Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

On Being an Individual

A red pea among green ones in a pod

Have you ever asked yourself who you really are? Not the person that your parents, that your teachers, that your peer group, that society expects you to be. I’m talking about the person deep down inside of you. The person you’re supposed to be. Not just another face in the crowd.

We started life as individuals. People who, while probably not special, were unique. One of a kind. But as we grew older, we began to conform to the shapes and thoughts and personalities of others. We acted a certain way. We dressed a certain way. We listened to and watched and thought what others around us listened to and watched and thought.

Many of us, in many ways, stopped being individuals a long time ago. We became part of a somewhat cohesive mass. Even if we weren’t always entirely comfortable being part of that mass.

How did we wind up that way? Conformity. Conformity was, and is, the easy way out.

And society places a high value on conformity. If you deviate from the supposed norm, you’re branded weird or strange. You’re only an eccentric if you have a lot of money. Anyone who doesn’t conform faces constant pressure to do so. If they don’t, they’re nudged to the margins and the peripheries.

I know. I’ve been there. From the time I was 11 years old, I refused to play by the rules that others put in place, that others tried to apply to me. I didn’t act or think or dress or do what my so-called peers did. I never followed prevailing fashions or fads. I walked my own path, often alone.

It definitely wasn’t easy. But after all the resentment and frustration faded, I realized that being an individual takes more strength, more strength of character than going with the crowd. There are a number of lessons you can learn from embracing yourself and being the individual you know you are.

Being an individual teaches you who your friends truly are. Those are the people who stick by you, who accept you for who you are and not because you’re just like them.

Being an individual teaches you not to care about the opinions of others, about what they think of you. If you worry or stress about that, you’re giving someone a degree of control over you and your life. A degree of control they should never, ever have.

Being an individual teaches you to rely on yourself. You don’t always need a group of people around you to have fun or to do something. You don’t need to constantly seek acceptance or advice or affirmation from someone or someones else. You can, when you need to, go it alone. You can trust your judgement and instincts.

There’s an individual in all of us. Embracing and becoming that individual can be liberating, but it can also be one of the toughest things you can do. But who would you rather be? The person you’re meant to be or someone who’s just like everyone else? The choice is yours.

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