“You can’t BE an individual.”

When I was younger, I didn’t want to conform with a certain social norm in college, and went out of my way to make sure that whatever I did, I under no circumstances would be seen as a conformist.

One day, I thought about my actions, and realized, the reason that I didn’t want to conform was because I wanted to be seen as an individual and not constrained by society, but in not confirming, I was ironically, being constraining myself by society in an effort to be seen as an individual.  So I was stuck.  How was it possible to be a non-conformist?

That was when I realized, that as long as I cared what society had to tell me, I could never BE a non-conformist.  In fact, you can’t be a non-conformist.  You just are a non-conformist if you are – or aren’t if you aren’t.

Similarly, in the efforts to be an individual, I wanted to be an individual so no one could say, “look at Josh, he does what society tells him to do”, but again ironically, in wanting to BE an individual, I was in fact doing something for the sake of society, and not for myself.  Funny, isn’t it.

The lesson to take away is that if you want to truly be an individual or non-conformist in this world, you must first stop trying to do anything for the sake of another.  Once there is someone else in the picture, there is no longer any more individuality.  Rather, you must focus on yourself as the only person in the world that really exists (more on this tomorrow – don’t take it too seriously for now) and ask what you need to thrive – or better, what you should need to thrive – and make sure you fill those needs.  From there, you won’t need to try to BE an individual, because as you already know, you already ARE an individual.

P.S. As I mentioned, I realized this lesson almost twenty years ago, and I have yet to really be able to break away from caring what people think about me or do what I think is right in the face of societal norms.  However, I have certainly slowly gotten better at it over the years though constant sustained efforts, and would suggest that if you work on it, you will certainly make headway, and your life will improve because of the efforts.

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