June2017: Are You an Original or a Replica?

by Brad on May 31, 2017

“The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.” – Rita Mae Brown

We all come into this world as trusting, innocent, collaborative, creative beings. And then we learn we’re not. Through efforts of parents, teachers, friends, managers and media, all blindly echoing what they were taught, we learn we have to become someone we’re not, an admission ticket of sorts to “the way it is in the world.” Society’s message is as pervasive as the air we breathe; and as is true with air, we don’t examine or question it. Work hard, stay busy, get it right, play things safe, get stuff done, don’t rock the boat, and, a newer addition, be politically correct (whatever that is.) In favoring conformance and social acceptance over personal authenticity, we have become replicas instead of originals, living someone else’s thinking instead of our own. If you don’t believe this, watch young children play. They exhibit, naturally, what we now wish we were. But we were!
Ask yourself: are you filled with the curiosity, wonder, freedom and creativity you experienced as a child? Where did they go? They’re still there, just hidden under a pile of bad lessons and unexamined assumptions about how you, and life, are supposed to work. But you don’t work that way, and neither does life. What now? We’re killing ourselves by trying to be someone we’re not. Unaware, we blame “life” for our stress and anxiety, when in fact, we’re doing it to ourselves, futilely (and unconsciously) trying to become someone else. Really, being yourself doesn’t create anxiety.

I know. I was brought up under intense pressure to get everything perfect, be socially acceptable and not rock the boat. Nowhere in this lesson plan was there recognition or encouragement for the creative essence that makes me the unique being I am. Only in hindsight can I fathom the unbearable stress, anxiety, inner conflict, emotional turmoil and abject futility of my early adult life. All along, I just thought life was difficult, and that I must not be doing very well at it. I responded by trying harder, when examining old lessons might have been far easier and more productive. Today, some people see my more academic approach and perspective as evidence I’ve never experienced “life,” when in fact it’s the result of a rather rigorous 15-year personal search for clarity and inner truth.

Today’s world, perhaps more than any other, asks for more originals – those with courage and commitment to think for themselves and to believe more in their own creative genius than in society’s “prevailing wisdom,” which just isn’t all that wise anyway. The reward for being yourself? (1) Restoring the curiosity, wonder and creativity you enjoyed as a child; (2) Living a life of meaning, peace and personal fulfillment, based in your own unique, creative essence; and (3) Releasing the stress and anxiety of trying to be someone else, freeing up energy you can use on stuff that matters.

Exercise: Consider someone you admire, either today or in history. For what do you admire them? At first look, they may appear to have had more luck, creativity, money, support, personality, or perhaps a more radical idea. In looking more deeply, however, a larger, more universal truth emerges. You’d likely find that what they did was a result of how they thought about what they did. They saw themselves and the world through the lens of their original self, their creative essence, not through the lens of vulnerability or judgment in the face of society’s pressure to conform. Now, probe your depth. Listen for that part of you that’s so naturally “you” you might not have recognized it as your original self. Describe how living this essence could bring you peace, joy and meaning. Now name the fears keeping you from it. It doesn’t matter how big or small your creative essence may feel. You’re here to influence the world in a way that has meaning both for you and the world. Reflection like this takes careful listening, because the world’s yammering is persistent, contrary and loud. Your original self is asking you to listen. You evoke it by honoring what you hear.

Life lessons from nature: In Africa’s grasslands, a wildebeest in the center of the herd is less likely to be picked off by a cheetah (the safety in numbers thing). Yet if it spent its life here, its only view would be another wildebeest’s butt.

Book of the month Originals, by Adam Grant, (subtitled, “How Non-Conformists Move the World.”) We’re all non-conformists; it’s the home of our “original self,” the creative essence that makes each of us unique. Grant explores how to tap this genius, and offers strategies for becoming your original self … in a world that would rather you didn’t. And if you’re on Cape Cod, you’ll find this book at the Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee Commons; 508-539-6985.

Download June 2017 pdf

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve Glass May 31, 2017 at 10:20 am

Hi there! To your question “Ask yourself: are you filled with the curiosity, wonder, freedom and creativity you experienced as a child?”

I would say that for THIS period in my life the answer is no….although there is one place where the answer is YES, and that’s when I’m doing anything creative. So, until I can find a way to spread that feeling/experience to all areas of my life/mindset, I will continue to do MORE art! It’s a starting place, at least! Thanks

Steve

Debbie May 31, 2017 at 7:11 pm

I thought your writing a truthful reality. I have always known the more one tries to be different the less unique we become. Society influences our behavior and thoughts, becoming a clone of one another. Your drum beats to your will and courage and I applaud you for that. I suppose I am somewhat similar but as a new born just opening their eyes.

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