These days, it is a bit of a sticky wicket to be the individual you are without sacrificing your place in your various social groups. Individuals who express divergent opinions are so often publicly bullied and exiled -- and now, because of technology, it is instant, and extremely wide-spread.
A truly supportive social circle will allow you to be your true self. It will not force conforming. A healthy community will support differences -- all kinds of differences. Supreme Court Justices, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Antonin Scalia were famously great friends, and famously on opposite sides of many issues. This is a wonderful example of a little social circle that allowed individual integrity. They knew they would be rivals at "the office" but they also knew the other was speaking and acting according to his/her own brilliant, and individual mind.
Public exile and ridicule make up a fundamental human fear. In most of our history it meant death -- either by the difficulty of prehistoric man to survive on his own once exiled from the tribe; or, by public execution for disagreeing with an accepted ideology (think of Bloody Mary -- if she suspected you might be Protestant, off you go to the rack or the stake). Either way, our brains have evolved to feel unsafe in the face of public ridicule.
Here's the thing, though, our human history has shown that we also have a bad habit of staying silent when the majority is wrong. It is that self-preserving instinct that is desperate to avoid public shaming. But the consequence of mass self-censorship can be worse than exile. How many regular people remained silent in Nazi Germany as their neighbors were disappearing into concentration camps? How many regular Russian people ignored their neighbors being arrested and sent to the Gulag Archipelago because they were afraid of being thought unsympathetic to the state?
"The mildest and at the same time the most widespread form of betrayal was not to do anything directly, but just not to notice the doomed person next to one." --Alexander Solzhenitsyn, author of The Gulag Archipelago
Could that happen here? Could we deny our individuality and allow disastrous ends for instinctual fear that it will lead to exile or public ridicule?
I find a little hope in the fact that Americans tend to have big mouths and have traditionally been more than happy to criticize their party or those in power. However, I am also noticing a troubling trend that there are many who are afraid to show their views publicly. Which will win out in the end? I hope our big American mouths are stronger than our fear of sharing our true thoughts.
When we fear being our unique selves with our own thoughts and minds, we fear living.
Smaller social circles are where this can change. The best thing to do is find a group of people who will accept you, whatever you think. You must do the same for them. It is best if there are many different points of view in the group. Do this with intellectual integrity and honesty. Disagree respectfully. Argue logically. Then go have a drink together.
The individual should NEVER be sacrificed for the group. Tolerate one another. Love one another. Find your Scalia if you are a RBG, and vice versa. You NEED each other.
If your group does not accept you as the individual that you are, if you feel compelled to hide something about yourself -- your sexuality, or political beliefs, religious practices, or anything else that is true and honest about yourself -- maybe that group isn't actually yours. Your true tribes will not exile you for differences of opinion or lifestyle. Bullying groups will dwindle and disappear if their members value their own individuality over a group ideology. Bullies require compliant victims to exist.
Leaving those groups will only serve to free you. Do it before they have the numbers to establish their own Gulag.
Election years tend to exaggerate this fear of exile. How many times have you seen this on social media, "If you voted for x unfriend me and lose my number"? That is a bully's post.
The only way to really know if you'll be allowed to be yourself is to be yourself, and see how it goes. If you get ridiculed and called names -- well, they're not your people. Your people will allow you to be yourself.
Ask yourself the following to find out if your social circle demands uniformity or if they'll allow you to be unique:
-Are you afraid to tell them your spiritual views/practices for fear of judgement?
-Are you afraid to tell them your political views for fear of rejection?
-Are you afraid to show any other thought for fear of being viewed as weird, or stupid?
I'm not saying that you have to just go and read your diary to your friends, or even let them know that you're holding back for fear of exile. However, being aware of the self-censoring that you're doing is a really good first step.
To find out if you're free to be yourself -- when you're ready, try a small revelation -- not a full, "I'm a nudist on three-day weekends," or "I voted for Mariah Carey for governor." Try a smaller sample to reveal about yourself -- something like, "I pray" or "I like X or Y policy for these reasons...." when such subjects come up in conversation. You may be relieved that you didn't have to hide your individuality at all. Or, conversely, you may realize that you're only part of the group because they don't know who you actually are. Either way, it is good to face those facts -- even if it is uncomfortable.
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
Daniella Bozzone is a lifestyle and habit writer and private investor. She also designs fun gifts and positive mindset anchors. To learn more about those, click here: DesigningDandelion
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