Every now and then, I think that I ought to take Zen Habits out of my RSS feed. It feels lately like the blog has turned into a treatise on how to become Leo, to make the exact life choices he has. Overall, I’m not interested in being Leo and I miss his thoughts about other aspects of life. Still, I keep putting off making the changes in my feed.
Good thing. Yesterday, he wrote about how to live being different. So often we’re told we need to be like other people, to fit in. It’s not okay to be different in our society and being large is partly an issue of being different. There’s so much judgment if you don’t look like other people. Or if you’re an introvert, it’s not okay with society that you prefer to live quietly and are happier at home than out socializing in bars or clubs or whatever.
There are things I want to change about me. If I’m honest, part of the reason I want to change is that I don’t want to feel so different. I don’t want to feel judged. But coming from that space, I’m judging myself. It’s no longer the other people and what they might think of me – it has become all about me and what I think of me. I have other reasons for wanting to change. Some of the most important reasons are about my health but those reasons alone sadly don’t push me that extra step to make the changes. I wonder if one of the reasons I haven’t changed is a sort of pushing back at what I think society wants from me? I can, after all, be very contrary. Sometimes to my detriment.
Dealing With the Social Costs of Being Different
- Embrace your differences. While being different can be a bit hard, it’s not a bad thing. Being different is who makes you who you are. It means you’re daring to live your own life, on your terms, with your values. It means you have courage to stand out from the mainstream. It means you’re interesting. Hug those differences, be grateful for them, own them. Be proud of them.
- See the teaching opportunity. Part of why I live my life differently is to be an example, to show that there are alternatives, that we don’t have to be consumerists or buy into the system or support factory farming or be unhealthy or give our responsibility to educate our kids away (for example). And so when people have questions, as tiring as they can be, actually I am grateful for the opportunity to educate, to share, to explore interesting ground with people. […].
- Find company in yourself. You can be at a party, in the middle of a crowd of people who don’t connect with you, and be perfectly OK. It’s not necessarily lonely if you like your own company. But you also don’t have to be isolated — see the next item.
- Be curious. If you’re isolated at a party, there are ways to beat this. For example, don’t think just because people are different than you that you don’t have things in common. Be curious about them, and instead of thinking, “They don’t understand”, realize that maybe you don’t understand. Get to know them, see the beauty in them, find things that you love, understand why they live the way they do. Listen. Look.
- Find friends who understand. The above notwithstanding, there are people who will embrace your differences, even think you’re awesome because of them. They might also be vegan (for example), or they might just be very individualistic people who think your radical-ness is cool. You share stories about your lives, find them fascinating, want to hang out. And in this exploration, you meet some fascinating open-minded people you can connect with.
- The nay-sayers drift. While I love my family and old friends who don’t understand my differences, if they constantly attack and get angry and talk behind my back, I probably won’t want to hang out with them as much. They tend to drift out of my life, because they don’t really want to engage in an open discussion, and that makes it hard to have a relationship.
- Turn your different-ness into an advantage. While there might be costs to being different, actually there are huge benefits too. Being different means you stand out, which is a good thing in a world where everyone is trying to blend in. It means you’re interesting, because you’re different. It means you are less restricted by what’s comfortable, able to explore new ground, not afraid of things because you don’t know about them. It means you’re learning more than most people. These are huge advantages, if you use them to build a business, make friends, and live the life you want to live.
This, to me, is about loving yourself as you are. Accepting your own differentness. You can choose what you want to change once you’re comfortable being who you are.