There have been a few blog posts recently by friends of mine on individuality and they have got me thinking about the changes I find myself going through.
There is a need to have individuality recognised and supported. In “the “I” in team“. Ceibhfhion writes of the difficulty faced by some people in team environments because they don’t fit the expected pattern and their managers don’t have the perception to see this or the skills to use the differences for the benefit of all. As someone who has always been a bit different I can empathise with the author’s frustrations. I have often felt as if I am on the outside looking in and this feeling is emphasised in my work environment.
In “The Paradox of Individuality” Red Raven writes about the ways in which modern life seems to encourage us to think of ourselves first. And yet there also that underlying message of the need to conform too. Indulge yourself but only in the allowed ways encouraged by the various forms of media around us. Spend your money, get the things you want but don’t start to think too much. Don’t develop too much independence. Rely on the media and government to tell you what to think and do.
My upbringing and education though has encouraged me to relish my differences, to celebrate my independence from the so called “normal”. I’ve been encouraged to think of myself as a strong person, as someone that can sort things out for themselves, make their own decisions and live as I want to live and not as someone else might think I ought to. I’ve been encouraged to question things, to think for myself and that produces it’s own difficulties.
You tend not to get approval from society at large by being an independent thinker. At work you tend to gain approval by being a smooth fitting cog in the system not by being an individual. As a parent you gain approval from your wider community through the socially acceptable achievements and behaviour of your children within that wider community. As Pagan you are encouraged to think for yourself but at the same time often subtly expected to fit in with the majority viewpoints.
It can be lonely being an independent individual. It’s hard having to think for yourself, to make your own decisions. It’s tough not being able to look to others for your happiness but to have to find your own path to it. And it’s really hard wanting to lean on someone else when you are worried and stressed but having to consider whether they are strong enough for you to do so or whether sharing worries and concerns with them will cause them too much additional stress.
Recently I’ve realised that underneath the mask of an independent, self-reliant woman is actually someone who has a fair amount of insecurities and is almost desperate for approval. Part of me actually likes having some decisions made for me, other parts of me are stubbornly attached to striving for my own path even if I do make a balls up of it. A fairly large part of me pretends that I don’t care what anyone else thinks as long as I know I am doing my best but, underneath that is someone who needs at least one person to openly tell me they are proud of me.
Luckily I have someone in my life now that fairly often does tell me he is proud of me.