We are taught to conform to a norm from a young age.
At school, we usually wear uniforms – and they have to be just so. Obeying rules, behaving yourself, doing as you’re told.
Then there’s the peer pressure – from having the right pencil case to the right haircut, from being in the right crowd to fancying the right people.
We are encouraged to follow a well-trodden path of job, marriage, mortgage and children – and preferably in that order.
Conventions are changing, but we learn that standing out, deviating from the norm or being individual isn’t always welcome.
Well, stuff that.
We’re not clones.
Each of us are individual, with our own talents. Diversity is what makes the world interesting.
It’s how we make change happen. Think of some of the people who have made peace happen, invented things, design things, transform the world.
They all follow their own path.
(Re: the above quote – it applies to boys, too!)
The BBC Three show Snog, Marry, Avoid features people who celebrate their individuality through what they wear and how they wear it. If you’ve never seen it, it features young women and some men, usually in their early twenties who wear lots of make up, hair extensions, and not many clothes – and sometimes all three. They’re encouraged by a computer programme, POD, to ‘ditch the fakery’ and ’embrace natural beauty’. Some of the people on the show are there because of pressure from family to look a bit more ‘normal’, others are just curious about what they’ll look like au naturel, and some say they are tired of attracting the ‘wrong kind’ of attention.
The latter sometimes skirts dangerously close to the rape debate, saying women are ‘asking for it’ because of what they wear. While some of the outfits (women’s as well as men’s) leave little to the imagination, any sexual assault is always the assailant’s fault.
Ultimately, it’s a light-hearted show designed to highlight that people are naturally beautiful, and that they don’t need to wear the warpaint or flash their junk to be attractive.
When those who have been made-under are revisited a couple of months later, a good 90% (ish, I haven’t done an actual survey) of them are back to how they were before. That’s because it is who they are. They choose to reflect their individuality through the way they dress, the way they apply their make up and do their hair.
Yes, some of them are extreme – but so what? People should feel free to express their individuality in whatever way they choose, without fear of judgement or being labelled.
Many of us admire others, and want to emulate the way they do things in the hope that it will bring us similar success in whatever field they are successful in.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s also nothing interesting in becoming a clone of that person.
Take inspiration, but add your own personal sparkle to it. Make it yours. Own it.
We can spend so long focusing on our weaknesses and being self-deprecating we can forget our strengths.
You are best at being you. You are better than you think.
What are you good at?
It is what makes you special. Yes, you.
Never be afraid to be individual. Acknowledge what makes you, you.
Do it with a flourish.
Shout about what drives you. Spend time doing what interests you. Live a life full of passion, determination, happiness. Deviate from the norm. Don’t care what anyone else thinks (as long as your interests don’t hurt anyone else, of course).
Stick two fingers up at the norm. Shun copying other people. Embrace being yourself.
Think you haven’t got the confidence to do that? Nonsense, you do. You’ve got it in bucketloads, you might just not realise it yet. Small steps.
It might be challenging to do what interests you when you have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and no spare time.
But there are always things you can do, however small, that make you the person you want to be.
It’s natural to want to impress people, and to want to fit in. We’ve moved on from having the pencil cases – but on to other things. Only do what is true to you. If they like you, they will like you anyway. If they don’t, it’s their loss.
It took me until I was in my thirties to realise my own individuality. I didn’t ‘fit in’ during my school days, and I probably still don’t – but that’s a good thing (except for being in the exclusive group that no one wants to be a member of: the bereaved parent club). I am no longer embarrassed to say what I am interested in, as I was years ago (I like alternative music, TV and films, for example). I have a very dry sense of humour. While I love clothes, I don’t follow fashion, preferring instead to dress according to my own individual style. I stand up for what I believe in, and I do my best to follow my own path.
Don’t conform to all norms.
Don’t live life thinking “I wish…”
You are more than enough. You are amazing.
Just be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.