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I would like to see more of you

Yes, you.

Individualism is the most popular and widely adopted religion on the planet today. We no longer hold parents responsible for what their kids did or hold village elders responsible for what their villagers did. We don't pay taxes based on what we earn as a family, we do it individually. We don't get a collective single grade for the team at the workplace during appraisals, but distinct individual grades for every team member, even though it was the team that could deliver the result and not the individuals themselves.

Our entire society is structured around individualism. Every individual is a separate entity with her own identity and desires and capabilities and choices. And each of us takes pride in this societal structure and consider ourselves independent.

With this being the case, it is amusing (or shocking, depending on how you look at it) that the popular advice you see out there is to 'do what you like' and to 'do what you are passionate about'.

I find it amusing because the whole premise of individualism to me is that every individual is setup to do what they like and to do what they are passionate about, which should make this advice redundant in a society like ours. It should be the equivalent of people telling you all the time that you have to eat food.

Duh! Of course I eat food. I wouldn't know how else to survive.

But that is clearly not the case when it comes to doing the things we like. Precisely because most people want to do it and still aren't doing it, is it the popular advice. (Side note, the secret recipe for coming up with a popular advice is to figure out what a lot of people want to do but still aren't doing it.)

So why do we not do it?

Despite branding ourselves as independents living in an individualistic society, the prime motivator for nearly all of us is societal acceptance. We want to be accepted by the people around us. We want to be accepted by our friends and our colleagues and our family.

In this quest, we try to do things that we think all these groups of people want us to do in order for us to be accepted by them.

At the same time, all these other people are also thinking the same way. So, they think what we ought to like is what we are doing.

And this goes into an endless loop of every person trying to do what she thinks others want her to do, who in turn think they should accept her for what she does.

In the process, individualism goes for a toss.

Consider a practical example. A person that really likes to read and write, ends up taking up a job as a software engineer. She does so because she thinks others will value her less if she makes less money by spending her days reading and writing rather than working as a software engineer. Now that she is making money in a job she doesn't like so much, she doesn't really know what to spend it on. So she goes out to fancy restaurants and travels to distant cities and buys expensive clothes, because she thinks this is what her friends and family would expect her to do and she just wants to fit in. She even begins to enjoy doing this, but not as much as she would enjoy spending her time reading and writing.

Let's consider the contrary case where she decides not to take up the software engineering job and spends her time reading and writing instead. Now she makes much lesser money. As a consequence, she is unable to go to the fancy restaurants and travel to distant cities like many of her friends do. So, she begins to lose most of these friends as the overlap of their interests and things they can do together start to dwindle. Sure, she makes new friends who also like to read and write and who also make less money like her and enjoy the same activities as her. But, like all humans, she is affected more by the prospect of (and actual) loss than the consequent gain. The loss hurts her a lot more than the new friends she gains. Moreover, she would go through this all over again if after a few months or years, her passion shifts from reading and writing to baking.

So, when I see people around me, I don't really see them. I see reflections of their social circle.

And that doesn't seem to be working so well, evidence for which can be seen in the increasing cases of depression and lower mental fitness. The explanation and the blame for which quite often resides on the shoulders of individualism.

But, we aren't really an individualistic society. Not in the true sense of the word. We will only be so when we see more of each other and less the reflections of our social circles.

I would like to see more of you.

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