Warning: This blog isn’t for the faint hearted. If you believe formal education is the holy grail, social acceptance and reward are the basis of a healthy personality, and originality and uniqueness makes you uncomfortable, you should leave now. If you are not afraid of being yourself and you are prepared to be equaled emotionally to a dog, proceed. 🙂
Have you ever held a door for someone to go through before you, only to get upset because they don’t appreciate your action by making eye contact, nodding the head in appreciation, smile at you or say thank you?
It happens to me too. And I have realized that when I am really happy and at peace with my life, I don’t mind their lack of acknowledgement. When I am stressed or not in the best mood, it still pisses me off.
Then why do I keep doing it? Because I have good manners? Or is it perhaps because I am looking for a bit of acceptance and reward over my actions?
Being A Weirdo Since Day One
Anyone who knows me in person knows that at best you can call me original, at worst… a weirdo. I had a head start with my name: Tlahuicole Calva Djaddah, three words that puzzled every single teacher and person that had to read my name out loud.
As an eye doctor once told me, my name was kind of a character builder. First days in school were always ball-breaking, when all my peers would turn their faces looking for the owner of such name. No, not even in Mexico Tlahuicole is a common name, leave alone the Djaddah thing. I got more bullied than a punching bag at a boxing gym.
But it didn’t stop there. The name was the beginning of a life of uncommon choices. I guess being a child of a mixed racial couple has unintended consequences. But besides that I had always a different perspective on things. I rarely agreed with what society commonly accepts. It is something that comes naturally, without me ever trying.
My mom has not one drop of Mexican blood in her, even though she feels more mexican than guacamole. Being a jewish she has a confident demeanor that luckily I inherited without knowing I was doing so.
My dad is a typical mix of Mexican and Spanish blood, but being born to a very poor family in rural Mexico, he decided to make it in life. And boy he did! He got more bachelors and Master Degrees than I care to count and a life carpeted with success.
The Teenage Years
Of course, as everyone else at that age I tried to fit. I rejected all my weirdness and tried to be as average as I could. Sometimes I was successful but most of the time I wasn’t.
I was the owner of an extensive vocabulary due to incessant reading. My hyper-awareness of political and social issues, thanks to the endless after meal conversations I witnessed at home with heavy weight politicians from Mexico’s political scene. The love for everything related to science and the flowering interest in quantum physics spilled everywhere I went. I couldn’t stop writing short essays, short stories, poetry and music.
Besides that I was driven. I wanted to be accepted and mainstream, but by no means mediocre. Soon I discovered that getting rid of my prescription glasses, exercising and being good with girls made me popular.
But people always found distressing that I couldn’t be boxed. Too muscled to be smart. Too good at sports to be smart. Too geeky to be popular with girls. I was popular and extremely unpopular at the same time for all the wrong reasons.
Our Love For Being The Same, Acceptance And Denial of Originality And Uniqueness
While society worships some of those who excel, it also does its shares of shaming those who not conform. What a contradiction!
We group together trying to be as similar to the others as we can, while we embrace the flag of originality and uniqueness.
We say we are looking for our own style, yet we follow trends, enshrine manufactured idols and buy clothes from certain brands or designers.
If we happen to stray away from what is common and mainstream we pay the price. People usually ostracize those who dare. They get bullied as I did, ridiculed and outcasted from the groups they belong to.
Some do everything they can to become “like the rest”, at the expense of their own happiness and emotional well-being. Many bury their talents and aspirations to conform. Many deny their own instincts and conditions to be accepted by what their societies deem as acceptable.
Emotionally, We Aren’t Much Better than Dogs – Addicted To Reward –
From day one, we humans get addicted to reward. We learn to not soil ourselves because our parents cheer us when we tell them in advance we are about to shit ourselves.
We “finish our meal” to be rewarded with dessert or TV time – I belong to another era -. We learn not to beat our little brother or sister up to avoid a reprimand. We get good grades at school to be sent on holidays. We exercise good manners to get other people’s admiration. Our parents guide us to be respectable so society recognize them as good parents. Treats in exchange for desired behaviors.
So when we grow and have to choose between being ourselves or satisfy family and society, we usually go for the second. Through life, we never learned to be true to ourselves, so we don’t have positive experiences to draw strength from, to champion our nature.
How much talent, creativity, and originality gets lost every single day by denying/hiding our talents, our true potential, just to get the intangible, ephemeral reward of being a copy of just about everybody else?
Schools, The First Line Of Fire To Individuality – Rewarding Mediocrity –
I try to smile politely when I hear people over valuing formal education. If you read the last statement and are upset, you have been brainwashed and now defend the system that most likely, killed your dreams and imagination long ago. So long, you don’t remember you once had them.
School to me was a constant challenge. Not every teacher was an enemy, but the majority of them were, sometimes actively trying to ruin my studies. Unfortunately for society, teachers for the most part aren’t there because they love what they do, they are there because they couldn’t fare better. Instead of having inspired, capable professionals, with true love for education and the youth, we have left-overs from the economic machine.
As a result, these incapable and frustrated individuals hate free thinkers, since they embody everything they are not. Truly intelligent people ask uncomfortable questions and challenge assumptions. Smart kids tend to spot bullshit easier and earlier than average people, and they are happy to call it.
I must be clear, I am not saying all teachers are unintelligent or uninspiring. I am saying that, the way society is organized, detract those truly capable of teaching, and regrettably, sends them elsewhere into the workforce. Total waste.
Those who are truly gifted to teach and lead with example, welcome diversity and challenge. They may in fact, like the difficult kids, the “rebels”, the most; those who choose not to conform at whatever price it takes. They aren’t boring with barren imaginations and minds.
