Becoming a Contrarian

by Crystal on July 3, 2009

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Recommended

Did you ever see that fantastic Monty Python iStock_000006559274XSmallskit where the crowd is yelling out “We’re ALL individuals” and “We’re ALL different”, but then a lone voice calls “I’m not!”

I love that sketch.  It’s an all time favourite.

Being an individual is an idea that we treasure so much that it’s all too easy to turn a blind eye to the fact that in many ways, we are exactly the same as everyone else.  We don’t like to think that we can have buttons pushed to make us react.  We don’t like to think that there’s not a lot we can point to and say: “That’s my own, unique, contribution to the world.  Nobody else could’ve done it.”

The sad truth is that for many of us, the struggle to make ends meet, and the pressure to live the way everyone else expects us to, will leave us realising at some stage that we’ve ended up in a job we hate, married, with kids, and a feeling that there’s no way out and nothing left of ourselves to express – a feeling usually labelled as “mid life crisis” and exploited all too well by sports-car salesmen.

There’s one big lie that perpetuates this situation.

We’re taught to believe that the little things we do, don’t count.  So, we put off writing that best-seller, composing that opus, painting the masterpiece or building the taj mahal.  We don’t have time right now, but we’ll get to it later…  It remains a treasured dream for the future, but we never take steps towards it in the now.

The authors, composers, artists and builders of the world can tell you, though, that their best work wasn’t the first one they did.  They started off with small steps, getting better along the way.

Being on that journey myself, I can also tell you, the later you start, the more you have to allow yourself time and space to re-discover your authentic voice or style.  We learn so well how to smother it in the name of conformity.

On the bright side, re-discovering it can be a lot of fun!  A lot like being a kid again, and with good reason.

The best and only way to discover what is you, and what is conditioning by society, is to push against that conditioning.  You have to be like the toddler who discovers the word “no” – and all of a sudden refuses to co-operate with authority.  (For any parents out there, take heart – this is a critical part of the journey to independence.  You DO want them to eventually grow up and leave home, I presume?)

This is where you have to let go of the lie.  You need to find little things where you can buck the trend with minor consequences, as you build up your confidence and ability to take the risk of the bigger steps in defiance of conformity down the track.  If the world is saying “no, you can’t blaze that trail because nobody’s ever done it before”, it’s going to take a lot of strength and will to say “Oh yes I can, and I will.  Nothing you can say will stop me. I’m outta here – goodbye.”

To develop that much willpower, you need to start small.  The little things you do WILL matter, long term, to the way you shape yourself and your life to be.  Want a few ideas on how to buck the trend?  Well, you know your own life and situation best, but a couple of examples to get you thinking:

  • Everyone has lunch somewhere between 12 and 1?  Who says you have to?  Why not arrange to go at 2, and have a lovely short stint before you finish up and go home.
  • Lunch is for eating?  Well, since eating at your desk doesn’t seem to be a problem for a lot of employers, why not have several small snacks at your desk through the day, and take your half-hour or hour lunchbreak to find someplace to meditate, lie in the sun, or even snooze instead?
  • Even something as little as choosing a bright outfit to wear, when everyone else is in blacks, greys or navy, can make you a bit more comfortable standing out, and blazing your own path.  (It’s funny – I did this at Uni when I got sick of seeing everyone in denim & black or white t-shirts, and within a month everyone was in bright colours and I had to go to wearing black to look different again!)
  • Is there a corporate uniform you’re stuck with?  Well, surely you can get away with accessories?  If you can’t even wear a hair comb that stands out, maybe you can start by wearing something very different UNDER your clothes, and just enjoy the knowledge privately…

The point is, there are lots of small ways you can start to flex that independence muscle, and begin taking steps along your own path.  It’s not easy to leave the well-worn track, and I’m not going to pretend that it is – but how many of the people you admire and respect have earnt that admiration through being good conformists?  Once you climb the walls of that rut, you have a whole wide landscape in front of you to explore, so why not go for it?

You, and every other person out there, has something special and unique to offer the world.  I’m convinced of it.  The tragedy is that we’re taught not to share it.  In the immortal words of Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

So, what will you do to strike your first match?

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