To be yourself. It isn't easy.


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So I had a shopping adventure today. And to entertain myself (and others), I walked around Fry’s Electronics with a plush toy, took some photos as I went, and posted them to Facebook…

Om Nom has been following me around.

Most of the responses were positive. But a couple stood out…

  • “You need professional help…”
  • “So I think you’ve been single/going solo too long”

And while these were probably meant in jest, they’re the sort of comments that can discourage someone from having fun or being themselves.

Because, on some level, what they’re saying, “You’ve done something that doesn’t conform to my expectations of what I think someone like you (your age, gender, profession, etc…) should be doing.” or perhaps, more concisely, “You’re weird.”

Sadly, this kind of feedback isn’t uncommon. It happens all the time. And whether it is meant in jest or not, it can shut people down.

Imagine this kind of thought process as a result…
“Someone thinks I ‘need professional help’? Well that’s not a good thing. I don’t want anything to think I need professional help. Maybe I shouldn’t do what I did any more.”

There’s a reason why E.E. Cummings said: To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”

He’s right. To be yourself. It isn’t easy. And while comments like the above are just a mild example, comments of this kind — in response to some fun photos — seem a bit misplaced to me.

Because, yes, there are plenty of people who are inconveniencing or making others miserable throughout the day or having “fun” at other people’s expense — and it would be nice if that stopped. But to discourage someone — even if only indirectly — from entertaining themselves or others by doing something that makes people laugh or smile — even if it’s a bit unusual? That’s seems off.

We should be encouraging that sort of thing, not the opposite.

I think this is a case where it’s important to understand how your comments can affect people, even when said in jest.

Now am I really bothered by these comments? No.

But there was a time when I might have been. A time when I was more concerned with trying to fit in than I was in trying to just be myself. A time when I thought being “weird” was a bad thing. It’s not. Weird is just a side effect of being awesome.

But because I know there are others out there who are still at the point that I was, I’m writing this post and using the above comments as an example.

Do I take photos with plush toys? Yup. Does it make people wonder what I’m doing? Sure it does. But it ALSO makes them laugh. And it also gives them a funny story to tell. And so do the resulting photos when I share ’em. There’s no harm or inconvenience in that.

If more people treated life like it was meant to be fun — without inconveniencing anyone in the process — I think the world would be a lot more pleasant of a place overall.

At least it would be filled with more laughter, and smiles, and funny stories..

I don’t believe in “acting like an adult”. I think that’s a cop out. Especially when it means you have to now conform your kind of fun to the sorts of things that other “adults” expect or approve of.

I’ve seen how many adults have fun. And frankly, I think a lot of it isn’t. It ends up being more like a weird imitation of fun where there is no real “play” involved.

“Let’s drink liquids!” or “Let’s watch a plastic box emit light!”

Those things don’t require much, if any, imagination or creativity.

What does? Convincing your children that their plastic dinosaurs come to life while they sleep! (Also see their Facebook page)

“Why do we do this? Because in the age of iPads and Netflix, we don’t want our kids to lose their sense of wonder and imagination. In a time when the answers to all the world’s questions are a web-search away, we want our kids to experience a little mystery. All it takes is some time and energy, creativity, and a few plastic dinosaurs.

Childhood is fleeting, so let’s make sure it’s fun while it lasts.” — Refe and Susan Tuma

Well, Refe and Susan Tuma, childhood may be fleeting, but I think one’s childlike imagination, sense of wonder, and joy in play can last, but it takes actively working to resist the pressures that society puts on people to make us into a near mirror reflection of everyone else.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

For me, I’d rather just be myself and do the sorts of things that amuse me and/or amuse others — whether they are considered “normal” or “adult behavior” or not. Because “being normal” and “acting like an adult” are totally abstract concepts anyway. They don’t mean anything without context.

For example, Halloween is many adults favorite holiday. Why? Because it’s an evening where one can be inspired and dress however they like, to the amusement of themselves and others. When people judge others on Halloween, it has more to do with how fun, unusual, or inspired their attire is. It’s about showing appreciation for creativity and originality.

But the rest of the year? It’s about conformity and fitting in.

And sadly, anyone who stands out by dressing or expressing themselves in an unusual way is much more likely to be judged poorly because of it. And that’s a shame in a society that supposedly says that “thinking different” or “being yourself” is a good thing.

You know how you can tell when someone is being themselves? When they don’t always act according to social norms. Trying to be like anyone or everyone else is NOT being yourself.

When you are brave enough to be yourself, you give others permission to do the same.

We should be encouraging people to have fun in and with their lives — whether they have reached adulthood or not — not trying to force people to fit within a box because of their age.

It’s a lot more fun and rewarding to join in fun than it is trying to make it stop.

People will stare. Make it worth their while.” – Harry Winston

And because all this talk of play and “being yourself” has put me in a playful “be myself” mood, here’s a “Be Yourself” clip from Just Friends (video)

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