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Dare To Be Different - 5/31/2011

Few of you are even minimally aware of the extent to which the myriad of pressures and persuasions you were exposed to in childhood molded your adult behaviors, thoughts and feelings.  As a result, you generally act and think more in accordance with what you have been exposed to, pressured to conform with, or feel guilty when you don’t abide by.  

From the moment you drew your first breath, you were molded into shapes that your parents, your community and your world deemed appropriate, positive and deserving of approval.  You may see yourself as having free will and, indeed, you do, but in a subtle, covert manner, you were taught not to exercise it.  Thus, most of you only demonstrate it minimally.  Despite the fact that you intellectually know right from wrong, good from bad, constructive from destructive and positive from negative, when confronted with a conflict, in the space of five to ten seconds you experience a thirty minute debate deep down inside you, regarding what you should do and why you should do it.  It provides you with the illusion that you have a choice.  But, what you learned and assimilated early in life, almost always wins.  It started out simple;  smile and someone smiles back, coo and someone coos back.  Be a good boy or girl and you’re nurtured. Say nice things and you’re complimented.  Brush your teeth, go to school, study, be a good citizen and you will be appreciated and rewarded.  But, misbehave and you’re shunned.  Talk back, disobey and you’re punished or rejected.  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with any of these messages.   It’s just that, with each layer of control and dogma you assimilate, you lose sight of who you are.  Your sense of reality becomes so vague that, if pressured to decide, you’d be unsure whether your decisions stem from what you want, or from what you feel obligated to do.  As a result, your personality and individuality slowly  disappear.  But, you are rewarded for it.  You’re seen as “fitting in”.  You are accepted by your community and applauded for your politically correct behavior.   Even more importantly, you aren’t criticized or seen as a deviant.  You know who are.  They’re the peculiar, quirky adults or the kids with strange hairdos, piercings, tattoos or funky clothing, etc..  Most of whom are trying to make a statement that says, “I’m free to be me”.  Unfortunately, they pay a steep price for doing so.  They’re frequently shunned by the community and viewed as dysfunctional, or even disturbed.  Their positive qualities are usually invisible to the eye, because the eyes of the masses are blinded by overt appearances.  All people focus on is that these individuals are different.  Even more, they’re persons you have to keep your distance from, lest you start to question your own values and behaviors.  Fortunately, for your sake, most of them live outside of your social sphere.  Those who don’t usually wind up in treatment programs designed to help them conform to the rest of society.   

Sadly, the majority of you spend your lives trudging on the path most followed until, sometime late in life, when you ask, “Is that all there is?”   At that point in time, you also ask yourself “What’s wrong with me?  Why isn’t my life more rewarding?  Why am I unhappy and discontent?  I’ve lived according to all the rules.  I went to the right schools, worked hard, said all the appropriate things.  I learned those areas to avoid speaking about and what was politically correct or not.  I tried to be honest, although I did say, “Everything’s fine”, when I was really depressed, filled with anxiety, or my world was in chaos.  I also complimented people, even when I felt the way they dressed, did their hair, spoke or acted in ways I considered unacceptable, because I thought it was better than hurting them.  Anyway, honesty is only a word.  It’s no longer something you can count on.  There are few people you can totally trust.”  Sadly, there may be some truth to that statement, but what is even more disturbing is that few of you can trust yourselves.  You lie, distort, deny and rationalize the way you live your lives.  You lack the courage to introspectively look at yourselves or to change your behavior.  Instead, you go through life according to what you learned in childhood, never exercising your own feelings and thoughts.   

By the time you finally ask, “Is that all there is?”, you often feel insufficient, emotionally needy, frightened or angry, all of which you learned as a child are negative traits that should never be disclosed or expressed, lest you be considered  weak, needy or hostile.  It’s no wonder that you wound up seeing yourself as insufficient.  Because when, or if, you ever spoke honestly regarding your thoughts and feelings, you were told that something was wrong.

But, the truth is, you’re okay, but you don’t know it.  No matter how different you feel, think or appear, you are worthy of love.  You have value, even if you don’t totally fit in.  Nor should you be seen as a threat to society.  Instead, by expressing your thoughts in a healthy manner, you can provide concepts and examples which your children, friends or associates may possibly choose to follow.  By you being you, others can also  become persons of value, who don’t require the total approval of others to feel they’re okay; who know what they feel and think and want and have the courage to live their lives accordingly.   In effect, they are people you can trust and depend on, whose words you can believe, whose actions you can trust and whose lives have meaning  and merit.  That’s the gift you can give, just be risking openly, being who you are, as opposed to trudging the road most followed.

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