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Integrity and independent thinking

Gathering data to make an informed opinion is one thing. Simply waiting to agree with the crowd is something else entirely.

Being yourself and maintaining your integrity means standing up for what you believe to be right and true whether it’s in the company of a crowd or not.

Fear of self-expression is a form of self-imposed slavery.

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The freedom to be

Are we free if we live our lives in a way that consistently requires the approval of others to be truly happy?

Are we free if we consistently force ourselves to live within the confines of other people’s expectations?

Are we free if we consistently dilute our true selves to make others happy?

Are we free if our emotions and mental state are easily controlled by what others say or do?

Are we free if we cannot consider an opposing point of view without getting emotional or immediately dismissing it because it contradicts our own beliefs?

No.

These are limitations we place on ourselves. They are, quite simply, bad habits.

The good news is that, as habits, we can replace them with better, far more empowering options if we so choose.

It may take work to rewrite years of mental and emotional constraints, but who is in charge of your life?

You are.

When you truly know who you are — and who you are in the process of becoming — you will no longer live in fear of what people say or think about you.”

Whether it’s strong, confident, carefree, independent or all of the above, give yourself the freedom to be as you truly wish to appear to others.

Don’t give power to those who don’t have your best interest in mind. Reclaim the freedom to be your true self by defining your own identity and wrestle back control of your thoughts, feelings, and sense of self-worth from those you have inadvertently given power over you.

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Extraordinary isn’t normal. It’s different.

Extraordinary people are not normal.

They play the game in unconventional ways. They walk the edge. They take risks. They challenge the status quo. They push their boundaries to see how far they can go.

Extraordinary is different.

If you want extraordinary things in your life, you either have to do uncommon things to make those things possible or you have to have the courage to let unusual and uncommon things into your life when they present themselves to you.

No, not every uncommon experience, opportunity, or person you encounter in your life will lead to extraordinary things, but the alternative is to maintain the status quo and gamble on the remote possibility that continuing to do and accept the same things in your life as you always have will somehow lead to different — extraordinary — results.

Don’t wait for extraordinary things to happen. Make the changes necessary in yourself and your life to allow them to happen.

You can start by broadening your perspective, increasing your tolerance for things that are different from you are accustomed to, and consciously pushing beyond your comfort zone.

Every new day is an opportunity for something extraordinary to happen. Don’t miss out because you rejected it for being, feeling, or looking different than what you considered “normal”.

Extraordinary isn’t normal. It’s *different.

*Different from what you are used to. What’s normal or common to one person isn’t necessarily normal or common to another.

If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” — Jim Rohn

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Where “being yourself” fails

Seen in a meme:

“Embrace who you are and don’t make any apologies for being yourself.”

I’d like to add a major caveat to that:

First, we are *all* works in progress, we all make mistakes, we all have blind spots in our level of awareness (particularly with regard to ourselves), and we all have room for improvement.

But some more than others.

While I am all for people being authentic and real, I’d much prefer not to encourage the assclowns, douchebags, and dirtbags to just “be themselves” and never apologize for it.

“Yeah, I cut you off in traffic. So what?”
“Yeah, I double parked. Just being myself, man.”
“Yeah, I litter. Big deal.”

Sure, if you’re kind, compassionate, and authentic, if you strive for progress and improvement in your life and your self, if you aim to make a positive difference with what you have to offer, then by all means continue. Even if you occasionally make mistakes, as we all do.

But if you’re someone who goes through life making things more difficult, painful, or inconvenient for others, then perhaps it’s better you don’t just “be yourself”.

Perhaps it’s better if you aim to be the kind of person you and others can actually be proud of rather than just accept who you are with no intention to change.

“Be yourself. Unless you suck.” — Joss Whedon

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You’re not perfect nor expected to be.

  • “I’m such a klutz.”
  • “I’m bad at remembering names.”
  • “I have a tendency to say stupid things.”
  • “I have a crooked nose.”
  • “I don’t have perfect teeth.”
  • “I’ll never live this down.”

 

Whatever you may consider your faults, flaws, and imperfections to be, they are nowhere near as clear to other people as they are to you. And the mistakes you make are nowhere near as magnified.

Yes, you may screw up. And you may embarrass yourself in front of others (everyone has done this). And it may seem like the worst thing in the world. But mistake-makers often have a tendency to hold onto negative thoughts from an embarrassing experience far longer than those who witness or hear about it do.

Always keep in mind that other people don’t see you in the exact the same way that you see yourself.

In fact, it isn’t uncommon for people to have a very low estimation of themselves, their looks, and their accomplishments while also being someone that others look up to and admire.

People in your life — especially the friendly ones — are more likely to remember your successes than your failures. Especially because in the same way people don’t see your flaws the same way you do, they don’t see your failures the same way either.

In fact, you may be the only who thinks of something you did as a failure or some aspect of yourself as a flaw.

And those who do want to highlight your mistakes, failures, and flaws in an unsupportive way are very likely not those you want in your life anyway.

Always remember, everyone makes mistakes. And everyone has flaws. Even your heroes.

It’s part of the human experience. No one is perfect. And some of the most beautiful and most successful people in the world are insecure about something.

We are all a work in progress.

The key is to move forward in your life with intention and not perpetuate bad feelings by reliving a bad experience over and over again in your head. Thus making it difficult for you or others to forget.

When you truly know who you are — and who you are in the process of becoming — you will no longer live in fear of what people say or think about you.

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Fear of self-expression is a form of self-imposed slavery

If you do the best you can to be a decent human being, show tolerance and kindness to others — and still live in fear of what people think of you, your possessions, your opinions, or your beliefs, and then alter your behavior to be “approved” by as many people as possible, that isn’t freedom, it’s a form of self-imposed slavery.

