Following your own path–How to be a socially acceptable non-conformist

Part of being an inspirational page owner on Facebook, for me anyway, is trying to convince people that they can become authentic and they will still be loved.  It means sending out messages, often in poster form, encouraging people away from that life of quiet desperation and towards a life of their own making, full of love, joy, and happiness.  I work very hard to plant seeds that give people permission to be themselves even if it means not totally conforming to what most of us seem to think society wants from us.  I am hoping to let people know that you can become a socially acceptable non-conformist, but few people seem to trust that.

Follow the road only you know exists.

I often hear, “I would love to do this, but…,” or, “I wish I could do that, but…”  These statements are always followed by why they cannot do this, that, or the other thing, and in the end if comes down to their fear of bucking what society and the media feeds us, telling us all what we should be doing, and wanting, and attaining.  It would seem that we are all supposed to be working ourselves into the ground, squeezing our families in when we can, and most definitely, we should be trying to please everyone even if it means denying ourselves.  I used to buy into that, too.  In fact, I owned the company.  I cannot buy into it anymore and I so wish that more people understood that life is all about choices, and we DO have them in nearly every part of our lives.  The real question is, are we willing—are we brave enough to make choices that others might not agree with, or see as a little too different to fit into their comfort zones?  Are YOU brave enough, if you are living a life of quiet desperation, to make serious changes, and not to follow the pack?

I have a friend who is in her mid 70′s and I do not think she has ever known real happiness and contentment.  She worked herself silly as a younger woman and stayed in a marriage that made her miserable.  She lives in a large, gorgeous, home that is decorated within an inch of its life.  You cannot find a single surface, floor included, where there is not some piece of brick-a-brack every six inches.  Her deck has lovely patio furniture with cushions that must be brought inside every time there is a threat of rain, and under the patio furniture are rugs that get soaked when it does rain.  She is constantly on the go, doing for others at the drop of a hat, never able to relax, or just to say “no.”

If she leaves the house without being well dressed and in full make-up, she worries that people will talk about her behind her back.  When she entertains, even a barbecue, no one can relax because she cannot relax.  She has a grandson who is an absolutely wonderful, kind, giving, and grounded young man and of him she says, “Yes, but he’ll never be rich.  Not enough ambition.”  What must I look like to her, I wonder?  I wonder, but the thing is, I do not care.

She looks tired or scared a lot of the time, and every night she drinks too much.  I know at this point in life chances of her changing are slim, but how I would love to see her relax and just find the joy in herself and in life.  I would love to see her just plain happy, and yet, I used to be just like her.  I was constantly on the go, chairing this committee, or that one, or serving on this board, or that one, or more often, all of them. At the same time, I was raising a lot of very young children, and married to a surgeon which meant frequent entertaining, and when I entertained, my goal was to out do those who had gone before me.

I had to be the best at everything and as much as I truly cared about all of the things that I was doing, the reason I was doing them was to feel better about myself.  I had been raised with the notion that perfection was the only acceptable result, and I constantly missed the mark.  It got to the point, shortly before we moved from the community in which I was the go-to person for most everything, where I was out of steam completely, but found myself yelling at my husband who had already moved, “I will not leave this town with anyone thinking I am anything less than perfect!”  He had suggested I drop a thing or two and I could not conceive of doing that.  And just like my friend, I drank every night after I got the kids to bed to ease the pain of another day of being less than perfect.

Of course, that desire to be perfect was a swell cover for many pains that were far deeper, and in the end, that drive to be perfect took me into some places darker than black, and deeper than any bottomless pit, and it very nearly killed me.  However, I had to be knocked down more than a few times before I became willing to make changes in myself, and how I lived, and to be true to myself, and my temperament, and to get to the core of the pain I was hiding from with the need to appear perfect, and the drinking, and the excessive activity.  It took a lot of work, and massive amounts of courage, and a real commitment, and a long, damn, time, but I have found a place where I fully accept myself and am happy in my own skin.  When you get to that place, anything is possible, but far fewer things seem attractive, necessary, or even close to acceptable.

