I’m turning 40 next week, and one thing that still amazes me is how scared people are of what others think. I thought the search for identity was something limited to twenty-somethings, but boy was I wrong. I see people in their 30’s and 40’s scared to post anything on social media for fear of negative responses. I see people in their 50’s that defer to everybody they know, nearly breaking themselves to make everybody happy. I see senior citizens that don’t know who they are because they’ve spent their entire life shifting who they are to please others. I’ve seen people of all ages freak out because their preferences change, and the fact that they changed their mind about something nearly broke them. Being yourself has been a goal and purpose in my life since I decided to major in psychology in college, and the older I get, the more I see that this is the biggest challenge we face as human beings.
I’m not saying we need to convert to an anarchic society. Societal norms exist to help us to live together with as much harmony as possible. I know my jokes about being a hermit aren’t reality, and so should you. No man is an island, and we should be gracious and respectful of one another. Relationships are a critical necessity in this world. HOWEVER, there’s plenty of room within those norms to be yourself without hurting others. Much like the ancient Israelites, we’ve taken good guidelines and tacked things to them that aren’t important. Laws are vital to health and safety. “Please” and “thank you” are necessary. Don’t yell fire in a crowded theater is common sense. No selfies at funerals is respectful to those that mourn. Not wearing white between Labor Day and Easter is meaningless. You have to use discernment to know what’s real and what we’ve made up for selfish or irrelevant purposes.
I’m not saying we need to start a revolution. Life isn’t a Cheech and Chong movie. What I am saying is that the confidence to be true to ourselves not only makes us happy, but it should inspire others. Inspiration, however, can be good or bad. You hope that it will lead them on that pathway with joy, but being challenged can also make people angry. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need it. In fact, they need it the most!
If everybody loves you; if everybody agrees with you; if you never find yourself maligned, misunderstood, or mistreated; then you’re doing it wrong. Authentic people find joy in what makes them unique, and realize that it challenges others to find their own freedom. The goal is the destination of being the best “you” that you were created to be. It’s up to each individual whether the journey is joyful or painful.
That’s all today. Take care, and have a great week.