Who would you be if you could shut out the opinions and judgements of the world? If you were truly comfortable in your own skin? How would you live if social media didn’t exist? If you only lived by your own standards?
Oh wait, you can.
I was born with a spirit that was free, rebellious, and innovative. It was dampened and hardened over time with cultural restrictions, societal expectations, and limiting beliefs. I was born in the US, but into a Middle Eastern, Muslim culture. My family had just fled Afghanistan from war, and it was instilled in me from a young age to ‘cover up’ and ‘behave properly’ to ‘uphold’ the family name. They were mentally still back home, and I had to take on their beliefs because of it. It only got worse as I went into my teenage years. It was all about reputation and how I appeared to others to the point of being told ‘watch how you act and dress when you go to the mall, someone we know might see you.’ It was debilitating to my essence.
Then, of course, there’s the common things everyone growing up goes through. We want to fit in and wear what all the cool people are wearing. We want to be appealing, so we feel we should hang out with certain types of people in certain types of crowds. We have to like what others like and do what others do to be liked, so we shut down our real thoughts and voices.
Lastly, there’s society—the broader level of what affects us all into worrying so much about how we are viewed. There’s the thought process of ‘no, this is how it’s done and this is what everyone wants, so you should, too.’ I am grateful I missed the era of social media in high school, which started when I was in college, but it has greatly changed and increased the impact of society on everyone. Social media is a great tool, don’t get me wrong—I love it. It just comes down to having to be mindful and conscious of how we use it, rather than letting it use us. Society has set a certain standard of the ideal face and body type, the ideal ‘lifestyle’, the brands and outfits to buy, etc. Media tells us what to believe and what to fear, and we do it. They tell us who to love and who to follow, and we do it.
When does it all end? The first step is asking: What is it that I actually like and believe?
I spent almost two decades caught up in all of this. I did everything to fit in, not to stand out. I picked clothes based on what I thought others would like, from friends, boyfriends, family, to society as a whole. I carefully would say I liked certain things that would make me look cool, rather than share what I truly liked. I posted on social media only with the intention of wanting more ‘likes’ than posting what I actually felt good about. I lived my whole entire life in accordance to what everyone said is ‘normal’ or ‘true success’, rather than what I truly wanted. It was exhausting, to say the least.
A few years back, after suffering from high anxiety and depression, which I now know was because I wasn’t living in alignment with my soul, I was led to my path of enlightenment. I started to learn more through research and reading about spirituality and self-development. I sat in meditation more to learn who I truly was. I started to uncover all of these beliefs that I had picked up along my life that were not even mine. Little by little, with a lot of mindfulness, I was able to create a life that was truly mine, and not anyone else’s.
I started wearing clothes I truly felt good and comfortable in and never asked anyone for their input again. I stopped trying so hard to have the perfect skin or perfect body and accepted my ‘imperfections’ with love. I focused more on feeling healthy rather than looking perfect. I stopped posting on social media for likes and started posting what I actually liked. I used it as a tool to express my creativity rather than thinking more likes and comments somehow validated my worth. I realized a corporate 9-5 was never for me and never would be, and went full on into my own business ventures that were aligned to my purpose. I never watch the news or give in to fear-based topics, and I always feel liberated. I learned what my individual soul needed and set boundaries with everyone around me to make sure I protected my energy. I stopped giving a damn about reputation and how others saw me, knowing the only opinion of me that matters is my own.
I went from feeling fearful and forcing life to living in complete fulfillment with faith and flowing with life.
If this resonates with you and you find you still have any of those limiting habits and thought patterns that keep you as a prisoner to the way others view you, then just know you can break free, too. First comes awareness, then the mindful changes, then the freedom.