For most people, the need for social acceptance is a very powerful force indeed. In fact, it is the hidden driver behind many of our behaviours, particularly when we are young. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective – to put it in the simplest of terms: if the tribe didn’t like you – your chances for survival were dramatically reduced. If your tribe liked you a lot – then you had ‘credit’ in the bank with them, for those times when you needed care or protection.
When I was a youngster, I had very few friends, particularly, between the ages of 10 to maybe 15. I remember feeling lonely, isolated and became very self-conscious about what I said, what I wore, how I looked, etc. I did not enjoy that period of my life very much. For me, things changed when I took up martial arts training – beginning with amateur wrestling when I was about 15 years if age. This built in me a kind of confidence that I had not previously possessed. That inner confidence allowed me to care less and less about what others thought of me – which in turn made me less, self conscious about what I wore, what I said, what I looked like. It was only when I became physically confident, that my mental confidence began to improve. In a relatively short space of time, I found that I didn't need to conform to earn te respect of others. The most that conformity could offer, was a way of blending in – a way of not being noticed. Now that would have been great, during those times when I felt victimised – but now that the bullies were looking elsewhere for their much-preferred easy target, I didn’t need to ‘travel unnoticed’. I began to more highly value my own ideas, my own way of being in the world, my own opinions (perhaps a little too much) and my own decisions. I no longer need the approval of others – I was no longer driven by what others think. It was that process that took me onto a path that has been underfoot my whole life. I like to listen to the opinions of others, of course, because there are many far wiser and better than I, but in the end, I make up my own mind, formulate my own opinions and decisions.
Your life is your own. Learn from others - of course; but don't conform for conformity's sake. The more you stand on your own two feet, the more others will come to accept you for being your own person. There may be a teething process to go through at first - a bit of pain to begin with - but the prize is worth it - to live creatively with a real sense of freedom and self-worth.