Seeking Social Validation: Living a “Lie”

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

-The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost

In a world judged by the number of Instagram followers and LinkedIn experiences, all of us, at some point in time, have fallen prey to the 21st-century conception of the rat race. Humans have always been social animals since the very advent of time, and so us, seeking and chasing social
validation does not come much as a surprise. However, what is disturbing is how it has started affecting our smallest and most important decisions, ranging from career choices to putting on a ‘likeable’ outfit the next day. This, in turn, has given rise to pop culture, fashion, and trends. We
are so busy copying others that we end up losing ourselves in the process. even though we all may be intrigued by the Oscar Wilde quote, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken,” it is challenging to implement it in our own lives.

The primary factor of this consequence can be cited to the fear of failure and rejection. If at least we move along with the herd, even if we fail, we can only blame the ‘society’; for instance, “my parents made us do this, and so I was bound to fail.” However, it takes a certain amount of
courage to venture out and explore on your own. It needs discipline, determination, and commitment, and if any of this is lacking, you may be back to square one, except now, there would be nobody to blame except for yourself. But I say it’s okay to fail, for then, the victory or the failure would be purely yours. Even the failure will make you learn and grow, and one step closer to understanding what life is really about, which may not hold true, in case of the former where you are just doing something out of others’ will, what you think you want but not actually what you want. You are not being true to your own self. Look in the mirror and ask yourself if that’s really who you are, or are you just a reflection of someone else’s idea of you.

What’s surprising is that most of the individuals before taking up something purely out of their own individual will, will imagine all the possible outcomes, possibly in the form of failures. Not once do they stop and wonder what will happen if they actually succeed, the amount of ecstasy it
would provide them with. The bottom line they fail to familiarize themselves with is that each one of us is absolutely unique; depending on if somebody “likes” you or not is an utter mockery because they are as much a human as you are, and are still trying to figure out life just like you.
They may appear “perfect” on the outside but maybe fighting their own battles somewhere deep and dark, inside. Just because something worked out for somebody else, does not necessarily imply that it will, for you, too. You have to find your own path and leave your unique imprints
on the sand of time. As Stephen Chbosky puts it in The Perks of Being a Wallflower,

So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them.But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”

Ever since the dawn of civilization, artists and philosophers have been stressing on this underlying idea, which has been revolutionary in certain ways. One such controversial work in the world of cinema was the 2015 Bollywood movie, Tamasha, where the lead protagonist is lost in a tug of war of what the society wants him to be versus what he really is. The only outlet left to vent out his internal drive and passion is living a “lie”. It aptly describes us, humans, as “mediocre” (common man) machines working 24×7, running in “the race”. “Walk. Stop. Agree. Look down. Be happy. “ Because everyone else is, that’s why I am running.” No one once stops and asks, “why?”, a concept we are deeply sublimed towards for “you seem to have dialed a wrong number,” the bottom line being that we are so busy in being ordinary that we lose our one chance at being extraordinary and unstoppable, at the cost of our own mental health and passions. The only one who did remind us of how special we are was ‘childhood,’ which too became dormant in the not-so-fearless and accepting world. Does growing up imply killing your ambitions, hopes, and dreams?

We are so consumed by this apparent sense of validation that our choices are defined by other people. If you, personally ask me, I would like to become a writer (not taking into consideration what other people may say about my unusual choice of profession), wear loose clothes and pants
in which I feel comfortable (notwithstanding the current fashion or the fact that as a woman, I’m supposed to only wear uncomfortable skinny jeans), travel around the world, change jobs, and most importantly, never ‘settle’, because once I do that, I’d be giving in to the societal expectations and turning down any scope for improvement or opportunity, and that should never be the case. Breaking ‘norms’ is what we all need to adhere to, especially in uncertain times like these when we don’t know what the future holds for us. “And whether or not it is clear to you, no
doubt the universe is unfolding as it should… And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” (Desiderata, Max Ehrmann).

-Annanya Chaturvedi

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