I’ve noticed, to some bewilderment, increasing displays of people who don’t seem to know who they are or what they stand for, and betray this in the most baffling ways. Namely in online forums, where their obvious lack of basic stance on anything becomes very awkward to watch.
Within them, there seems to be a perpetual tension between public affirmation, and private worth. A frenzied daily struggle where protagonists are desperate to be valued on individual merit, but if challenged in the slightest about it, will happily do a 180 degree turn to blend in with whatever the prevailing collective voice is. Even if the prevailing collective voice is directly opposing what they just expressed. Anything to avoid being the ‘odd one out’.
A recent-ish example of this I saw online, was during the US elections. On the one hand there were people in the UK excited for the expected re-election of Obama, and expressing this in jubilant terms. On the other hand there seemed to be a sour grapes collective who were intent on pointing out things like people not caring that much when the UK party elections were going on, and denouncing why people care so much, this is the UK.
In my head I just thought ‘For goodness sake’. But what actually invoked my ire, to the point I ranted a little on Twitter about it, were the people who 24 hours before had sung off a song-sheet ‘Obama! Obama! Yes we can!’, yet 24 hours later had for some reason or other, positioned themselves in the ‘Why do you care? That’s happening in the US’ camp. A classic example of fickle-mindedness. Embarrassing to behold really. It was bad enough that people were being attacked directly or indirectly for having differing opinions on the event (which they are entitled to), but to then change your opinion because of peer pressure, majority public opinion, or because a different view to yours got a few RTs or Likes? That to me was the true dishonour.
When I see this level of compromise, I feel both sad and appalled. Sad at the fact that at this stage in life, some individuals are still not comfortable enough in their own identities and convictions to represent what they believe in, regardless of public opinion (agreement or opposition). Appalled at the obvious craving for affirmation, and fear of having an opinion external to the ‘ruling’ majority. The majority is not always right.
One element of life that I have come to respect and treat with reverence, is the fact that I have different opinions to other people on a variety of life subjects. Where before this used to threaten me (especially if I was in a minority), and make me feel either contemptuous and hostile towards my challengers, or like a true flake, side with them for fear (of what I don’t know), I now know how to conduct conversations wherein I can clearly outline my beliefs, they can outline theirs, we listen, we discuss, and neither side compromises on our stance.
As an individual, you don’t have to fit the mould, but in the same way that if you happen to concerning a particular issue, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just stand by your decision either way. This is part of character building. It not only exemplifies who we are to ourselves, but demonstrates it to others. Why the constant epic battle between who we want to be and how we want others to see us? What is more important? How we are perceived, or who we are? Surely there needs to come a point even where these two facets align? It begins with understanding ourselves first. However I feel like life these days is like a tsunami of human beings drowning in a limbo of who they want to be, who they are, and how they want others to see them, tossed by every wave. Few seem to have a steadfast conviction of who they are and what they believe, and stick to it. We’ve been spoon-fed for so long, we don’t know how to think for ourselves and we become sheep without a shepherd playing ‘follow the leader’. We drown out the time, that solitude we should take to examine ourselves and re-evaluate our principles and our thoughts (discarding what needs to be discarded, and improving what deserves to be improved) without the endless juggernaut of distractions – always doing something, never able to sit still, for fear. Fear of what though? What is it that we fear in the silence?
Being out of the picture. Being insignificant.
Ergo the fear of insignificance, drives us to compromise, which demonstrates a lack of conviction, and who respects people without any convictions? No-one. Oh wait. That looks like a full circle.
Saying all that though, in no way am I for the obnoxious display of self and opinions (which I guess is the flip side of this) and pouring it down other’s throats like acid. I consider that quite contemptible. All I’m asking is a question….
Do you know who you are?