Lately I’ve been feeling the unexpected benefits of being true to myself and daring to be different, both in my 9-5 job and in my personal life. I use the word unexpected because I had no idea how satisfying and exhilarating it could be to just be me. I suppose for a long time, without even realising it, I have been scared to truly be myself for fear of offending others or incurring criticism or ridicule.

Three ways in which I’ve dared to be different recently

  1. I’ve given up alcohol. Drinking alcohol is one of the biggest social norms around and my decision not to drink was originally met with some fairly fierce interrogations. But I have my reasons for my choice and I’ve stood by my decision and continue to reap the benefits five months on.
  2. I’ve recently become vegetarian again (I was for 12 years and then had a nine year break). This one doesn’t get quite as much negative attention as being teetotal but I am still expected to justify my choice not to eat meat on a fairly regular basis.
  3. Starting a blog on personal development. Starting a blog isn’t different I hear you say, loads of people do it. But actually for me ‘coming out’ to all of my friends and family as someone who has a passion for personal development felt pretty huge to me. It was a side to my personality that I had in the main kept to myself and a select few like-minded friends.

So why have I listed these for you? Well I wanted to give an idea of some of the things I’ve done that for me have meant being true to myself rather than trying to fit in with those around me. I believe it was my fear of being challenged by others that has stopped me doing these things sooner. I definitely felt fearful of what others would say about 1 and 3 and I still sometimes brace myself for eye-rolling when I mention number 2.

The elephant in the room

At a recent appraisal for my 9-5 job, when asked by my boss what my achievements over the past year had been, I surprised myself by saying the following:

“I’m proud of the fact that sometimes I am the only person who will say what needs to be said even if it means going against the consensus”

I went on to talk about the fact that I often acknowledge and identify the elephant in the room, when nobody else will and find on balance this approach has been met positively. Now I don’t know if this is a trait that is valued by the senior management within the organisation but for me it is something I have definitely come to admire about myself. Gone are the days when I will apologise for being awkward or contradicting the consensus. Thankfully as a result, gone are the days when I leave a room or a situation filled with frustration at not having said what I wanted to say.

Don’t blindly follow the crowd

I love this quote by Mark Twain:

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

I love it because it gives me permission to be different and reminds me of the importance of being true to ourselves rather than simply following the crowd.

In our world there are numerous examples of huge advances in society, born out of ideas that were originally ridiculed or deemed crazy. To name but a few: equal rights for women; flying to the moon; freezing food; steam-power; air travel and the list goes on. Thank goodness that the people behind these ideas persevered and dared to be different.

People fear difference

I don’t fully understand why some people find difference hard to deal with. I imagine there are numerous books on the topic analysing why for example, people with disabilities or from other cultures are sometimes bullied and harassed purely for being different. We even have laws in place to protect minority groups and to prevent harassment from taking place. It’s a massive topic and I don’t intend to investigate it here.

Personally I have found myself getting too caught up in why people find difference hard to deal with and actually it’s far simpler to focus on the importance of being true to yourself and trusting your instincts regardless of the reaction. What I have recently come to understand is that embracing your differences from others is one of the most empowering and liberating things you can do for yourself.

What’s your secret difference?

I don’t advocate being different just for the sake of it, nor do I think that we need to shout about our differences from the rooftops. But I do firmly believe that people should not hide away who they truly are or what they really think for fear of recrimination.

The differences that we hide from others can be big or small. It might be as huge as hiding our sexuality from our family and loved ones or it might be as small as wanting to give up your 9-5 job and do something that you love instead. Whatever the secret, I dare you to be different if doing so will change your life for the better.

Have you dared to be different recently and if so did it pay off or backfire? I’d love to hear your comments and if you like the post, please don’t forget to share by tweeting or sharing on Facebook.