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We live in a world that constantly presents two very different messages:
- Be authentic! Do whatever makes you happy!
- Follow these specific trends! Here are the style faux pas you need to avoid!
These two messages are directly contradictory. The first tells us that being our ‘authentic self’ is crucial when it comes to comes to our own well-being; that it’s important to be willing to stand out from the crowd, resist peer pressure, and do whatever it takes to find our own truth. The second, however, almost punishes a sense of individuality; tells us that we should conform at all costs, that we might be outright judged if we don’t conform.
It’s confusing, to say the least.
Which Message Should You Listen To?
The general consensus is that the first message – that your individuality is paramount – is the most important. It just so happens that while most people understand this, society as a whole hasn’t quite caught up, so a paradox of both expecting people to go their own way and then judging them for doing so has developed.
As a result of this paradox, many people find themselves battling against the tide. They want to embrace their individuality, particularly in terms of their style, fashion, and lifestyle choices, but they find it uncomfortable to do.
How Can This Issue Be Overcome?
Despite what many a motivational quote may have told you, simply deciding to prioritise your individuality and embrace a different path is next to impossible. Humans are social creatures, and we are – to an extent – conditioned to blend in with the crowd. Essentially, the paradox exists within ourselves also: we all want to fit in, but we also want to be authentic to ourselves.
There’s no easy way of deactivating the feeling that you want to fit in with the crowd, follow trends, watch the same TV shows, and live the same kind of life as everyone else. It is therefore best to acknowledge that embracing your individuality will likely feel more than a little strange at times, even though you’re actually doing what suits you best – which should be the most natural thing in the world, but due to social conditioning, can feel a little strange.
Having acknowledged that choosing a different path to the norm may feel discombobulating at times, you can move to trying to make a significant change – and the easiest way to start is with your personal style. As fashion and trends move at lightning speed, which can have catastrophic consequences both for the environment and for your personal finances – so starting your journey towards individuality here offers multiple benefits, which should make it a little easier to handle.
First and foremost, assess your existing style. Go through your wardrobe, examine every item, and ask: “do I like this?”. It’s a simple question, but it can be revealing. Often, we buy clothes because they’re in fashion at the time, or because we’re trying to emulate looks we have seen on the red carpet – but when the garments we own are judged in isolation, it’s likely you’ll discover that much of your wardrobe isn’t quite to your tastes. Dispose of the items that you don’t genuinely connect with and consider branching out, shopping in individual boutiques or vintage stores in a bid to find a style that really suits your preferences rather than tailoring your preferences to the fashion of the day.
Secondly, you can assess your appearance. Is your haircut something you would choose, or something that a style magazine told you to wear? Have you always wanted to wear makeup in bolder colours, try different ear piercings, or perhaps even get a tattoo – but have pulled back, worried what others may think? If you find areas to change, then it’s usually best to just go with it and do what you have always wanted to do.
As your personal style and appearance begins to change, you may receive occasional comments – and in truth, brushing these aside is far from easy. However, if you can look at the changes you have made and say that you genuinely like them, that they genuinely make you feel happy, then you can hang onto that. Ultimately, the only person you have to please is yourself – and try to remember that for every person who may comment on your more unusual style choices, there are probably three people admiring you for your bravery.
The Challenge of Lifestyle Changes
Choosing to live differently to the rest of society is difficult, but it’s not impossible. There are countless people that have embraced more unusual ways of living, ranging from those who have chosen to quit their smartphone, to those who have decided social media isn’t for them, to those who have adopted a more sustainable, anti-consumerist way of living. Compared to the “normal”, such choices are very against the grain, but it is possible.
In order to do so, you have to follow a similar pattern of thought to the style and appearance changes we discussed: focus on the why. If you make a less-than-conventional choice regarding the way you live, then you’ve done it for a reason, and keeping that reason at the forefront of your mind is crucial. If you can justify your choice, and your choice makes you happy, then what others think is immaterial.
It’s impossible to say that others won’t judge you for making such a significant change; you only need to look at the hate that vegans receive to see that society, as a whole, tends to dislike those who choose to do things differently. However, it may be beneficial to know that you will, eventually, find it far easier to deflect judgement or scorn – and feel more comfortable living as you wish, making your own choices, and feeling empowered by your individuality.
Breaking away from modern conventions is tough, whether you decide to dress outside of standard fashion choices or live your life is an entirely different way to the standard model. However, if you can focus on the reasons you have made such a change, and give yourself time to adjust, you should be able to embrace your individuality and live life in the way that you see fit – much to the benefit of your overall happiness and well-being.
About Gina Caro
Gina is a content creator and award-winning blogger. Her aim is to help you live a more sustainable & simple life. Her blog covers zero waste, minimalism, wellbeing & thrift. She currently lives in Cornwall with her partner, two kids and Charles the dog.