Our formal education system makes sure to unify thought, but not for the best. As we stand, our current education system is nothing more that indoctrination. It oils the wheels of our industrial society to accept inequality and feeds employees to inconsequential jobs.
It is important to remember that one of the reasons Napoleon instituted the universal education system was to prevent the poor kids and teenagers to join the continuos Revolutions that were threatening the very existence of Western Europe at that time.
The Outcomes Of The System Become Their Loyal Perpetrators
Once the educational and social system churn the masses into sheep unable to act on their own accord, it vomits them back into society. Even when they were the victims of such system, they now become agents against change. They become the instrument of repression of those who didn’t lose their uniqueness and originality after finishing school, or decided to drop out.
Those agents against change are everywhere. They are family members, friends and those who swear they love you and only want what is best for you. As long as that “best for you” matches what THEY believe is good for you. They dedicate a good part of their time to point fingers at those who dare to be different.
Everything then becomes unacceptable, weird shoes, different clothes, pink shirts, sexual preferences, life choices, different likes, behaviors, etc. Everything is punishable with disdain, arrogance, anger, hate and even violence.
It starts with the family. As much as they love you, they seem to love you only as long as you comply with what they expect from you.
What is good for you, is only good if everyone in your household agrees with you. Otherwise you become the black sheep, an object of social shame.
Don’t get me started with religion, another place where dissent meets with anger, promise of revenge, death and eternal punishment. Suffice to remember that middle east guy who was crucified for saying love one another!
Why Is It So Difficult To Be Yourself?
As stated above: We need acceptance. We are addicted to reward. We are constantly searching and craving for acceptance. We want our parents, siblings, teachers, bosses, lovers, colleagues and friends, to accept us. And we are happy to sell our freedom of thinking and doing for their nod of acceptance.
Through our childhood, adolescence and adult life we neglected the self. We didn’t give attention to our inner life. We never stopped and listened our inner world. We got taught to obey, to conform, to follow.
Very few parents today teach their kids to make responsible decisions. They are afraid the decisions of their kids are contrary to their own wishes. We learned to give our backs to our desires and ideas to stay socially integrated and accepted. We don’t know the cost, neither the pleasure of following one’s heart.
If Dogs Can, We Can Too!
But even dogs can do better! The more intelligent the dog is, the more you have to work hard to get them to cooperate. Some races have that “what’s in it for me” attitude, putting first their own personality rather than the treat you are offering them.
So if dogs can do it, so can we! We can delay reward or reject it altogether and look for it elsewhere, in a more valiant, honest and meaningful way. We could grow balls and not be dependent on others to feel happy, accepted or confident.
So, if we decide to open the door for someone to pass first, we must be clear it is our choice and we shouldn’t expect a nod, a smile or a thanks. No one owes us nothing. What we do, and WHY we do things shouldn’t be dependent on how we expect others to react.
A large amount of human efforts and actions are guided exclusively to get admiration from our peers. That will bring us only unhappiness, dependency and frustration.
The Tough Way, Originality And Uniqueness
The tough way is recognizing the problem and doing something about it. The moment you know it is insane to act accordingly to other people’s wishes, you are already winning!
If you have been pushing down your true nature just to make others happy, you have been wasting your life.
But blame it on no one but yourself. you aren’t a victim. You didn’t know better, and if you did, you were not brave enough to pursue what you love with confidence.
For many years I blamed my dad for not allowing me to study literature or classical music. I made myself into a victim, until my wise brother helped me to realized that, if I really wanted to do so, I could have done it, regardless of the difficulties. Even if I had to resort to homelessness, at some point, my dad would have allowed me to pursue my real interests, had I shown I was truly committed to them.
But Is It Really Difficult To Be Yourself?
Is it easy to be confident when people disagree or dislike your choices or your whole persona? Is it worth being yourself while everyone else resents your calls? It is easy, so long as you earn your rewards and satisfaction from your own actions and decisions. If you don’t recognize the nature of your addiction through acceptance, it is then next to impossible.
All it takes is understanding human nature. Understanding that your very act of being, without caring about their acceptance or rejection, is disturbing to those who traded their dreams for acceptance long ago.
Originality and uniqueness make others feel uncomfortable and afraid. They are as unhappy as you are, but they haven’t mustered the courage to be themselves and still prefer to act in ways that are contrary to their nature. Just for social and family acceptance.
The joy of following one’s heart is immense. The torture of being puppets of societies molds is real and never ending.
You are not a dog, you don’t need approval. those who truly love you, will encourage you, they will empower you, they will protect you.
More than anything, they will love you, because those who are true to themselves, shine a light of hope, on those who are still addicted to reward and fear rejection.
Word Of Caution
Being yourself is not about becoming an attention seeker, someone actively bothering others for the sake of it. It is not a me, me, me, without substance. Being yourself requires growth, commitment, intelligence and above all, compassion. It is not about angering others intentionally.
Being a vegan for example and bothering meat-eaters makes you an idiot and a clown. Be yourself, without imposing to others. Respect as much as you want to be respected.
Don’t point fingers. Being yourself makes you authentic, and perhaps more valuable as a person, but never as a human being. At a human level we are all of identical value, no matter our actions or choices at a personal level.
The only difference is that you value your essence more than their acceptance.
Do as you have to do, in accordance to your heart and nature, and let others be. They are fighting their battle just as you are fighting yours. Don’t hate those who hate you, secretly, you are inspiring some of them, and your sole actions are a slap in the face to those who don’t have the courage to follow their hearts.