March 30, 2017 by Cláudia
Everyone has struggled with inadequacy and feeling left out, I am sure. That has certainly been a prominent issue in my life. And what I have learned so far is that you either change yourself to fit in some type of group or you change yourself to stand out and draw attention for your originality. You can have the goal of being like everybody else or the goal of being different/original. Both of these work because in the first case people recognize you as similar and in the second people are intrigued by your difference. However, both of these ways of being sociable are ungrateful and ultimately unsatisfying because in both cases people are not committed to their own self-growth but instead they’re committed to follow a certain pattern of sociability. Even though it seems like in the second case the person is being more true to their true self, what I think happens is that people go out of their way to be original, to post artsy photos on social media that took hours to take/edit, to find an outfit that is both trendy and alternative, to listen to music that goes along with their style and have interests that go along with everything else. So more than true originality, this lifestyle is more of an “institutionalized” manufactured difference. It’s different but in the same framework. Different in an allowed way by normal standards.
As I said, both of these approaches work. That is mainly, I believe, because human kind feels most comfortable when they can recognize similar features in others, in other words, because people feel uncomfortable when someone is not behaving “normal”. There is also this instilled avoidance of truthfulness. You shouldn’t show certain emotions, you shouldn’t show your insecurities or how you feel towards other people. It makes people uncomfortable. You should aim to be an aloof, funny and sociable person above all. At least that’s what a lot of people aim to, and I understand. The human being is truly a sociable species and one cannot really thrive on their own. It is also (but not exclusively) through the relationship with others that one discovers himself and his place in the world. So it is natural that everyone is directing at least some of their efforts into fitting in.
What throws me off in society is how everything seems manufactured sometimes. Social media is obviously manufactured but also social interactions that should be more spontaneous and genuine. People are constantly evaluating themselves and trying to behave in a “normal” way, whatever that may mean. Normality by itself is such a vague and subjective concept that changes through time and culture that it really doesn’t mean anything in the end. So the fact that we aim to be normal seems very pointless to me. Normal to whom? By which standards? And why normal? Why not educated, confident, kind or peaceful? How does normality increase happiness? How does normality help in any way?
Being an outcast is not good and I do think that we should make an effort to reach out and connect with other people. We can learn something from everyone in this world and being isolated in a bubble with just ourselves is not a situation that is desirable in any way. However, I found myself in a lonely situation in many periods of my life. It feels very oppressive and it negatively impacts the self-esteem, generating many self-deprecating thoughts. That’s why I have, in the past, forced myself to act in a way that wasn’t really true to me: to criticise other people behind their back, to force interest in things that I am not interested and to adopt ways of speaking and acting that, although “relatable” to others, weren’t natural or spontaneous to me. Adopting these behaviours made it a lot easier for me to fit in, but the feeling wasn’t ultimately beneficial. I felt betrayed by myself. I gave up. I believe that if I hadn’t given up, those behaviours would actually become more natural and maybe (almost) part of my identity, but I’m glad they didn’t. I don’t want my identity to be built upon behaviours I adopted to please others.
This is so common, though, and I believe it doesn’t bring any benefits to oneself whatsoever. You may be making a lot of connections but the people you are attracting are not meeting the real you, so can you truly consider that they like you? Furthermore, by hiding some parts of yourself you may be losing the opportunity to meet someone that you can truly connect with on a deeper level. Everyone is scared of being lonely and everyone is trying to fit in. We’re really all on the same boat, everyone has insecurities and everyone has a deeper truest self that is not visible right away. So I believe human relations would be a lot easier if everyone tried to portray themselves in a genuine way instead of a likeable way. Much more could be accomplished if we were all being our true selves and trying to get to know everyone else’s true selves.
Maybe it’s not the easiest way: when a current pulls you one way it requires strain to go in a different direction. Maybe it is one of the reasons why I feel isolated sometimes although the more I am true to myself, the more I feel like I can truly connect with other people. The more I pay attention to others because I’m not so focused on what I look like or act like or sound like. It’s not always easy and rewarding but I’m not going to accommodate and give up on trying to accept myself and accepting myself also means that I want to surround myself by people that know me and treasure me.
I don’t think being normal or original is desirable. The only desirable way to be is truthful to your inner self. That’s what will bring truly amazing people to your life and hopefully inspire other people to show more of themselves as well. We all have so much to gain in knowing each other.