Have you been on social media lately and watched from the sidelines as someone’s comment attracts vicious strangers to start their own war among one another, over something one believes or says? I have. Sometimes it’s amusing, others it’s downright depressing. Our society continues to trample on people who are not following the herd mentality, while preaching “you do you” and “I’m going to do me no matter what anyone thinks.” It’s hypocritical but also harmful. Since we’re in school, parents tell us not to follow peer pressure. Yet, as you get older, you face the consequences of thinking for yourself in the cloud of ego and manipulation surrounding our environment. I don’t want my child thinking it’s not alright to be a trailblazer. Yes, it comes with pressure of its own and you have to fight off the naysayers at every corner, but it’s beautiful to try the path less taken in order to figure out who you are, what you want, and how God wants you to fulfill your purpose.
I spent years being a puppet for my parents or a sucker for anything my boyfriends told me was “cool” or “acceptable.” I felt solid footing after giving birth to my second child, and learning my voice mattered and enforcing that by making people listen. The nurses and doctors, even anesthesiologists, were on board with the things I required of my birth experience. Why did I require them? Because they minimized my stress and anxiety and no one could give me a good reason why the alternatives were better. From declining useless screens and test on my newborn to choosing who would be able to see me in the operating room and who wouldn’t be able to visit me at the hospital in general, I found these catered preferences made my second birth more enjoyable. I was more calm and able to focus on my baby instead of worrying about insurance costs, whether the hospital would be storing my placenta for research or selling it to make-up conglomerates, or if an annoying family member would be knocking at my door as if I’m half-naked in recovery simply because that time was convenient for them.
Ever since then, I’ve been more assertive. Of course, you never want to be rude, because people are just trying to do their job. Some don’t want to go the extra mile to listen, but with things like delivering a human, that is their job. The woman matters as much as the baby’s life. It’s her body and her decision what will happen. With a natural birth, things may be different, but you can still exercise control by learning about your doctors, hospital policies, and settting boundaries where possible. The same goes with people in your everyday life. The reason most Americans suffer from anxiety and depression is because they live on their Facebook page doomscrolling and reading everything from criticism about them and their thoughts to harassment and bullying from others who cling so tightly to their views, they forget they live in America–where we are all entitled to our own opinions, views, and freedom of speech. Donald Trump got kicked off Twitter for different reasons, but the point about that is he can still say what he wants–just not using their platform! When you sign up for things like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like, you agree to a set of terms for use. Whenever you violate those rules, the owners of the platform have the right to delete your account. But that’s not because that’s how America works, it’s because owners of a tool can make their own rules. They get to play god in their little world.
However, people can’t play that role in your life.
If you have a thought, perspective, or belief about something, you have every right to stick to it. What you can’t do is act violently on behalf of said belief. These days though, it seems half the country understands this and simply remains quiet when the other half says something they don’t like–while another portion of our society does whatever it can in its power, using words or actions, to beat people on the head with their beliefs. They think they’re the “right” ones and so everyone must follow them or die. That’s ridiculous. Herd mentality is good for the government, because they just have to get a few people to convince the rest, and then they’re set. But it’s not good for those who don’t want to be followers. You get bullied for not following the crowd, despite your reasons, and no one respects your beliefs. That’s the true tragedy, because then people who want to stay in a corner are either manipulated or threatened to go where the pack leads, or they break from the cruelty and either kill themselves or stay silent for the rest of their lives about what matters to them.
I’ve met so many people in my lifetime, from different walks of life, and they have varying views. Some didn’t match up with mine, others were upset with mine, and some still don’t even know mine because I’m not close to them. But we can still be in the same room without beating each other with a bat, because we learn how to navigate the waters of our relationship–whether it’s a coworker, friend, or family member. The first step to remaining stress free is to learn about the people you interact with, and decide how you will proceed in that relationship in order to not have unwanted drama. If you want to keep to yourself, that’s your choice. If you want to share your opinions, but know it will start a fight, then maybe they’re not the friend for you.
Smart people understand there are various views, or lack of views. They know not to behave like monsters, because this is the country we live in. If you’re the type of person that hates anyone who doesn’t agree with you, imagine what it would be like if no one agreed with you and you were harassed for it. If that’s what you like, you need to move to China or Russia or somewhere without the liberties that make this country what it is. And what it’s supposed to be.
