We don’t have to fit into anyone else’s “box.”
But: they will try hard to convince us we do.
The world wants us to be predicable and comprehensible to them.
They want us to behave in ways they can understand, predict, and control.
This may or may not be conducive with our happiness and growth.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think the world is necessarily crazy or even mean. OF COURSE we want the people around us to be understandable, predictable, and controllable.
I’m NOT saying “the whole world is against you.” I don’t think the world cares enough about us as individuals to be either for OR against us, at least intentionally.
What I AM saying is that the world is not necessarily INTERESTED in our growth or happiness.
It is INTERESTED in us being a known quantity.
Sometimes, in order to really be ourselves, we need to step outside of the world’s comfort zone.
We’re going to have to be unpredictable to them. We’re going to have to be uncontrollable by them. Sometimes we’re going to be incomprehensible to them.
They’re not going to like that.
The world will often try to essentially bribe us to stay in our lane.
The world will dangle social approval in front of us to get us to conform to what IT thinks we “should” be.
Social approval is nice. But it’s not self-esteem.
Our goal is to become internally directed. To not stay at the mercy of anything external.
Yes, the approval and comfort of others matters. I’ll never tell you it doesn’t. We are social animals, and we want to form positive, durable bonds with other people.
I don’t happen to think that loneliness is the necessary price of success or self-esteem.
But others’ approval and comfort is not worth sacrificing our individuality or self-esteem for.
At the end of the day, we need to live in our skin. We need to look at ourselves in the mirror.
There are going to be moments when nobody else is around— when it’s just us, up in our head.
During those moments, others’ approval will not matter.
Our relationship with ourselves will be the only thing there.
Will we be able to tell ourselves that we did everything we could to be an individual, to pursue our passions and interests, to truly be ourselves in a world that tried very hard, again and again, to get us to abandon ourselves?
We can’t abandon ourselves and recover at the same time.
Depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma— they all count on us bailing on ourselves.
They count on us being disgusted by who we are, what we feel, what we need.
If we absolutely refuse to bail on ourselves— if we refuse to squeeze ourselves into the little “box” that is preferred by “the world” so we can be understandable, predicable, and controllable— then depression, anxiety, addiction, and trauma eventually run out of oxygen.
We can starve our pain with relentless self-compassion.
We can stare down our emotional and behavioral struggles with unwavering self-acceptance.
It’s not easy.
The world was not constructed with us being autonomous and consistent.
Confuse the world.
Confound the world.
Refuse to compromise who you are for the comfort or convenience of anyone else.
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