Living an authentic life sounds a bit like a dream, doesn’t it?
Too many of us are weighed down by expectations — those invisible chains society loves to wrap around us.
I was reminded of this as I was thinking back to my past. I used to feel stuck, like I couldn’t truly be myself even though I desperately wanted to.
It got me thinking: what are these societal pressures that keep us from being our true selves?
So, I took a step back and identified 6 societal pressures that I’ve stopped caring about, and thanks to that I feel so much more free.
If you want to live a truly authentic life, you should say goodbye to them too. Ready? Let’s dive in.
1) The picture-perfect social media life
Oh, the allure of social media, where everyone seems to have their life together, right? From glamorous vacation shots to perfect selfies, it can feel like you’re so behind.
I remember spending hours scrolling through my feed, envious of friends and even strangers who appeared to be living the dream.
But then it hit me: was this curated life what they really lived 24/7? More importantly, was it what I wanted for myself?
The truth is, behind those picture-perfect posts often lies a reality that’s far from flawless. People show you what they want you to see, but that’s rarely the whole story.
I realized I was falling into a trap of trying to keep up, to present a life that would get me likes and followers but left me feeling hollow inside.
So, I decided to stop the charade. I started posting less but sharing more — more of the real me, the ups and downs, the imperfections that make life meaningful. And you know what? The world didn’t end. In fact, I felt a newfound sense of freedom and authenticity.
If you’re struggling to live up to the idealized images on your social media, take a moment to think about who you’re really trying to impress and why. Then give yourself permission to step back, be real, and embrace the messiness of a truly authentic life.
2) The “right” career path
Let’s talk about careers. We grow up with this idea that success looks a certain way: a well-paying job, a corner office, maybe even a title that impresses people at parties.
I remember the pressure to pursue a ‘respectable’ profession, something that would make my parents and society proud. And for a while, I was all in.
I even landed a job that looked fantastic on paper, but it felt like I was wearing shoes two sizes too small.
It took me some time to realize that my happiness couldn’t be dictated by someone else’s definition of success. I decided to switch lanes and follow a path that genuinely excited me — even though it was met with puzzled looks and raised eyebrows from those around me.
I won’t lie, it was a difficult transition. But every morning I woke up feeling alive, thrilled to dive into work that mattered to me.
If you’re in a job that looks good to the world but feels wrong to you, maybe it’s time for some soul-searching. Remember, the “right” career path is the one where you don’t have to sacrifice your true self. It’s where your passion and purpose intersect.
3) The timeline of life milestones
You know the timeline I’m talking about — graduate by 22, find your partner by 25, buy a house and start a family by 30. Ring any bells?
For the longest time, I felt like I was running a race against an invisible clock, set by society’s expectations of when certain life milestones should happen.
Heck, I even had a little panic when I turned 29 and realized I hadn’t ticked off half of these ‘must-dos.’
Here’s the thing, though. Life doesn’t operate on a set schedule, and neither should you. These timelines we set for ourselves — often under societal pressure — only add unnecessary stress and can even lead to poor decisions.
I’ve seen friends rush into marriages or stick with jobs they hate, all because they felt time was running out.
So I made a choice to let go of that timeline and trust the journey. And it was such a huge relief. For the first time in years, I felt like I could explore life at my own pace.
Don’t rob yourself of the joy of your journey by comparing it to someone else’s destination. Your milestones aren’t overdue; they’re just taking the time they need to align with the person you’re still becoming.
4) The need for approval
This was probably the societal pressure I struggled with the most. Whether it was dressing a certain way, telling jokes to make others laugh, or even my morning routine, I found myself looking outward for validation rather than trusting my own choices.
“Will they like me if I do this? What will people think if I choose that?” These questions used to haunt me daily.
You can probably tell just from reading this that it’s exhausting to live a life tailored to fit someone else’s standards or expectations.
And the kicker? Most people are too wrapped up in their own lives to give your decisions more than a passing thought.
I learned this the hard way when I made choices just to fit in, only to find out that the approval I received was fleeting and superficial.
I reached a point where I had to ask myself, “Who am I really doing this for?” I gave myself the permission to make decisions based on what felt right for me, not for anyone else.
It’s okay to want to be liked and accepted, but not at the expense of your own authenticity. Once you free yourself from the burden of needing approval, you’ll start seeking it from the only person that matters: yourself.
5) The fear of missing out (FOMO)
You’re probably familiar with FOMO — the itch we get when we think life is happening and we’re not a part of it.
It’s a side effect of social media, where you can learn about more events and parties than you could possibly attend.
I must admit I used to have crazy anxiety because of this. I would make myself spend even more time on social media just so I could catch wind about these events in time — and then I would agonize over which one to go to.
But you know what? Whenever I pushed myself to go somewhere, I never really enjoyed myself.
And I’m sure the others could also see that my vibe was off, so I wasn’t forming any meaningful connections either.
Essentially, by worrying about what I was missing, I was actually missing out on my own life. So, I chose to take a step back. I started asking myself, “Do I really want to do this, or am I just scared of missing out?”
Shaking off FOMO isn’t about cutting yourself off from the world, but about cutting out the noise so you can focus on what’s genuinely important to you. If you do that, you won’t fear missing out — you’ll be too busy enjoying your own journey.
6) The myth of constant productivity
In a world obsessed with hustle and grind, we’re often led to believe that every minute not spent productively is a minute wasted. This mindset can become a heavy burden.
I used to feel like I had to be “on” all the time. If I wasn’t working, learning, or achieving something, I felt lazy or guilty — and I still do sometimes.
Social media doesn’t help, either. It’s flooded with people showing off their latest accomplishments, and coaches teaching you how to do more in less time.
But we’re not machines programmed to churn out work non-stop. We need rest, we need play, and we need moments to simply be.
I’ve even discovered that my most creative ideas and deepest insights don’t come when I’m hustling, but during the quiet moments when I allow myself to breathe and be present.
So let’s bust the myth: you don’t have to be productive 24/7 to be successful or fulfilled. In fact, you can’t.
The key is balance. Know when to push hard, and know when to take a step back to recharge. That way, you won’t just be filling your time—you’ll be enriching your life.
Stepping into your truly authentic self
You’ve just read about 6 societal pressures you have to let go of if you want to live a truly authentic life.
Of course, there are many more pressures than just these 6 — but these are the ones that I’ve personally let go of in my life, and seen a massive transformation in how liberated I feel.
It can be overwhelming to try to change too many things at once, so focus on one at a time.
You’ll be sure to discover lots of insights about yourself, and how you truly want to live.