It is no longer attractive to me to pursue perfection.  I would be lying if I said I was totally over the need to be perfect.  The word perfect is one of my favorite words to hear, especially when it comes to my cooking, or writing.  However, I can now easily accept the phrases, “very good,” and “nicely done.”  Before, those would have been seen as insults.  I no longer find it necessary to please everyone to the exclusion of myself, nor is it necessary to say yes to every opportunity that is offered to me.  I derive my sense of self-worth from within—from God and from how I operate in this world.  It is no longer acceptable to me to strive beyond what is healthy for me, nor is it acceptable to have things I do not need, buy things I cannot afford, live somewhere that is far too big, or act like I am anyone but me–the genuine, essential, flawed, imperfect, happy, joyful, me.

Some may view me as lazy.  I know that I am anything but lazy.  Some may think that I need to acquire more things, or have more of what people think that everyone needs, like cable TV, for instance.  I do not want or need cable TV, nor does my son need anymore exposure to vile programs or inappropriate media stories than he already gets other places.  I do not need anymore things, or shoes to match this, or a handbag to go with that.  I now know exactly what I need and that is God, to love my family and friends, to work to pay the bills, and to write to honor God and the gift He has given me.  I have goals for the future that I pray will be a blessing to many, and dreams that I know I will see fulfilled.  God did not create me to be perfect, or run myself ragged in the pursuit of an illusion, or to deny myself and what He has placed in me.  Add a bit of solitude and quiet and my life could not be better.

I live a life so simple and honest that it is hard for many not to see it lacking in some way.  Yet, I know from what they tell me, that they want the same things.  It is just too scary.  The path to get there just looks too scary to take.  I had to go very far inside myself to find my path and it is only the right path for me.  Today, I encourage you to be brave enough to find your own unique path, even if it does not conform to what society wants for you.  Have the courage to go deep enough inside yourself to know who you are and what you really want and be willing to get rid of all of the rest, even if it hurts.  I encourage you towards a life of simplicity, joy, peace, and genuine happiness.  How badly do you want it is the real question?

29 thoughts on “Following your own path–How to be a socially acceptable non-conformist

  1. Pingback: Following your own path–How to be a socially acceptable non-conformist | Natural Beauty and Skin Care Made Easy

    • She’s a beautiful, generous, kind, loving woman and I love her very much. Around me, she can be whoever she needs or wants to be. I hope that is true for everyone I am around…

  2. i totally agree i try to do it myself in france and that is a hard work !!! so many people would like to change but don t belive in it….great work to spread the faith of the heart ! you are blessed !!!!

  3. Ah, yes. That self-sabataging word “perfection.” I really believe it was because of my quest to be perfect that led me to make so many mistakes and hurt myself and the people who loved me the most. (Perfect people don’t ask for help, do they? But they are the ones who need the most help!) It is an insane way to live. After having lived through the emotional and physical abuse I experienced at 18, striving to be perfect is how I proved to myself (and others) that I was “okay” and unaffected. In reality, I was screaming inside, and I needed to purge the anger in healthy ways.

    I look around and know that nothing that I have acquired matters. Not my education, my jobs, my car, my house, etc. The only thing that really matters is how much I love myself and my family and friends. I haven’t watched TV since we moved in July. We have it; I simply don’t turn it on or engage when someone else turns it on. It hasn’t been missed.

    I dream of the day we can be home together all day enjoying each other’s company and taking walks when we feel like it and prepare meals together and not worry about what’s in our bank accounts or how we’re going to pay for this or that.

    Thanks for sharing this post. :)

    • We are getting there, Paula! Seeking perfection is an awful way to live, indeed! I have a whole blog post in my head about asking for help! That will probably be next. Be good to yourself! Xoxoxo

  4. This is a thing of beauty to read and an even more beautiful message to drink in, deeply. I just found your blog via the LifeRevelation blog, and I look forward to reading more. I have been working through these issues and find your view from the “other side” so encouraging. I just posted about how maintaining the “illusion” of a perfect marriage causes people to live lives of “quiet desperation” not getting needed help. So you can see why your post resonated with me! Blessings.