The next thing I do to stay stress-free is remind myself that my views are my own for a reason, and that reason supercedes what other people say or think. No one said it would be easy to live in this world, and I fully comprehend that. But it doesn’t mean I’m going to change who I am simply because others don’t understand how the government (or life) works.
If you’re not sure how to remain assertive without losing your calm, or your identity, keeping quiet until you trust people is a good choice, too. While you don’t want people in your life who will not respect you, there’s something to be said about how long it takes for you to figure out someone’s true colors.
When social media gives you too much to handle, and you’re stuck in a sea of depression, do something about it. You know what you believe in, but people keep pointing fingers at you, laughing, shaming, or upsetting you, then remove social media from your life–either temporarily or permanently. The issue with feeds is that you can’t control what will pop up at a given time. Words do hurt, even if they come from strangers, but the less control you have over the situation you’re putting yourself in, the more likely you are to rack up stress and feel confined to that bubble. It’s suffocating, and no one deserves that. When deleting or pausing your account is as easy as clicking a button, I say do it. Or block relentlessly, until you only have people that respect others on your account. If that’s not possible, filter, filter, filter, and understand it’s better to have 10 followers who celebrate you than 10,000 who are ignorant and misinformed. Their parents didn’t raise them right, and there’s nothing you can do to fix them now. So don’t try. Just find ways to remove the drama from your corner. When people block me because they don’t like what I have to say, I’m happy they saved me the time. Learn to own it. People are annoying, and nothing truly special when their mind is so damaged, they want to hurt others instead of living their lives.
So we can get rid of social media drama, but you have family members and friends that are still lurking around who you’re not ready to sacrifice…yet. Then what? Well, if someone’s inviting you over and you know they’re going to make you feel uncomfortable, make the decision to not go. You’re in control of your life, not them. But the more you allow them to make choices for you, the more you’ll feel awful. People who make you feel awful are not worth the stress. If you can limit your contact with them, then do so. You can still be cordial without obliging to their every request. I’ve done that with my own family and my in-laws, because I don’t like being around some of them. They’re judgmental, rude, or downright aggressive, and I am an adult. I know how to avoid that, and I will, even if it hurts their feelings. They may be offended by my lack of presence, but it just shows them that I am not a puppet subject to their unreasonable expectations. If they want me around or like my friendship, they can change their ways.
Of course, the essence of all of this is communication. Some people do their best and still don’t know they’re hurting you. You need to be adult enough to talk with them. If they aren’t willing to listen, at least you did your part. If they don’t care to upset you, just so they can get their way, then good riddance. You don’t need that in your life. And if someone says you have to do or say something to appease someone else, then that other person must be very weak if they need people to walk on eggshells around them. Don’t let yourself succomb to these pressures simply to protect someone else’s ego. Two adults can come to a resolution over an argument or conflict. And if the problem is one adult who can’t get over the fact that there are tons of views in this country, and world, then they need to work through that themselves. Don’t blame yourself.
It’s not easy to be stress-free in a polarized society, but you can do it if you prioritize your feelings over others’ thoughts. Who cares what people think? They should be embarassed of themselves if they are trying to control what others do, say, and think. This world will always have people who don’t agree. The issue is not that they share opposing views, the issue is the people who can’t interact with others unless they are the same as them. For a country who pretends to celebrate diversity and equality, there are sure lots of folks who don’t get that equality means we all have equal rights to say what we want, worship who we want, vote whichever way we want (or don’t vote at all), and live in the way that best displays our values.
If you know people who are trying to crush your way of living in favor of theirs, then you know it doesn’t feel good. Don’t do it to others. The easiest way to make a change is to first become the change. I know how to keep quiet when I don’t agree with someone, or better yet, how to ask people questions so I LEARN different views. Unfortunately, too many Americans sit on their pedestal, refusing to learn and willing to be ignorant simply because they think this is a battle of who’s right and wrong. That’s so far from how it should be that I understand the stress it can create, but I’m doing my best to live above it and show my kids that’s not how adults should behave, and that they shouldn’t ever fear being themselves.
Play your part, take a deep breath, and we will be closer to the type of society our founders imagined when they created the Constitution.