I saw a girl the other day with some really “strange” hairstyle in multiple colours and thought, why will someone do that and draw so much attention to themselves? Don’t judge me because I judged someone.
I quickly had to remind myself, she was being herself. Ah! That famous advice we all dish out to people, particularly the young- “Be yourself”.
In my line of work, when someone comes into an interview room, we judge them based on their appearance first and then their competency. Why? Because we expect them to look a certain way, talk a certain way, say certain things, sit a certain way, and wear certain colours and the list goes on. Ultimately they HAVE TO FIT a particular role.
This can sometimes be very conflicting to the whole idea of being you. We want them in essence to act the part. Why then are we surprised when they show their true colours when they have the job and start working with us.
It never ceases to surprise me that when you are young, you do what you like. As a toddler, everyone thinks you’re cute and they all smile and laugh at your silliness and say they can’t get enough of how cute you are.
No one judges you. Your imperfection is perfect in everyone’s eyes.
Then you become a little older and you are told what to do and not do. I get it, parents; guardians, the community and wider world make it their business to mould you to fit cultural norms and expectations. This can be a good thing. The good book commands that we train a child the way to go, so he/she doesn’t depart from it when they grow. Fair enough. So adults have a job and that is, to turn your blank slate into their idea of a piece of art. A well-behaved child and adult and lets face it, its pleasant to deal with well behaved polite people. The challenge is to be “well behaved” or a decent human being and have a sense of personal identity. So when does the moulding stop?
You’ve probably been there, because as a teen you sometimes battle with identity crisis and for one reason or the other, and you want to fit in. You want to have what popular culture has told you and your peers to have or be. You begin to question who you are and sometimes you even hate who you are. Yes hate, because you think something is wrong with you. You’re conflicted by all the voices telling you to be a certain way and gradually you begin to lose a sense of who you are or should be, aka yourself.
As an adult you begin to constantly seek approval from people, from society. There were times I felt I had to be a certain way just to get the approval of one of my parents, but I realised no matter how hard I tried, I will not be perfect in their eyes, so I stopped looking for the validation I craved. I started becoming myself regardless of their disapproval, judgement or possibly over caring and almost stifling attitude. It sounds harsh, but it can be stifling if we are told what to do and not do all the time. There is no spontaneity, there is no room for creativity, colouring outside the lines feels forbidden, and there is no room for exploration or learning critical life lessons the hard way. We are sheltered from life’s sometimes harsh realities.
More and more, I am beginning to think we don’t mean it when we tell people to be themselves.
I say this because 9 out of 10, we question why people can’t just be like us. Why can’t they just conform? We are not tolerant enough, we can’t accept differences, we judge, we question, we have a sense of superiority. Shame on us.
Societies, communities, cultures have a way of behaviour and the hard truth is you have to sometimes conform to be accepted into the club or you have to be with likeminded people. It feels like you can only be yourself when you are out of the club and alone or very rich and you can get away with anything or you are very old.
I see older people nearing the grave don’t care what anyone thinks about them anymore. But why wait till then to be yourself?
Next time you see someone dance in the middle of nowhere or wear something you wouldn’t wear, or talk or sit or laugh a certain way, let them be.
They are being themselves and you should too. Life is short; we can’t all be the same, our exposure and orientation is different.
In the interest of peace, just be the best version of yourself, but remember your freedom ends at someone’s discomfort. We should respect and embrace positive diversity and positive is relative. Oh how tricky!