You know that feeling when you’re doing something or being somewhere and your heart’s just not in it? It might be your job, your relationship, a family event or a social gathering. Whatever it is, you know deep down that you don’t really want to be there but, you felt like you had to do it because that’s what everyone else was doing. You felt like you didn’t have any other options. You felt like you just couldn’t say no. So, there you are, in that icky situation and you’re feeling… strong, capable, empowered, resilient? Of course not, you probably feel the opposite of all those things. You feel irritable, weak, trapped and maybe even like the slightest challenge could tip you over the edge. This is the opposite of resilience and it’s what you experience when you follow the crowd, instead of following your truth. Resilience isn’t just about how you think and how you handle your emotions. It’s also about authenticity, it’s about how true you are, to you.
Why we choose the crowd over our truth
There are many things that we could say no to but, we don’t because we’d rather follow the crowd. We might think they are just small things – like going to social gatherings with people we don’t really connect with or, wearing clothes that are popular even though we don’t feel comfortable in them. The problem is, we do these small things repeatedly and the negative effects compound as we get further and further from our truth.
We do this because we don’t want to be the odd one out, we don’t want to disappoint people, to be judged and rejected by them. If we’re not with the crowd then we’re alone, this triggers our primal conditioning that wants us to be part of a community as a matter of survival. When we lived out in the wilderness we would never survive alone, we’d literally be at risk of dying. The reality in the modern world is that we can walk alone and we won’t die but, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a deep desire to feel ‘part of something’, to feel like we ‘belong’, to feel like we’re accepted and included. Relationships are critical to our wellbeing and if we walk alone we will feel fear, shame and guilt as warnings that we may lose those relationships. Unsurprisingly, we’d rather avoid that. So, instead of saying ‘no’ to things we don’t really want to do or saying ‘yes’ to who we really are, we begrudgingly continue to follow the crowd.
Daring to walk alone also has its challenges, the solo path is far from rosy. If we choose it, we may avoid the resentment of doing things we don’t want to do, but we do pick up the guilt for saying ‘no’. Whilst that might not sound much better, Dr Gabor Maté advises: ‘if you have to chose between guilt and resentment, choose guilt every time’. His book ‘When The Body Says No’ explores the long term, detrimental health impacts of people living inauthentically, pleasing others all the time instead of themselves and hiding their true feelings. A series of chronic illnesses result because if you don’t say no, your body will.
In addition, the more we do things we don’t want to do, the more unhappy we are, the more we engage in behaviours like addictions and overly hedonistic pursuits to try and make ourselves feel better. These behaviours can cause us physical harm and keep us away from deeper wellbeing, health, resilience and fulfilment.
What’s the other option?
To be brave and say ‘no’.
There’s nothing more to it. Where the body goes, the mind follows. The more I say no and move my body into doing something authentic instead of following the crowd, my mind becomes less resistant as it learns that not only is it OK to do that, it’s critical to my own wellbeing and happiness.
Dr Lehan Stemmet’s TEDx talk on resilience is full of gems, one in particular really resonated with me as I feel I have lived it myself – and that is that resilient people turn Maslow’s hierarchy on its head. Rather than working their way up through physical health, relationship and safety needs, they head straight for the top and seek self-actualisation. To me, this is living as your most authentic self, doing what you’re most inspired and compelled to do. It’s following your truth, instead of the crowd.
Another angle as described by Dr John Demartini, is that people who live in accordance with their true values (i.e. not to the values of the crowd) are the most capable of handling challenges. They are more resilient. I’ve also noticed this in my life. When I’m doing what I love, I unleash a new level of inner strength.
And there’s another bonus
Being more resilient is a huge gift that comes with authentic living, but there’s, even more, to be gained from following your truth instead of following the crowd. When you align with your truth, you open up to more flow, connection, ideas, productivity, creativity and energy. You might be surprised what you start being capable of. As an example, it can often take me ages to come up with a blog idea and content. But this one? It flowed through me effortlessly on a train ride home, where I was riding away from something that I didn’t want to do, and I’d had the courage to say no to. Instead of being drained by spending time doing something with the crowd, I took the solo path of my own truth and put myself in alignment. Not only does that feel superb, but it gets great results. I want more of that. Do you? If so, you know what to do.
About the author: Pinky Jangra
‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’
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