Staying within the social norm and fitting in, to most is more valuable than authenticity. Don’t attract attention to yourself, be liked by others and do what your told seems to be the mainstream mantra. Life is not a uniform organism. The truth is, we will never find personal freedom by trying to please others and conforming our life to a template. If we are all truly different, why do we try to force the unique shapes of our personalities, skills, beliefs and ideas into the square peg of social acceptance?
Here’s the basic template for life:
- Learn to walk/speak, be a good boy/good girl
- Go to school, get good grades
- Go to college, graduate. Try to find something you love, but eventually sacrifice your passion and settle for a career choice that’s practical.
- Get a job (find security)
- Get married (security)
- Have kids (security)
This is the most common life pattern. Most of us think that this is just normal; it’s just the way it is damnit. Living for security alone though, is a meaningless existence. If our only motive to live, is to survive, to keep the hamster wheel spinning, then I’m done. I just can’t imagine a life where security is the highest value. That’s like saying blue is the most important color, or the stomach is more important than the brain. Obviously all the other colors are just as important in making up the field of vision, and the all of the organs are necessary for a healthy organism.
Security is definitely an important part of life, our survival depends on it. But excitement, adventure, pain, turbulence, drama, passion, mystery and pleasure are equally important. I think we forget this because security is the basis for us being able to experience all those other wonderful things. Yet security is a means, it’s not the reason for living itself. Just as we don’t live to eat, we eat to live; we don’t find happiness to seek security, we seek security to facilitate happiness.
When you think about what you truly live for, your answer probably won’t be security. At least mine’s not. I think it’s important that we re-evaluate how much our feelings are really aligned with our actions. Do we really value comfort more than freedom?
Not only do we have templates that we’re expected to follow, but we also have roles we’re expected to fill.
If you’re a man you’re expected to behave a certain way. Anger and jealousy are the only acceptable emotions. You want to cry? Suck it up. Be a man, damnit. You have a feeling about something? Right…
If you’re a woman you’re expected to be feminine and nurturing. Have a strong opinion? You’re a bitch. You want to lead? You’re joking right?
These social roles may have worked for cave dwellers (woman not behave, hit with club). They also worked for primitive societies based on hunting and territorial rivalry. Men had to be tough. If they broke down and cried, it might have meant a spear to the head. But despite how much social revolution and civil rights movements we’ve had, we haven’t had much of an internal empowerment movement.
The Anti-Role Collateral
The truth is, most of us know what we want. We know what makes us feel alive and what makes us feel dead. The answer then isn’t looking for yourself, but having the courage to live unabashedly, to do what truly brings you bliss. The collateral of claiming your personal freedom and rejecting the cubicle mind mentality, might mean getting some strange looks and being completely rejected once in a while. People might question your choice to not go for so-called security. People might think you’re a total nut-case. But that’s okay. You’d probably look at the same people living fearlessly and wonder what the hell they’re doing. That’s the beauty of diversity. Homogeneity is the bane of life.
The Anti-Role collateral is:
- It’s the stares you might get for being a man and not being afraid to cry in a movie.
- It’s being a woman and not being afraid to take charge, even if the same people that saw a man do that and applaud them, think you’re a bitch.
- It’s the shock from voicing your opinion to the vice president of your company even though you have no degree and started two weeks ago.
- It’s the whispers of people on the street that see man in a suit having a real conversation with a homeless person.
The price we pay for consciously living our lives and forging our own path is the anti-role collateral. Sometimes that means embarrassment, humiliation and flat out rejection. But I can’t think of any bigger embarrassment to me than not being true to myself. A sovereign mind to me is more valuable than any fictional social approval.
Just over a hundred years ago, everyone thought it was impossible to fly. A very small group of people chose not to believe that. They chose to believe that it was possible and decided they were going to prove it. No one would doubt it now, seeing a plane or a helicopter is an everyday experience.
Living a life that’s not based on a template and being true to yourself may not mean paving a road in the sky like the Wright Brothers. However, if you tell everyone you want to start your own business, you will be doubted. They’ll tell you everything that’s wrong with your idea and why it won’t work: You have no experience. You’ve never run a business before, what do you know about sales? It takes money to make money. The truth is:
- Almost no one starting their first business had any idea what they were doing.
- Those that broke barriers in civil rights, oppression, policy reform and questioning authority were scared as hell, but they knew what was right in their heart. They couldn’t live with themselves if they didn’t do something.
- Not only is it impossible to plan everything out in advance, it’s extremely boring that way.
- Most successful people became that way by embracing their unique talents and capitalizing on them, not by overcoming weaknesses.
- Integrity and authenticity are vastly more important than productivity and fictional social acceptance.
The domestication of humans places a lot of shoulds and shouldn’ts on us, but we also have a lot of arbitrary self-imposed rules we place on ourselves:
- I’m not good enough because I don’t have enough experience.
- I made a mistake so it’s necessary to punish myself over and over again and not let go at any cost.
- I’m not worthy or not good enough because I don’t have x amount of money or x title.
- I’ll never understand the mysteries of life because I just don’t have a philosophical mind.
- I don’t have time for creative or passionate pursuits, I have to be practical.
I’ve realized that just as much as social restraints and pressures are real, they are only real within you. Our deepest beliefs about reality and ourselves are not true in themselves, but our thinking makes them true in our experience.
So maybe you’re already on the anti-role, free-style side of the street. You just haven’t bought a house there yet. What price are your willing to pay for your sovereignty?
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