You become a slave to the idea that what other people might think is more important that exercising your ability to express your true self.

Have you ever avoided something as simple as clicking a “like” button or commenting on a post on social media because you were afraid of what people would think if they saw it? If so, then you’re doing it.

If your relationships are so fragile that something like a single like, share, or comment could end them (or cause an unfollow or other equivalent), then perhaps those are not the kind of relationships that are really adding any kind of value to your life.

And perhaps it’s time to ask yourself what the point of “collecting people” in your life is, if the sorts of people you’ve collected will judge you “unworthy” of their friendship and leave you the moment you truly express yourself.

This is an issue that goes far beyond how people act on social media, it’s a real-life problem as well.

Changing who you are to be liked by people may result in more people “liking” you, but it also means that those who “like” you are liking someone who is pretending to be someone or something they’re not.

And, ultimately, you’re sacrificing yourself (and your life) to do it. You’re sacrificing your freedom to express your true self in order to gain “friends” who don’t even like you for you.

In the end, this really makes no sense. Life is not a popularity contest. It’s not about collecting as many “friends” as possible. And no matter what you do, not everyone is going to like or agree with you anyway. That’s life.

Do you respect people who water themselves down, live in fear of being disliked, or pretend to be someone they’re not in order to gain favor? If not, then how can you expect to respect yourself if you do the same things?

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

Be your genuine self and you will find that those who stick around in your life are those who appreciate and respect you for who you truly are. They may not agree with everything you say, do, or believe, but they are far more likely to forgive you for your mistakes or lapses in judgement and stick by you not only during the high times in your life, but also the lows.

And you can live knowing that you’re not being judged by those who matter to you — and if you are, you still don’t live in fear of it, because it’s not your problem. When people judge you, it says more about them than it says about you.

And, in the off chance you suck as a human being and few people like you, then that’s perhaps a sign you have some things to work on to be a better person in an authentic way — and not someone who simply pretends to be one.

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

As far I’m concerned, if you’re tolerant and open-minded, I like having you in my life, regardless of your beliefs or some opinions you have that I don’t agree with (and vice-versa). Because ultimately, we help each other grow.

I’ve said it before, you don’t have to agree on everything to get along. And some of the best relationships are formed by people who don’t.

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“Real men”

I see it frequently on social media…

Real men wear…”
Real men drink [brand]…”
Real men know how to…”
Real men drive [brand]…”
Real men like…”

No.

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.

Because…

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.

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It’s OK to be weird (and the best people usually are).

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In case no one told you, it’s OK to be weird (and the best people usually are).

Being weird doesn’t mean everyone will like you. But what’s the point of fitting in if you sacrifice your real self to do it? What’s the point of fitting in when it still doesn’t guarantee that everyone will like you?

And what’s the point of being liked when you are being liked for pretending to be someone or something you’re not?

Be your authentic self and you will attract people into your life who will like you for being you.

And then you can stop pretending to be “normal” and simply be comfortable with who you really are.

masks-she-had-blue-skin-and-so-did-he-by-shel-silverstein-200“Masks” by Shel Silverstein

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.”

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The courage to be imperfect

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“I’m not perfect, but parts of me are awesome.”

Let’s face it, we all have flaws. And, despite how some people see it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The fact is, every single one of us is a work-in-progress.

We may be at different stages in life. We may have different strengths and weaknesses, but there isn’t a single person on the planet who hasn’t felt vulnerable or made mistakes. Nor is there a single person who couldn’t be better at something in some area of their life.

While hiding your flaws or pretending to be something or someone you’re not can fool many people — and many try to live their lives this way — true power comes from being your authentic self — flaws and all — and not being ashamed or afraid of being imperfect.

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” — Mark Twain

When you truly accept who you are — weaknesses included — to the point that you are not afraid to admit your flaws or be vulnerable, people are much less able (or likely to try) to use your flaws as weapons against you.

When you don’t hide who you are behind a mask of misrepresentation, you no longer have to live in fear of being discovered as “false” or less than capable at something.

When you truly know who you are — and who you are in the process of becoming — you will no longer live in fear of what people say or think about you.”

Additionally, knowing what your weaknesses are — and what triggers you to think and behave as you do — provides you with the ability to potentially overcome, or at least reduce their affects.

And while we often believe that we will be liked less for not being perfect, people are actually much more likely to respect and admire those who express themselves authentically rather than those who pretend to be perfect or act as if they are superior to others.

Have the courage to be authentic. Have the courage to take responsibility for who you are and how you act.

And have the courage to be imperfect.

“With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.” — Keshavan Nair

If you haven’t watched The Power of Vulnerability TED talk by Brene Brown, it is one of the most viewed TED talks in history. She is a great speaker. Very funny and insightful. It is definitely 20 minutes well spent.

The way of the heart is the way of courage. It is to live in insecurity; it is to live in love, and trust; it is to move in the unknown. It is leaving the past and allowing the future to be. Courage is to move on dangerous paths. Life is dangerous, and only cowards can avoid the danger – but then, they are already dead. A person who is alive, really alive, vitally alive, will always move into the unknown. There is danger there, but he will take the risk. The heart is always ready to take the risk, the heart is a gambler. The head is a businessman. The head always calculates – it is cunning. The heart is non-calculating.” — Osho, from The Joy of Living Dangerously

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Every time you change something unique about yourself…

Excerpt from: The unique you is beautiful

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Every time you change something unique about yourself in order to be just like someone else, a piece of the best part of you dies.

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