There comes a point where you just don’t care anymore. Care about what everyone says about you. Care what everyone thinks about you. Society gives us a whole list of things that we “have to do.” Just simple things that I, as a person, must do to comply with everyone else and be deemed socially accepted. When I was growing up, my mom was a major influence on me. I wasn’t a very confident or socially outgoing child. I kept to myself. I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t really have the urge or want to do what everyone told me I had to do in life. But why? Why can’t we all make our own way in life without having to give in to what everyone expects us to do and behave. More importantly, why can’t we all make our own decisions in life without being attacked or marginalized for doing what makes ourselves comfortable.
All throughout my life, I have been used to people telling me what to do, how to do it, and where to go. It seems like I never really developed my own sense of worth. My own voice. My mom was the biggest factor in those developments. Don’t get me wrong. I love my mom very much, and miss her everyday since her death. I just wonder, however, how much life would have been different if I could have grown into my own personality instead of molded into what she wanted to what my father, brother, and/or sister wanted me to do. This is not the same thing as normal family bickering or parental guidance. No. This is about everyone telling me what I should act and say in life without caring about my own voice.
Ever since babies, humans are dictated towards certain personality traits or values in life. We are guided into “acceptable” social behavior. We are all given the chance to succeed, or fail, in life. There are many factors in the outcomes in our lives. Family. Friends. School. Environment. Culture. Economics. Etc., etc. At some point, though, we all have a chance to develop our own personality. A sense of right and wrong. Doing what makes us happy, and avoiding that which makes us sad. A sense of values. And a sense of how to act socially. I can’t complain about my upbringing, all things considered. I had loving parents, a stable home life, a decent neighborhood to live in. Nothing really happened that had an adverse effect in my childhood. And yet, I was unhappy. Depressed. I remember my mom always telling me I need to smile more. Just smile. I have such a beautiful smile. I have to smile more. Maybe I just didn’t feel compelled to “just smile” all the time. Didn’t see the need to do it just for the sake of smiling. There was one time, at a family gathering when I was about 16, I was sitting alone at one point in the evening. Just all by my lonesome at a table. Everyone else was socializing with someone. I didn’t feel the need to talk. I didn’t know how to socialize, as my social anxiety took ahold of me. But then my mom, seeing me at the table by myself, yelled at me to come over and sit at her table and with other people. I said no, I am good. So, she made one of the people at her table get up and sit at the table I was at. Just because I have to be with someone or talking with someone. That wasn’t me. I shouldn’t have to be forced into doing something just because someone else deed it necessary.
Thinking back to my childhood, everything was dictated by the phrase “you have to do it.” Regardless for anything. Going to the shore for family vacation? You have to do it. School is having a dance? You have to go. Kids are playing outside? You have to go and join them. When I was attending college, I was working in the restaurant business at the time as a line cook. After graduation, I was told I had to get a real job. What is a real job, anyways? My mom always told me to get a job in banking. No reason. Just had to. Well, I did get a job at a bank, as a teller. Lasted for about 16 months before being fired. And know what? I hated that job, too. Didn’t fit my personality. But I did it anyways, because that was expected of me.
I would be sitting in the basement, as a teenager, and my mom would be walking by to access the laundry room. She would say hi to me, which I ignored because I was a teen (and that’s what teens do) but also because I just didn’t see the need to say hi. She would stop, turn around to me, and say it again as if I was doing something nasty or wrong. Is that the way to go in life? Feeling that everything I did or said was wrong and make me feel insecure?
As I get older, I realize I had my moments of stubbornness. I just wanted to be my own person. To be comfortable with my own decisions in life. To be happy. That is everyone’s goal in life, right? There were times I could have been more accepting of what was chosen for me. But what is the point of living if we can’t make our own paths in life. Seeing where our own decisions take us, good or bad. And why should I care so much? I just wanted to be happy in life, just as anyone else. My idea of what constituted happiness was different than my family. My siblings were the social ones. Having dates and going to parties and doing stuff with friends. Me? I was usually at home, reading or watching TV or playing video games. Did that make me wrong? No. Just a preference. When everyone else in the family was going somewhere, I was told I had to go. Just because. Probably where my insecurities came from. The idea that I had to be compelled to follow what everyone else was doing. What I wanted to do? Didn’t matter. My voice was silent. I remember on my first few days of my freshman year of high school, I found out my dad called the school office saying he was concerned that I wasn’t involved enough with others at the school and wanted me to join a club or something. Embarrassed the hell out of me. Why couldn’t I make my own decisions in how to live my high school years (and yes, I do wish I did things differently)?
Thing is, the behavior continued into my 20s. Feeling insecure with my decisions. There were a lot of times I chose to do something that was derided by my family. My brother in particular would always say “You can’t do that” or “No, you have to do this.” My father was nice enough to take me furniture shopping. I chose to get a little couch for my room. My brother flipped out and said I should have gotten a bed frame, mattress, etc. Never mind I already had those things, he believed I should have chosen what he thought I should have done. None of this did my anxiety or depression any favors. It was all about what I was expected to do. Me? I knew what I wanted to do or have, even if I couldn’t articulate my thoughts.
Basically, what I am trying to get at in a long-winded way, is we shouldn’t feel like we must conform to a certain set of arbitrary rules to be accepted into mainstream society. It is easier today, thanks to the internet. We can reach out and share our stories or feelings, and there are other people out there they can relate. Sympathize. Back when I was a kid in the 80s and a teen in the 90s, that outlet didn’t exist. Made for a pretty lonely existence. I had to rely on my books, TV, and video games to get by. I did have some friends, kids that lived on the same street as me. But I was so socially anxious that I still felt like an outcast in the group, until they decided to move on without me.
When someone tells me I have to do something, it really means I have to do what they expect of me. What they want me to do or act. For a long time, that stigma of insecurity was hard to break. Even through my 30s, I lacked the confidence of wanting to do more, or do my own thing. When it came to an argument, I wouldn’t push my point fully due to my lack of confidence. I realized that I am responsible for my own happiness, not anyone else. I dictate how my life should be and where it goes. I don’t own anyone anything. I love to discuss things with others, and find a common ground. Or see where they are coming from. At the end of the day, though, when someone tells me I have to do it, or it is expected, it’s based on their values or needs, not mine.
I shouldn’t have to feel guilty for not caring about things others care about either. Because I don’t want to do something, it doesn’t make my lazy. Whatever it may be. It’s not about laziness. It’s about what I care about doing, or not doing. Different viewpoints do not make one wrong. It’s just different. And attacking someone for their own beliefs is not necessary. It’s all about own trying to control another’s actions. But there is free will. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness in life. They have to make it happen, not depend on what we have to do according to others.