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Defying Societal Pressures

In a world where societal expectations often dictate our choices and decisions, it’s essential to take a moment to listen to yourself, to your inner voice, and to make choices that resonate with your true desires. In this blog, I explore the concept of embracing who you really are, and making your own choices, free from the pressures of what’s considered “cool” or socially acceptable.

“It’s Ohio.” I’ve found myself saying these two words repeatedly over the years. Often, it slips from my lips when I’m in places that are considered, well, let’s just say, “better” for various reasons. These are usually big cities, supposedly more open-minded, forward-thinking, and hipper. Every time those words escape me, a slight wince follows. It doesn’t quite feel accurate. I take pride in my roots and where I come from.

If I could, I’d spend more time there, away from the pressures of a city that imposes an abundance of societal expectations regarding what’s “cool” enough to exist and what’s “successful” enough to claim personal value. I find that the places that are deemed to be “better” are often filled with individuals who arrive carrying a sense of being lost, a heap of insecurities, and the weight of feelings of worthlessness that they're trying to shed. The issue lies in the fact that instead of conquering their internal battles, many end up crafting a new set of norms for "coolness" that we're all expected to adhere to if we wish to belong. In trying to escape a sense of not fitting in where they came from, they inadvertently create the same alienation they fled from, now affecting the rest of us.

A conversation with a friend provided much-needed clarity regarding my sentiments. I had the privilege of listening to my friend Janet, as she shared her difficulty in deciding whether or not to move to Ohio to be close to family. Through our conversation, it became evident that society’s ever-present expectations had cast a heavy shadow on her decision making. We live in an era where opinions fly freely, often accompanied by emotional intensity and harsh judgment. Everyone seems to have something to say about our lives, a self-proclaimed expertise they’re eager to share. It’s quite amusing when many of these commentators seldom follow their own advice.

But let’s return to Janet’s story. She found herself feeling hesitant to confide in her friends in Colorado about an Ohio move. She feared judgment, recognizing that in the past, she might have cast similar judgments on someone else for such a decision – after all, “It’s Ohio.”

As she rehearsed speaking to her friends about her decision, she noticed a tendency to cast herself as a victim of her circumstances. The phrases that emerged were along the lines of, "Well, this is just what has to happen," or "We need the help, it's not my choice." This observation brought to light an important realization about her own mindset and the need to take ownership of her decisions. It became clear to her that she was afraid of fully owning this decision, and in the process, she realized that deep down, she genuinely wanted this move. She wanted Ohio.

We both understood the unwelcome sense of conformity, the desire to be “cool” that plagues many of us. People often feel the need to label what’s acceptable – from music choices to geographical locations to the coffee you choose to drink. The list goes on and on. We are told what we should care about and we are rarely invited to listen to the still voice that knows what is truly important to us individually.

Much like Janet’s experience, I’ve spoken ill of Ohio and my hometown to fit in, but I‘m pondering what it means to belong. What club exactly am I trying to fit into? Is it a club of individuals who like to utter the word “authentic” yet lack the emotional depth to embody it?

As Janet’s friend, I had the privilege of helping her remove the metaphorical needle that had been pricking her soul and keeping her locked in a state of confusion about what to do in this situation. Together, we reclaimed her excitement about moving to Ohio, driven by her love for family, her husband, and her two young children. In this process, we both discovered the power of being the “odd girl out” – daring to step away from the crowd and pursue a life that aligns with the core of who we are and what is important to us.

In a world that often emphasizes conformity, embracing your authentic self and making choices that align with your values is an act of courage and self-discovery. It’s a reminder that you have the power to define your path and live life on your own terms, free from the pressures of what’s considered “cool.” So, take a moment to listen to your inner voice, and let it guide you in making choices that reflect your true self. After all, being true to yourself is the coolest thing you can be.

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