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Declare yourself

Swallow the blue pill. Drink the Kool-Aid. Accept the status quo.

picket fence

Buy a cookie cutter house in the planned community with the white picket fence and assert that you are an original because you drive a Saab or have a tattoo on your bicep. All those common trappings that we think make us different really homogenize us. We listen to the Top 40. We buy the Top 40. We buy the best seller books on display at the entrance to the bookstore. We buy the clothes on display in the mall windows. This year the color is blue, brown or black. This is the year that real men wear pink. We blindly accept the spoon feeding, never questioning…..why?

Who decides what is important or relevant? Who makes the rules? Who sets the parameters for success? And why are so many people so willing to follow?

Being different takes courage. Being different challenges the status quo. Being an original makes you stand out but being different can feel awkward. There is so much pressure to conform, to fall into line and behave. For some, fitting in is impossible.

On Sesame street, we were asked, “Which of these things is not like the other, which one of these things just doesn’t belong?’ We are trained to identify the dissimilarities and exclude them. How much more diverse and rich in texture one’s life becomes when they welcome, encourage and cultivate differences. When we can tolerate that which is extraordinary, we give ourselves permission to expand and differentiate.

Granted, some people prefer to blend. They want to belong and being a small component of a larger conglomerate is where they feel safest. But some just don’t blend. They stick out. They are unusual. They don’t fit and they often don’t care. They make no apologies for being different. They relish their differences.

When a human cell is fertilized, that single cell divides. Those early cells are omnipotent: they can become ANY cell. Eventually, as the cells continue to divide, they lose some of that multipotential. They declare themselves to be heart cells or skin cells or bone or blood. The complexity of humanity depends on the differentiation of a single cell into a multitude of precise, defined and declarativeĀ  paths.

Be different! Be original! Be yourself!

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4 comments

  1. yes, when you choose not to be a “sheeple” or a lemming, not to accept the status quo and be “like” everyone else…it makes life quite different….you are often alone (both physically and mentally), have less friends,and are looked at as an “agitator” or a “non-team player” — believe me, I know – I am one of those. I like me, but I am quite often on the fringes as I don’t “fall in line”.

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  2. I really enjoyed this post! Being an awkward sort myself I have had times when I felt a little left out and even looked down on by the mainstreamers. It used to really affect my confidence before I realized that it is actually more fun to be an original, I was bored stupid by commercial culture. I suspect there are loads of people who would like to break out of this mainstream mindset but they don’t know where to start anymore. Being spoon fed removes the creative edge and the longer someone has conformed, the less of their individual spirit is left.
    The older I get the more I feel that my differences are not only valued but actually converted even. Funny hey!
    Chele x x

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  3. Don’t ecosystems need diversity? Cousins are forbidden from marrying for a reason, the gene pool loses it variety. Too much of the same stuff breeds dullards and dunces. Being different adds spice, Emeril’s “Bam!” for life. Authenticity is risky….we are suppose to MATCH out clothes, shoes come in matched pairs,puzzle pieces fit a particular way….but people are not keys in locks. People are nebulous, agile and unpredictable.

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  4. ‘Tis truly a wonderful post. I think part of what is killing this is not necessarily being spoon fed but is that we have turned being different into being mainstream. The rise of Punk Rock to mainstream and the new “emo” culture has created a belief that there are only certain ways to be “different”. “I’m an emo kid, none conforming as can be. You’d be none nonconforming too if you looked just like me.” Every child is told they are a special and unique snowflake. We have the self-esteem movement and helicopter parents to blame for the state of individuality today.

    Oh, don’t get me wrong our television culture is killing it too. Sesame street and the like have done massive amounts of damage. I love the which of these things is not like the other reference. Or the old kids magazines that had the which of these doesn’t belong puzzles. But I think it goes further than that. We value regurgitation of information over the ability to think. Why do we not teach logic to our children in schools? If we had to choose which would we choose a child that was defiant and could think for themselves or a child that was compliant and would never have the impulse to question us?

    I have to disagree that the longer one conforms the less of their individual spirit is left. I think that as we age we can come to a place where we no longer feel shackled to conform to the want and whim of society. I think as we age we learn that being the coolest person with the most friends doesn’t matter so much as a heart to heart with someone that knows our depths. Sure, we wear down some and get tired but not everyone. Some as they move forward in life find a revitalization to LIVE.

    We must remind ourselves and the youth of today that while following blindly and simply conforming because we ought to is no way to live; neither is always going against the grain. We give as much power in always saying no as we do in always saying yes. Find in your heart that which makes you joyous, find those that make your heart sing in Technicolor, and run full speed into those people and things. Hold tight and keep your head up for the ride of a lifetime.

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