Pressure can come in all forms and extremes in life. In fact, it’s necessary to bring out our utmost potential. But what is pressure and how can you be yourself during times of extreme influence or anxiety?
According to Hendrie Weisinger, Ph.D., stress refers to the situation of too many demands and not enough resources (time, energy, money) to meet them. Pressure, on the other hand, is a situation in which you perceive that something at stake is dependent on the outcome of your performance.
Pressure involves feelings and the constant need to produce specific tangible results. Some of the pressures our family imposes on us include having an X amount of kids, living in said town, or following after their footsteps by attending the same University and taking the same major. Same goes with our friends who want us to do certain things to “fit in” better, even if it’s against our moral and will.
They are experts at pushing our buttons – but just because they think they know what’s best, it doesn’t mean we have to carry out all their hopes for us. We have ambitions of our own, too.
Here’s how to be yourself when the pressure is high:
1. Be Open
“Openness is making your outer world as similar to your inner world as possible. “ – Unknown
We need to be open with ourselves before we can be open with others. Although it’s not easy since it makes you feel vulnerable, it is a gradual learning process. The first step to being more open is administering trust between you and your friendships.
The more your loved ones feel they know what’s going on in your life, the more comfortable they will be with your choices and life decisions. The more secretive and suspicious you seem, the more they’ll want to pry because they feel left out. Family should be the first people you can be yourself with.
It’s a two-way street. Be open to give and to receive – judgment, opinions, help, advice, etc. What people think is called a belief for a reason – you don’t have to follow or take them to heart.
Don’t leave problems unsolved. The more you understand each other, even if it’s just on a basic level, the more you’ll know how to be yourself around people. Being closed physically and emotionally is not healthy for anyone.
2. Build Your Confidence
Accept who you are; and revel in it.
― Mitch Albom
Don’t listen too much to what others say. The more self-assured you are, the less you’ll pay attention to what people say about you. You don’t need revalidation from anyone but yourself.
Dr. Sonia Kang, from the University of Toronto affirmed that “you should reflect on things that you know are good about yourself. Anyone has the potential to do really well […] It’s how you respond under pressure that makes a key difference.” In short, confidence is built through experience.
Who cares if others disapprove? They’re not the ones who will benefit, or learn, from the decision being made.
Take risks and celebrate your strengths, even if you have to do them alone.
3. Practice Independence
To find yourself, think for yourself.
The fewer friends you have, the less you’ll have to please. If they’re true to you, you wouldn’t even need to try so hard in the first place. Know when it’s time to segregate from your posse and be yourself when the pressure is high.
You can be yourself more during your alone time than in mingling with people whose different personalities you’ll have to adjust to.
Who needs to learn how to adult when we’ve got mom and dad, right? Maybe your reliance on your parents is exactly why you’re feeling pressured.
You haven’t had ample experience being away from them that you perceive their expectations as negative demands or a burden. You’ve depended on them so much you forgot to learn and do things on your own. If your parents pressure, shelter or baby you too much, let them know.
This includes financial independence, too. They will not always be there to provide for you like they used to when you were younger. Master the art of staying out of reach, while still keeping in touch.
Whether it is moving to a neighboring state or country, go out and spread your wings. Then, rent your own place, cook your own food, and clean up after yourself. One of the biggest learning experiences happens when you make your own decisions and live by them.
From then on, the only pressure you’ll have to agonize about is the kind you enforce on yourself. Trying times are the perfect opportunities on how be yourself and resolve problems your way.
4. Assess Your Self-Esteem
Or, rather, let us be more simple and less vain.
― Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Self-esteem can either make you feel worthy or unworthy. It’s the difference between success and failure. It’s answering the question, “how much do I like, and believe, in myself?”
There are external and internal factors. External factors refer to the way you look at yourself and how others treat you. Maybe you think too lowly of yourself and let other’s opinion of you dictate how you feel and act. You can be at the peak of your success and it still won’t be “enough” by their standards. More often than not, your notion of success is different from theirs.
Internal factors include how we mentally and emotionally treat ourselves. Give yourself pep-talks and pick-me-up speeches to be yourself when the pressure is high. Mix up the way you do things. In this fast-paced, dynamic world, a sense of stability within ourselves is becoming a necessity so we don’t lose our way in the process of self-discovery and self-improvement.
Stop walking around like you’re constantly under pressure. Not every situation calls for over-achievement and recognition. Sometimes, simply finishing what you’ve started is enough. Do it for your own personal satisfaction. YOU are worthy.
Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
[Inaugural Address, January 20 1961]”
― John F. Kennedy
Learn how to compromise. Not every situation is a “do or die”. Everyone has limits, and being aware of your family members’, your friends’ and your own are the key to reaching contentment.
Find out how you can give back to one another by setting realistic expectations. It’s easier to be yourself when you’re all on the same page. Understand that not all plans work out the way we want them to, and that’s okay.
Do not be afraid of disappointing your parents. Your accomplishments actually mean more to them than you think. Real friendship on the other hand, should never feel like a competition (except when you’re playing games, of course).
6. Find an Outlet
“The only pressure I’m under is the pressure I’ve put on myself.” – Mark Messier
If you have no one to talk to about your family/peer pressure, there are many avenues to release your feelings and frustrations.
One is through exercise. Instead of releasing your frustrations out on people, sweat it out or run until it no longer occupies your mind. Who knows, you might even be able to think of solutions while you’re at it.
Others choose to write them down on pen and paper. Documenting and letting loose your negative and worrisome thoughts prove to have a calming effect.
If pressure comes as a side effect or symptoms of anxiety, it’s best to consult with a medical professional. Temporary solutions can be found through self-help apps like Worry Watch, Sleep Watch, and Moods.
Anything that works for you, make use of it. What’s most important is that you don’t keep it all bottled up. Clearing your mind also clears your heart and your conscience. Avoid outbursts and breakdowns, don’t deny yourself the opportunity to vent and let off steam.
When you establish what kind of results you want to produce and are expected of you, the more you’ll know how to be yourself around everyone.
Pressure is justified and can be fleeting and relative if you allow it to. In the end, it’s up to YOU to determine how much pressure you’re willing to take and endure. Use it as a form of motivation instead of discouragement.
Being yourself doesn’t have to mean sacrificing who you are to meet others’ expectations.