"You Don't Have to" Series, Independence

You Don’t Have to: Like Stuff that Other People Like

Here’s to New Years resolutions! Blogging has been bench-warming for almost half a year while I focused on some other exciting activities in my life. However, I’ve at least been piling my drafts folder to the brim with half-baked ideas. So with the motivation kick a new year brings, I’m ready to get back to it and publish some stuff. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t think I like the beach. I’m not a big fan of Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes.  I have no interest in increasing my Twitter followers. And I just could not get into House of Cards.

But would you agree that we tend to convince ourselves that we like these sorts of things anyways, simply because everyone else seems to? Personally, I get these micro-pangs of guilt because I feel like I’m supposed to like them.

We buy a brand new TV perhaps not because we highly value 4K resolution, because our neighbor has one. We pour our savings into a mortgage on a big house, even though we love our little rental suite. We use precious vacation time to travel to Mexico even though we don’t actually enjoy sitting on hot sand all day.

“I feel sweaty.”

We make countless decisions, form habits, and buy stuff we don’t need purely in attempts to keep up with those veritable Joneses. But do we ever really question it? How often do we take a step back and really think ‘why?’

Well, the ‘You Don’t Have to’ series is back to deliver a simple but very liberating truth: you don’t have to like what other people like. I hope it plays back in your head the next time your faced with this conundrum.

And I bet my fellow introverts out there can resonate with this feeling especially. We’re commonly faced with the guilt of staying in to practice guitar rather than going out to the Guns n’ Roses Reunion Tour concert.

But it can be anything. Maybe you don’t want kids. Maybe you can’t stand going to restaurants, shopping, eating birthday cake, sleeping in, celebrating Christmas, or wearing pants.

And that’s just fine.

I think people are starting to figure this out.

Just look at the success of Soylent, the grey slurry-like substance that completely removes the need for meal planning. You don’t even have to like food anymore! For me, the promise of eating is probably what gets me out of bed every day. But maybe it’s not for you!

Or look at the rising interest in tiny homes and #vanlife. It’s made up of people who have come to the conclusion that ‘hey, I don’t need to live like other people live.’

And in a time where the traditional rigidity of 9-5 jobs are decreasingly jiving with new generations, more and more young folks are creating their own jobs, or even entirely new industries.

However, it’s certainly easier said than done.

Psychologists have repeatedly shown that we’re a species that’s highly susceptible to conformity. And then pile on the power of modern advertising and online social pressure, and it can feel enormously difficult to distinguish between what we truly enjoy, and what we’re supposed to enjoy.

I can attest to this, having made countless upon countless dumb purchases and life decisions based not on deep reflection or careful thought, but because Steve had one, so I figured that I wanted one too.

And it’s not just the little things. For years I felt the pressure to stay in my cushy oil and gas engineering job. It paid well, there were lots of great people, and I was generally accepted by my peer group: I had a good job. ‘I should like this,’ I thought….’but I don’t.’

Most of us will spend our entire lives trying to figure out who we really, really are. But a small first step you can take is be conscious of those things you’re supposed to like, and then filter them out.

The next step is, once you find them, to embrace those things that are really ‘you.’

Imagine more people saying things like ‘I’m really into Japanese sword collections’, ‘I sold my car and bought a Segway,’ ‘I just have a landline phone’, ‘the only color of clothing I own is turquoise’, ‘my life dream is to eat a local hot dog in every country around the world.’

I fully expect to continue impulse-buying the latest running shoes or drinking wine even though I really don’t think I like wine. This is totally normal. I learn from making bad decisions. But the trick is to not hang on to them once I figure out that they’re just not ‘me.’

So even if it’s in the most miniscule of ways, I say strive for non-conformity.  Carve out that one little corner of yourself that is really, truly you, and just rock it.


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