This world can suck sometimes. We’re forced to work forty-plus hours per week so that we can sustain ourselves, and use the little bit that’s left over to buy crap that will give us fleeting happiness or impress people we don’t care about. It’s insane. But it doesn’t have to be that we. You really can be yourself in a world holds you back.
How the World Holds you Back
I could probably write a freaking book on the ways that the world holds you back. It’s ridiculous! The world tries to funnel us all into these neat little packages of workers, but nobody truly fits into it. But for the sake of brevity, let’s just summarize two big ones.
The world starts holding you back as soon as you enter school. If you can’t sit quietly and absorb knowledge the way that the public school system wants you to, too bad for you. You will now be one step behind your peers for the rest of your life. Best of luck to you!
On the plus side, at least the school system tries to help kids that are falling behind. There are remedial classes, work-study programs, and workshop programs that let kids with differing abilities still get some type of education and experience. It’s not enough in my opinion, but at least it’s something.
Making a living
But it gets even worse when you are an adult. Now, no one even cares that the world is trying to hold you back. Oh, you’re an amazing artist? Too bad, nobody values that. Waste your life in a minimum wage job and try to find time to create art in your limited free time. Are you a super caring, giving person who values taking care of your family? Society scoffs at the idea that this type of work should be paid! You had better either marry well and hope you won’t get divorced, or spend your life working a miserable job so you can support that family.
Society pushes us all into jobs that it finds valuable, but not everyone has the aptitude (or interest) to be a doctor, engineer, or lawyer. Not everyone is good enough with their hands to work a trade. The world holds you back because it doesn’t care about any of that. If you aren’t good at what this world thinks you need to be good at, you’re kind of screwed. Honestly, this is why I love the idea of Universal Basic Income so much, it would help alleviate a lot of this. But unfortunately, we aren’t there yet, so we have to make do in the world we live in.
How to Be Yourself When The World Holds You Back
I know all that sounds terrible, and it can be. But it doesn’t have to be. You can still be yourself and find happiness in a world that holds you back. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. You just have to beat them at their own game – buck the system, fight back.
You can start by voting for politicians who support programs that will make life easier for regular folks. Wages have been stagnant while prices continue to increase – this has been forcing us to work even longer hours just to get by. It’s ridiculous. The only way to change this is to vote.
Create an Out
But we can’t just wait for policies to change – that could take years! In the meantime, you can start working on things that will help you opt out. If you are an artist, work on your paintings after work and set up an Etsy store to sell them. Into graphic design? Open up a Teepublic shop. If you love to write, start a blog or sign up for Hubpages.
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There are tons of small things you can do to start building your own business so that you can stop working for someone else. It may take a few years of hustling to build, but it’s not impossible.
Explore Financial Freedom
For me, pursuing financial independence is the path to being myself in this crazy world. I am stuck working a job I don’t necessarily like to pay the bills, but there’s a path forward. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. I only have to do this for a few more years and then I’ll be able to do whatever I want. I feel like being yourself really is the spirit of the financial independence movement anyway.
Financial independence may not be the right path for you, and that’s fine too. Not everyone wants to make sacrifices now for more freedom later, and that’s ok. It’s also true that not everyone has the financial means to pursue financial independence. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to be happy and be yourself though. There are tons of other less drastic and life altering steps you can take that will have a positive impact on your life.
Being yourself sounds easy, but it’s really not. There’s tons of pressure from society, work, peers, and everyone else to conform. You don’t have to though! Start with small things. Jam your music on the way to work. Bring in some plants or photos to make your workspace feel homier. Be proud of your hobbies, and find others who share your interests (Facebook groups and subreddits are amazing for this). Have a little fun with life!
When you start enjoying yourself, people will notice. And, shockingly enough, not in a bad way! People will be drawn to your energy and charisma. Most of them will respect the fact that you are doing your own thing and enjoying yourself. Sure, some people may “tsk tsk” you out of jealousy or some weird sense of what people “should do”, but are those the people you need to impress? Probably not.
Sometimes, as adults, we get so caught up in what people will think if they saw us that we forget to enjoy our lives. Stop caring what people think and do what makes you happy. If that means you want to go to cartwheels in an empty field, go for it. If you want to sing along to the song that’s playing at the grocery store, have at it. One or two people might judge you for it, but most people will appreciate your spirit (and you never have to see the ones who judge you again – so that’s a win!).
You will be so much happier once you start doing what you want to do and stop caring about what others around you might think about you. It’s freeing. One small caveat to this is don’t be a jerk. You can get silly and be yourself without hurting anyone else in any way.
Be the Change You Want to See
Instead or perpetuating the myth that we are only worth what we do by asking people “what do you do”, ask them what inspires them. Ask people what their favorite hobbies are, or what they do for fun. You can learn a lot more about people from their hobbies than from knowing how they pay their bills. Why did we decide as a society that how we pay our bills matters more than anything? That’s rather silly, isn’t it? We can start the cultural shift if we start asking people the right questions.
We have to walk the walk too – we have to stop judging others for how they feed their families. We have to show respect to the people earning the lowest wages or doing the dirtiest jobs. Let’s show them that they deserve human dignity and that their work is respectable. While we’re at it, we could also vote for policies that will help lift them up!
Are You Ready to Be Yourself?
There are tons of other things you can do to be yourself in a world that holds you back. The most important thing is getting over your fear and just going for it. It takes strength and courage. Are you ready to be strong?
Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.