Why Being “Different” is the New Normal

Tim Tialdo September 14, 2012 0

 

Someone asked me the other day, “what do you for a living?” I told this gentlemen I freelance in Television doing a variety of jobs. He said, “yeah but what’s your main job, how do you get a paycheck?”

His response is a common one, especially from folks in the generation preceding mine. Sometimes it hard to inform older folks that the days of graduating from school, getting a solid job with good company and benefits and staying there for a long period of time are a thing of the past.  It’s not that the younger generations don’t want to be loyal, it’s just that the way our culture now operates has changed drastically over the last decade.

I read a statistic the other day that said the average modern day professional will have worked 16 jobs by the time they reach 40.  I’m sure our parents and grandparents would lose their mind if they thought we wouldn’t hold down a steady job for more than a year or two.

The truth is, more than ever, we all need to be prepared to be our own boss and not rely on others to do many of the things we take for granted in today’s job culture. With the rise of technology, more and more companies are downsizing, letting computers take on the tasks that humans used to do. For most of us, that means we need to figure out new ways to make ourselves useful and attractive to others who need our skills and talents. (Yes this means we must work a bit harder than we’re used to)

I quit working for a “company” and getting “paychecks” years ago. I’ll admit, at first it’s a scary feeling. Why? Because the “company” used to do most of the groundwork, all I had to do was open my bank account every other Friday and see money deposited.

Now that I am my own boss, I do everything. I market myself, I sell myself, I make the calls, I negotiate all the prices and terms of contracts and I do the accounting. Is it a lot of work? Yes. Is it financially challenging at times? Yes. Would I go back to the “company” model? NEVER!

Even though my years of self-employment have been some of the most challenging of my life, I can honestly say I have never felt more freedom to be as creative as I want, express my opinion and develop a true sense of self-confidence that I couldn’t have gained working for a corporate conglomerate.

But if you’re not getting a steady paycheck, so many people think of you as “different.’ To me, daring to be different is to live your life your own way.

Following your heart rather than following the crowd gives you much more of a chance to find happiness and fulfillment, but it takes courage. Many people are afraid of being different, of not being accepted by those around them, and of standing out rather than blending in.

The truth of the matter is that we are all different. In the entire world, there will never be anyone else who is exactly like you. You are truly one of a kind, and this is the miracle of being human. Just by virtue of being alive, you are unique and special. Why then do so many of us spend our lives denying and hiding our differences, and trying to be like ‘everyone else.’
One reason is the belief that there is safety in numbers. Whatever you are doing in your life, if millions of other people are doing it too, that means it’s safe, right? Not necessarily.

What millions of people are doing could be right for them, but totally wrong for you. High-pressure corporate jobs suit some people just fine, but give other people complete nervous breakdowns. Don’t choose your path based on numbers.

Following the crowd also eliminates the pressure of needing to think and choose. It is challenging to have to consider what you truly want in life. It means stopping and really looking into your mind and heart- something we often try to avoid. If you are constantly on the go, and running from one social event to another, it could be that you are afraid of what you will discover if you slow down and have the time to think and feel.

It is not just the challenge of soul-searching that can be scary either. The discoveries you make may also require you to summon your courage and make big changes. Change is difficult. Many of us try anything to avoid change, but it will eventually catch up to ou whether you like it or not.

Choosing to follow your own path means breaking away from the ‘safety’ of conforming. It involves daring to look deep into your heart, regardless of what you might discover. It means embracing change rather than fighting it, and having the courage to make the changes needed to live your dreams.

To dare to be different means being willing to stand out. This can be a frightening prospect. While there are certainly people that enjoy the limelight, a majority of people feel more comfortable to blend into the background, and not to be noticed too much. Many people would rather fit in than stand out, and do not dare to be different.

As well as the (sometimes unwelcome) attention that can result from being different, another challenge can come from dealing with the ‘tall poppy syndrome.’ This describes the critical reaction people who choose a different path can experience from others, when they are seen to be getting ‘out of line,’ ’beyond their station,’ or ‘too big for their boots.’ This attitude almost always stems from people feeling resentment, jealousy, or that they are being made to look inadequate in comparison to another person’s courage and achievements.

By becoming aware though, of the deep need to follow our hearts, and stop living by other people’s rules, we can also discover a determination to break free. This can help us to overcome our fears, and find the courage to dare to be different, and to embrace change and uncertainty.

It is not easy. It may involve a lot of discomfort, uncertainty, and challenge. But to avoid becoming trapped in your ‘shell’, and going ‘bad’ from frustration and suppressed desires, the only choice is to take a leap of faith. Choose to break free, and dare to be different!


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