It’s better to be your genuine self and have fewer of the right kinds of people in your life than it is to surround yourself with those who only accept you as long as you conform to their idea of who you should be.
“Sometimes I think I’m crazy because I see things differently than everyone else.”
You’re not crazy if you don’t always agree with the crowd. Group dynamics is one of the most powerful forces in human psychology.
The Asch conformity experiments demonstrate that even the most seemingly logical of people can be influenced to make bad decisions due to one’s internal desire to conform to group expectations.
“Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people, in which the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints.
…The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking.” — Wikipedia
Group dynamics can cause people to act irrationally and at their own expense or the expense of others.
Group dynamics can cloud the truth, cause us to desire junk, turn us against people we love, and even follow & support leaders who would do us harm.
Group dynamics is often at the core of prejudice and discrimination.
Independent thinking is far less common than it should be. It should be praised.
It takes an exceptional kind of integrity to stick up for what you believe is right and true when facing a group.
Being able to see things differently is a valuable skill and is often what allows us to make great strides in technologies and processes that benefit all. Due to group dynamics, however, truly new and original ideas are often ridiculed before they are accepted.
“For a work to be truly creative, it has to depart from the status quo at some point. That departure makes many people uncomfortable.” — David Burkus (99u)
The ability to see things differently than the crowd and maintain one’s integrity despite pressure to conform is a gift. Being able to see things differently than other people doesn’t make you crazy. It makes you valuable.
“The person who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.” — *Francis Phillip Wernig
“But if I take the path less traveled I might end up feeling lonely and isolated.”
Yes, of course you might.
And if you take a road trip, you might get a flat tire or into an accident.
And if you take a walk in the woods, a tree may fall on your head or you may be attacked by a pack of rabid squirrels.
“‘Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?’
‘Supposing it didn’t,’ said Pooh after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.” — A.A. Milne
The fact is, if you do anything in life and take any sort of risk, something “bad” may happen to you as a result.
Or it may not.
But the same could be said if you don’t do anything at all.
Some people choose to drift through life. They follow the path of least resistance and simply go wherever it leads. Their idea of an adventure may be running low on gas on the way to the gas station. Or if they are feeling especially adventurous, taking a tour guide-driven trip to an inactive volcano.
And that’s fine. Not everyone values the same things in life.
But choosing to take control of one’s life — and deliberately directing one’s self to where they want to go — will likely make one feel much more alive and in control of one’s life than the alternative of always going in the same direction to the same places as everyone else.
If you want to avoid feeling lonely and isolated at times, then following the crowd is certainly one way to attempt it. Although, it is also quite possible to sit in a room full of people and feel isolated and alone.
“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” — Carl Jung
In reality, there are only so many things you can control in life. But the decisions you make and the life you lead as a result of those decisions is one of them.
It’s not so much what happens to you in life that matters as how you choose to learn from and respond to what happens. Because you can’t control everything that happens, but you can control how you respond to it.
Just because you may do something that makes you feel lonely and isolated doesn’t at all diminish the act of doing it and what you learn or how you grow as a person as a result.
Choosing the path less traveled is about finding one’s own way and using what one learns along the journey for the betterment of one’s self (and others).
It is very difficult to not grow while being out of one’s comfort zone. And conversely, very difficult to grow while in one.
And you may just find that you have what you need *within you* to overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation. You may just find you are a lot stronger and more resilient than you believed. You may just discover you don’t need to rely on others to give you an identity.
“Real men wear…”
“Real men drink [brand]…”
“Real men know how to…”
“Real men drive [brand]…”
“Real men like…”
Real men. Real women. Real people like whatever they want to like and do whatever they want to do. Their preferences are not dictated by fads, popularity, or the social norm. They don’t like things in order to appear more appealing to others.
Real people act with authenticity. And authentic people listen to their inner voice and make their own decisions based on their personal preferences and experience.
So to say “Real men like…” is practically meaningless.
A “real” person is going to maintain their integrity regardless of the influence of outside forces — regardless of your desire that they like whatever it is you think they should like in order to be a “real” person.
To suggest otherwise is to suggest that you judge people based on whether they like or don’t like exactly the same things you do. And if they don’t, they’re not a “real” person.
