Throughout life, we go through different experiences and learn things about ourselves. Sometimes we may even learn the same thing more than once. Matric taught me that I'm allowed to say no to things that are not right for me. I try to live my life this way.
I think I've always been different to people and as cliched as it sounds, I haven't always felt like I fit in. I went through a stage where I didn't even feel like I belonged in my friend group. I would often go out with friends, and while they were having a lot of fun, I would just feel left out and unhappy.
I think this unhappy, left out feeling was caused by insecurity. I didn't believe in myself back then and when you feel different to other people and have different interests, you can easily get caught into the "something is wrong with me" mindset. When I was in Europe on a school tour, my friends who are all shoppers would often question me about why I was not buying things. Instead of confidently explaining that I don't like stuff, I don't like spending money just for the sake of it, and I'd rather spend money on experiences and food, I just became very down and hateful towards myself and them. I was giving other people control over me by obsessing over their comments and thinking about all the differences between me and them.
I also tended to get this left out feeling at parties. Since I'm mostly introverted, I can get really bored and drained around other people. While other people would leave a party, feeling like they were on cloud nine, I would leave feeling inadequate. No matter how much I disliked going though, I would still let myself be dragged to these events because I didn't want to be seen as the boring one.
This whole giving into what other people wanted from me ended near the end of the year. I had just got back from holiday with one of my friends and we had planned to see a few of my other friends at a restaurant that night. A few hours before though, plans were changed and the others decided they wanted to go to a club instead. I didn't want to go because I was tired and I didn't feel like hanging around so many people. When I expressed my thoughts I was originally met with "ah please come. It will be fun," type comments. I held my ground though and continued to justify justify justify. Then the replies turned to, "you never want to come!"
In that moment when I was staring at these angry messages from people who did not support my choice, I decided I was done justifying and giving in. If I didn't want to do something, I didn't have to. I didn't have to explain myself either.
Since then I do still socialise but I do it on my own terms and with people who make me feel good about myself. As a result I hardly ever feel left out and unhappy and I actually enjoy it. There's a light free feeling that appears when you make choices that are right for you.
It's important to live your life for you and not for others. You may lose friends in this process but that's okay. You'll make new ones who accept you and respect your decisions.
Ultimately this is your life and you're the one who has to live it. Your main priority should always be your own happiness so if achieving that means saying no to a few people, then do it.
Always be you.