Teenagers aren’t the only ones struggling with social pressure. The need for approval from others is a pattern many adults drag into adulthood. When we make decisions out of the fear of being judged harshly by others, we place more weight on our shoulders than we’re meant to carry. We also create limitations for ourselves.
Restrictions are always frustrating, especially the ones we impose on ourselves. They rob you of your joy, and the freedom to live the life you deserve. An exaggerated need for admiration from others also clouds your judgment and ability to lead and make sound decisions. The good news is: You can break the chains of people pleasing.
A good starting point is sometimes as near as the pages of your survival manual from middle school. It doesn’t matter if it’s 20, 30 or even 40 plus years-old. The lessons on peer pressure are as universal as they are enduring. In case you’ve forgotten, or perhaps never quite got the hang of managing social pressure, here are six ways to help you lighten your load and free yourself from unproductive social pressure:
Trust your gut Our gut is where data is processed before it reaches the reasoning centers of our brains. Science is confirming every day that intuition is not the mysterious phenomenon we once believed. Hunches and instinctive conclusions are formed from knowledge and past experience. So listen to your true feelings and use common sense. Relying solely on gut feelings isn’t a fail proof path to good decisions. But it’s an excellent start. If something doesn’t feel right, even if your friends and coworkers are encouraging you otherwise, it probably isn’t. Don't be afraid to step on the brakes.
Learn to be present Staying present in the moment allows us to be attuned to the reality of what’s happening now. A lot of anxiety is self-created. This includes worrying about what others are thinking or what they might say about us. This is referred to in Zen Buddhism as“monkey mind. ” The human mind is as if it’s become filled with drunken monkeys, chattering and jumping around in every direction at once. Don’t let negative thoughts produced by worries over what others are thinking or what they might think unleash the monkeys. Focus on the objective or task at hand. “Keep your eye on the prize.”
Gain Perspective The social fears you had as a child probably seem silly now. Likewise, try to imagine how the ones you have now will look years, maybe just months, from now. Life is too short to let others dictate your decisions and actions. In the wise words of one our most popular sages of the ages, Dr. Seuss:
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”
Set Goals As a strategic planner, I’m a firm believer in setting goals. They help you maintain focus when the path takes dips and turns, and the hounds of fear and other distractions start barking at you. What do you dream of doing but avoid because you're are afraid of the judgment of others? Is it writing a novel? Starting your own business? Downsizing? Doing a 180 degree career change? Have a goal that excites you and create the steps necessary to get you there. This can go along way in keeping your plans on track when pressured by others to serve their agenda's at the expense of your well-being.
Practice Instead of confronting the most stressful situations all at once, start small. Voice your opinion of a book you read or show you saw. Learn to say “no” to negative individuals and their invitations regardless of how attractive they may appear on the surface. Ask yourself what are the benefits of engaging in an activity that goes against your grain. Then ask yourself what are the liabilities? Introduce changes gradually. It may be seemingly as simple as changing your style of dress a little at a time. Develop a hierarchy of changes you want to make and work your way down the list.
Use Affirmations Everyone uses affirmations every day. There is nothing mysterious about them or the way they work. Affirmations are just thoughts, and negative and stressful thoughts can be redirected. It’s a great tool to have at your disposal. Using affirmations with intention and focus daily can help reduce stress. Some examples of positive affirmations for grownups struggling with social pressure on the journey:
Before bedtime and upon awakening are effective times to practice affirmations. Learning to balance the demands of meeting the needs of others and staying true to ourselves, our values and goals, is one of the trickiest lessons of not only our adolescent years, but our adult lives!