To be real is to be authentic. To be real is to have a strong sense of self. To be real is to have a positive moral character. And above all, to be real is to have integrity.
A real person is going to like beer or mixed drinks or not drink at all.
A real person is going to eat meat or not.
A real person is going to like cats or dogs or none of the above.
A real person is going to be religious or not.
A real person is going to like watching sports or root for the same team as you or not.
A real person is going to drive an American made car or a foreign car or none at all.
The thing about “real” people is that you can’t tell them what to be — or who or what to like — and expect them to cater to you simply because you want them to. Real people are going to be real and make their own decisions and do what they want whether you approve of it or not.
Real people don’t exist to confine themselves to other people’s expectations. They’re not content with being labeled. They have no desire to fit within a box. They don’t cave in to peer pressure. And they don’t act with the intention of pleasing everyone.
And this is far more rare than it should be — and should be of far more value and far more desirable than a person who simply likes the exact same things you like, shares your exact point of view, or is easily influenced by the social majority or the flavor of the week.
Consider this the next time someone suggests “Real people…” do or like anything.
She had blue skin.
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by –
And never knew.
[ And let me be clear, celebrating your weirdness doesn’t mean being disagreeable. It doesn’t mean completely disregarding people’s personal comfort or disrespecting individuals or customs or the environment. And it doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be totally socially inept. Quite the opposite.
Even if you don’t want to conform, it is important to conduct yourself in a way that is compatible with the society in which you find yourself.
Eccentricities can be good. And being quirky can be good. But if “being yourself” means you’re an assclown — try to be someone more agreeable. ]
From the comments:
Jackie: I’ve been told I’m weird since I was in my late 20s. I’m now 63 working on being totally myself before my birthday next month! Weird is wonderful! Weird is wild, wicked, wise, real, delightful, devilish, roguish, reliably funny, and so many other things. Why would anyone aspire to “normalcy”? How flipping boring, don’t you agree?
Zero:I do agree. I love the unique things about people that make them interesting.
Of course, not everyone’s “weirdness” is compatible with everyone else’s “weirdness”, but it’s still so much better to live life authentically than it is to pretend to be something you’re not — or be caught up in trying to be liked for things that just aren’t a part of your genuine self.
To live that way is to live a lie.
Jackie: Tried living the lie. Hated it. Decided to be me. Then learned how to be me. Scares the crap out of many folks. Makes me giggle, giddy, goofy, and best of all weird because there is no concentration on “fitting in” or being “normal.”
The power of your influence nearly always appears smaller than it actually is.
Just because people don’t always appear to register whatever message you have to share doesn’t mean you should give up sharing it.
If it’s important to you, and your goal in drawing attention to something is for the greater good, then continue to find positive ways to spread that message, regardless of who you think is getting it.
As human beings, we have done some incredibly stupid and harmful things — to each other, the planet, and other lifeforms on it — simply because everyone else was doing it (so it must be ok).
So even if your message it is backed by overwhelming evidence, if it is contrary to popular belief means it will most likely be rejected before it is accepted. In fact, a study by Cornell University found that that people are actually biased against creative ideas(and “creative” can basically apply to anything that isn’t considered standard).
So whatever cause you believe in, if it isn’t already popular, prepare for a struggle to be heard.
But also know that there are always those who are open to hearing your message, even if they don’t fully agree with it (and that’s ok), or live by it.
As long as you are not being disrespectful or advocating harm to others, those who are at least peripherally aware of your cause may eventually come to realize the value — or at least some of the value — in what you have to share.
And that’s a start.
You can’t change the entire world at once, but you can influence those you come in contact with by spreading your message in a positive way and setting a good example to follow.
But whatever you do, causing intentional harm to others should never be an option.
If your values and the content of your message ring true, they will speak more powerfully than force ever will.
Your quirks. Your interest in unusual things. The small things that bring you joy. The odd things you do because they feel right to you. The unique things that you find funny — or fascinating — these are the things about you that make you truly unique and different from others — and they are among, if not the most beautiful things about you.
It can take bravery to be yourself and exert your individuality, but the alternative — to conform — is to become less of an individual. While there is an implied comfort & safety in conformity, conformity represents the ordinary. The status quo. And it is the enemy of creativity.
It is ok to fit in, but to actively change yourself to be just like the crowd is to yield your personal power & influence to others.