    • I wanted to read what you had written before I replied. Sorry it took so long. Sometimes we have to lose all in order to be able to tell all. There is a remarkable freedom in having been taken so low that the only thing left to see is the glorious face of God and the vision of His magnificent plan for you—the one He has from the start, but you just didn’t know it. I didn’t make my changes easily. It wasn’t seamless and linear and neat. It was messy, and ugly, and painful, and then suddenly, absolutely beautiful. We have so much pride, all of us, and I know for me, it was that pride combined with many other things that almost undid me. Now, I am working on undoing my pride issue. Your writing is lovely. Truly lovely! Blessings to you, too, and thank you!

      • How interesting that the beauty came on suddenly after the ugliness and pain. Makes me think of the verse that includes the phrase “but joy come in the morning”. The light shines and you suddenly SEE, as you say so well, “the glorious face of God and the vision of His magnificent plan…” Amen! Thanks for your kind words about my writing.

  5. This is a stunning post. It took my breath away. I can’t remember if you are anonymous on your FB page or if you tweet, but I have to share this. Who/how do I say who wrote this.

    I want to be able to stop aching for perfect. I screw up and then I beat myself up. I know whose voice I hear, but I can’t get it to stop. I need to understand what you did to move beyond the desire for perfect. How did you do it, A?

    • Hi Renee, I can only respond to your first message right this moment. One twitter I am OneHotMessage. As far as my anonymity goes, I am somewhat out of the closet. I put my name on my posters, along with my page name. So using my name is okay ;-) Thank you so very much! I will respond to part #2 after the child is in bed.

      • Renee, getting beyond the need to be perfect did not happen overnight. It was a long process fraught with a lot of extreme mistakes and behavior. I do not recommend my path. However, it also included a lot of counseling, huge amounts of reflections, a lot of willingness and commitment, and a true intent and desire to change—fearlessly. I am not kidding about the massive amounts of courage, either. I probably underestimated on that point. You have to make a choice to change then follow through with that intention, no matter how hard it gets, or what ugliness you have to discover and look at and release, and you simply cannot give up, no matter what it takes, or how long it takes. Everyone’s process will look different, but the choices and behaviors that make up the foundation are the same—choice, intention, willingness, courage, work, and commitment..with help. You can get there! Xoxoxo

  6. I loved, love this. I keep trying to get simple (not stupid just simple) it is difficult though. Not because I am having a hard time, just because I am still responsible for others who are not yet on the same track with me. Hmmm, they say they are but no, they aren’t not yet. The more I scale back the more they cry.

    Perhaps if they read this?

    The more I find I am letting go, the easier it is to not be perfect. What a wonderful lesson you have brought. Thank you.

    • Valentine, my older kids have had to adjust, but it hasn’t been so bad. We have all needed to make adjustments to accommodate my growth and their growth into adulthood. Willingness and love are the keys. I think my kids are relieved, quite frankly. I am so much happier, more easy going, and at peace. Who would like that? Just because they are not ready, do not let them hold you back from what you know that you want and need. You will get there! Xoxoxo

  7. Thank you for stopping and liking a recent post. I enjoyed this post. Your title caught my eye as it is at the heart of the human condition and paradox. It is a struggle to be accepted and be authentic simultaneously. You brought the topic to life.

    Ivon

    • Thank you so much, Ivon! I love how you teach. I love how you give your students a say in their education. My youngest is 7 and in public school. My older six, now adults, went to private schools. The difference is stark and not always pleasing. I simply want my little guy to be treated as an individual. I think I got spoiled. Thank you for your kind words about this post. I very much appreciate them! Ann

  8. Pingback: The Fruitless Pursuit of an Anonymous Hacker « My Right To Bitch

  9. Oh sweet hot mess, you had me at hello, or should I say you had me at “… trying to convince people that they can become authentic and they will still be loved.” I don’t think I’ve ever thought of what we do that way, but that is exactly it. And I love the example you are, my friend! This was perfect. :D

  10. Pingback: Link love: Climbing out of the box | Journey Through the Chrysalis

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