Desire. Longing. Hunger. Craving. We all know what it’s like to have that burning wanting for or needing of something. Most motivational speakers will encourage you to go after it with everything you have and to crush any negative beliefs that are holding you back. But there is one issue—both a belief and a reality—that causes a lot of people to think twice about going after what they want: what other people think. In this post, we’ll explore how to deal with this issue.
There are a list of common desires that are significantly inhibited by how much negative attention you might attract for it:
People are overwhelmingly influenced by others in these respects. For example, you don’t normally walk around with underwear on your head (except maybe on Halloween) even though there is no law against it. Teenagers usually don’t openly associate with people who are “not cool” if they are in the “cool” group. People historically have kept private their sexuality or relationships if they were outside the norm. And, of course, we all know the story of the person who wants to do one thing with their lives but his or her family, friends, or community pressure him or her to do something else.
It’s this pressure that can affect your life’s trajectory. You might love someone that others disapprove of. You might wish to partake in activities that others find distasteful. You could prefer “tacky” clothes, want to go by a “weird” name, or wish to own a “strange” item like a prop from your favorite sci-if movie. If you let society pressure you, then you might break up with that person, avoid your favorite activities, and miss out on enjoying the things you like in life. Succumbing to this pressure can reduce your happiness and fulfillment in life.
So, what do you do? Well, there are only a few options:
Note that this is easier said than done because there are consequences associated with every option. If you avoid doing what you want, you risk missing out on happiness and fulfillment. If you do what you want privately, you risk someone else finding out or not being able to share the experience with others. If you do what you want but feel shame for it, then you risk having mixed feelings about the whole thing and succumbing to peer pressure. If you don’t care what others think, you might lose friends or be criticized by anyone who disapproves. If you try to influence others, you could turn people off who are fine with your behavior but don’t want to be pressured to follow. In any case, you’re going to weigh the benefits of doing the unpopular activity against both the consequences of the activity and others’ opinion of it.
Now, it should be mentioned that there are harmful desires that are unethical to engage in: damaging or taking others’ property, harming them, or engaging in certain acts with someone else against their will. This post isn’t about defining which acts are ethical or not, but it is worth pointing out that there are additional consequences for those sorts of behaviors and that you should generally find more positive/constructive/beneficial activities if you are sensing yourself wanting harmful things.
In conclusion, anything that is unpopular has a risk of others judging you if you do it. There’s not much you can do to (ethically) control others’ behavior in that regard. However, if you let others influence you, you risk never living the life that you truly want to live. So pick which way to approach those activities or behaviors that will leave you best off and do the best you can. You can always change your mind if you don’t like what happens. Just remember that your actions will affect your associations with others, so you need to be prepared to see them change—and might (have to) form new ones—once you decide to take the road less traveled.