So you are about to do something outside your normal comfort zone and your brain says things like "what if my friends think I am stupid?" or "what will my family think?"
Join the club - or perhaps the question is - should we join the club?
A multitude of studies over decades have demonstrated the profound effect of group opinion on individual judgements. There is absolutely no doubt that we look to the behaviour and judgement of others for information about what will be considered expected and acceptable behaviour.
Even toddlers aged two years may well give into peer pressure. According to a study from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, even tiny children are more likely to abandon preferences and conform to the majority. Fitting in very much matters - from the sandpit to the boardroom. Blame this on a part of the brain called the lateral orbitofrontal cortex. Apparently it is uniquely wired to recognise social conflict cues -when someone disapproves of our choice then immediately there is a responsive trigger to prompt us to update our opinions accordingly. Whether or not we do can become the dilemma.
Who amongst us has not felt this pressure?
Safe or stuck?
Scientists who study the area of social conformism have said that probably the most fundamental social mistake we can make is that of being too different from others. Or, as famous philosopher and author Friedrich Nietzsche says in Thus Spake Zarathustra, "No shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse".
So conforming with the majority has been suggested as the way to safeguard reliable and productive behavioural strategies says Daniel Haun, of the Max Planck Institute. Let alone sanity and freedom from anxiety. Sticking with the majority opinion when learning something new makes a lot of sense from an evolutionary perspective, says the science. The human group has knowledge that the individual may not.
But other studies demonstrate our potential to conform even when we have the relevant knowledge - just to avoid standing out from the crowd. Hands up if you have never done that?
So we all have a basic understanding about why we conform - and surely a compassion for the tendency to conform. But on a bad day the pressure to conform can also be paralysing - leaving us stuck in confusion and mediocrity. Termed "social quicksand" by Nick Reese, internet entrepreneur, he asks how often do we pass up opportunities because of what others might think of us? In other words, we know that conformity is vital to our success as social animals - but at what cost?
"You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with," says the late Jim Rohn, successful rags to riches entrepreneur and motivational speaker.
Are the people surrounding you the right people to be advising you?
"I was only following orders," was used as a defense in the Nuremburg Trials at the end of World War II.
The right to freedom of speech is enshrined by democratic policy - a hard won right to political dissent. Yet how hard it can be to enact these democratic principles in our own personal lives.
Don't stop thinking
Some of the most agonising questions people bring to my practice on a personal level, inevitably revolve around decisions about relationships. And very close to the turmoil is that static on the radio, which interferes with independent decision-making - and is typically about what will other people think?
For example: "What will other people think if I leave her?' or "What will my friends think if I go back to him?" or "What will my family think about my choice of lifestyle?"
Independence of thought can be painful. But it is a pain better to be embraced than avoided.
In the end, your dilemma, and the advice you seek about it, can be a distraction for others about their own lives - or a projection of their own fears or wishes- and advice, however well meaning, may well not be the best advice at all.
Difficult as it is, we have to take charge of our own determination and independence.
Otherwise we are left continuously wondering why we made the decisions that we did.
If our decisions are based on principles of integrity and honesty, then we have to dare to be different. It is a risk worth taking.
• Your life is impacted by the people that surround you - are they the right people to be influencing you?
• Get rid of "energy vampires" - everyone has got advice for everyone else.
• Taking advice from those who have also done something different is likely to be useful - look to the objective experts in the field.
• Don't fear dilemmas - it means you are thinking and striving. See them as signposts to significant and valuable change
As the late and revered Maya Angelou said: "If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be."