There are things that are worth standing up for, face harsh opposition for, or die for. What those things are are subjective to each individual. For Antigone, it was worth giving her life for the proper burial of her brother, for Marsha P. Johnson it was worth getting harassed in order to express herself. These actions can come as instinct to some people and that is the way everyone should be.
No one should be afraid to be themselves or to carry out a duty that you feel must be carried out. The old saying “Stand up for what you believe” should be the motto for every human being. I’m going to ignore those special cases where someone like Hitler stands up for what he believes because that will be a completely different subject. I’m going to focus on people that didn’t bring harm to millions of people and did what they felt was right for them.
Most people fear expressing themselves fully because of the possible resentment they might attract. There are social standards and norms that people are subjected to and when one crosses the line they are seen as a freak or criminal. Why these standards formed in society is another mystery that many philosophers probably already tackled but of course, like everything in philosophy, its subjective.
People learn to repress their true feelings at any age. A three-year-old boy may be stopped and scolded by a father for playing with dolls or other toys meant for girls, even though it is just a way a child expresses its creativity and imagination. Adolescents experience this fear of resentment the worst. During school it is all about how you look and who you are associated with and what kind of things you are into.
Just like in school there is a type of power levels that are in society. For example, if you are, lets say from a scale of one to ten, ten being the most popular and one being the least, a level six in popularity, you only care about what six or higher leveled kids think about you. In society it might not be as straightforward but it works exactly the same. When walking by a homeless person, most people do not care what they think about them, because homeless people are “beneath” you, you are a “better”. When one walks by a successful looking white male or female, they feel insecure because they feel they are beneath them.
This kind of thinking is unhealthy and narcissistic. Thinking like this puts you in shackles that do not allow you to be yourself and be truly happy.
You have to free yourself from this state of mind and resist the “will to power” that Friedrich Nietzsche talks about. “Will to power” is the feeling that most people share that just wants power over others. Once you have power over another, you have the influence to alter other’s mind. Nietzsche also suggests that the will to power is what motivated people’s lives, that they are hungry for some any kind of power. This is what most likely drove people to conform in a certain way and reject certain customs that some might find appealing.
Whoever holds power over another can set their own standards that their subjects must live by or at least constantly think about. There are ways to trace back to where and by whom these standards were made but the key fact is that they were the popular kids, the white male and female, who had the power to influence others to their will, and it is most important to notice this and free yourself from being trapped by all these fake, oppressive principles and be who you are.