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.