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Your Goals or Someone Else's?
be the person you wish to be - not what someone else makes of you

A pretty standard scenario might unfold during a meeting of friends, anywhere anytime. One says: “You really should grow your hair long.” Had they included: “In my opinion…” or something similar, the words could have been taken as a simple suggestion; but that’s not the way they came out. What, in fact, they have done is criticise our appearance and provided a remedy which, supposedly, we ought to be grateful for. How we respond, both at the time and later, is a fair guide to their influence over us and whether we have the fortitude and self-confidence to make our own decisions. This kind of situation occurs frequently, and if we do take notice to the point where we adopt advice, despite feeling uncomfortable with it, we have succumbed to manipulation. We have accepted another person’s goal in preference to our own. In the scheme of things, an example such as this is quite petty and is unlikely to have far-reaching consequences; unfortunately, allowing others to make decisions for us can evolve into a habit. Before long, we cease being who we want or need to be, rather becoming instead a product of another’s desires.

This kind of indoctrination has been going on for a long time. As a child, personal choices were few. Responsibility for what we did, our appearance and dress, and day-to-day routine were regulated by parents or carers. These adults may have had expectations and aspirations regarding our future, but positive guidance in this regard would come later. For the time being, they accepted that our view of the world was limited, so our wish to be a starfighter or a movie actor when we grew-up was never taken seriously. Even so, while the Olds were happy to simply protect and guide, there were others of lesser years with their own agenda, often sinister and purely selfish. Remember the kid who suggested a course of action which we took in ignorance only to land up to our neck in hot water? We would probably have offered the tired excuse: “She made me do it.” Disapproving adults might then have come back with: “If she’d told you to jump off a cliff, would you have done that?” Here there were two forces working on us: a childish, mischievous one urging us to accept a dare which they knew would get us in trouble; the other being a parental warning to think for ourselves and not to trust everything that presents itself to us. Unfortunately, this philanthropic wisdom was fairly hypocritical because their personal need for a greater influence was waiting in the wings to rear its ugly head. On sports days they were there on the side-lines, shouting advice and encouragement; then afterwards launching into a critical appraisal of our performance, how to improve it, and the likely consequences if we didn’t. Later came increased pressure as they tried to steer our life in a similar direction to their own, but with better results; or maybe away from it because they wanted us to succeed whereas they had failed. No wonder maturing children seeing their individuality being taken from them want to break free.

Once out in the big wide world, the manipulation goes on, although it may not be recognised as such. Peer pressure is accepted because it just seems like friends offering available choices that could be beneficial – but for whom? It may be discovered later that some mentors are far less interested in our well-being than they are in their own self-confidence. Without the endorsement of the majority, they begin to doubt their decisions, both casual and lifestyle. Vegetarians, non-smokers, teetotallers, wannabe trend-setters, all of them would like to believe that their choice of lifestyle and appearance is universally desirable and will guarantee a healthy, comfortable and enjoyable future; but they aren’t 100% sure, so they try to convert as many as possible to the cause. Maybe their suggestions are well-meaning and might work for some, but they could be totally unsuitable for our situation. Then there are the ones who insist we do this or change that mainly to satisfy their own secret agenda, caring little for the consequences we might have to suffer. Why do they really badger us to go to the party – because they know we will enjoy it, or because we are always a source of amusement, for them in particular? Or could it be that we are the only one with a car and haven’t lost our licence like the rest of them? It’s pretty naive to think that everyone only wants the best for us and not for themself.

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