I had a conversation last week that astonished me. I had it patiently explained to me that it was better to let kids endure aggressive teachers than to do something about it, because relationships with aggressive people are a fact of life and it was good for kids to learn to get used to it at a young age.
When I protested that we always have a choice, we can always do something about it, I was brushed away with the explanation that “perhaps I could do that, but that is not how it is for everyone else.”
The determination of my converser to herit her own unwillingness to stand up for herself to her children frightened me.
We are largely defined, as individuals, by what we believe in strongly, both the things we are passionate about doing and the things we are passionate about preventing.
Some of us are more passionate than others and there are two extremes:
One says, “tow the line”, “don’t make waves”, “keep your head down”.
The other says: “live life to the full”, “to thyself be true”, “playing small does not serve the world”.
The first is very much about conformity. Pursuing this philosophy involves trying to be what you think other people want you to be and fitting in. The second is about authenticity, figuring out who you truly are and tying to be true to it, without fear or compromise in all situations.
We choose our path in every action and interaction. We may not do it consciously or deliberately, but how we respond to a situation is a choice, that we make, and that affects who we are.
There is of course a balance between having no opinion of our own and being a complete outsider who struggles to fit into anything.
The risk of over conformity as an individual is that we open ourselves up to abuse and mistreatment and a life that is “lead” by others. The risk of over individuality is that we become isolated and detached.
The risk for those who demand conformity in others is that they loose diversity of opinion, they loose creativity and they create a mono-culture where people won’t tell them when things are going wrong.
The point here is not about the extremes, or even how we are, but that the choice is made deliberately and consciously, understanding the options that are available to us. That we choose, in every moment, how much to align and how much to challenge, based on our authenticity. Based on our vision/purpose, of where we seek to go with our lives and our values, which define how we prefer to be, in achieving our vision/purpose.
Step one of course is to know and be your vision/purpose and values.
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