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The downside

Over these past few years, the ideas discussed on this blog and on the podcast about absconding and authentic living have been at least somewhat consistent.  But these past few weeks, I've been visiting my family in the US and it occurred to me that I might have overlooked something quite important.

The overwhelming majority of people don't want to live a more authentic life.  They don't want to fully express and fully realize their uniqueness as individuals.  The fact is, we are more than just individuals...we are all members of various groups.  We are citizens of a country, members of a family, employees of a company, and residents of a community.  Conformity and belonging have very real advantages.  Expressing authenticity can sometimes be problematic because then it becomes difficult for a community of conformists to accept you. 

In this corporate, branded, personalized world, few people would openly admit that they are conformists.   Americans, for example, like to think of themselves as a culture of individualists.  This is true to the extent that Americans would rather do things for themselves than ask for help or work together.  But, when you consider ways of thinking, ideas, values, and beliefs, Americans are very conformist.  For the most part, people think and act in ways consistent with their culture, community, and groups.  People define themselves as members of a certain demographic, supporters of a specific political or religious movement, as fans of a specific type of content, or as residents of a specific neighborhood.  People define themselves by their career, level of education, the way they dress, or the car they drive.  None of this has anything to do with authentic living.  None of this has anything to do with fully expressing the unique genetic mutations we all are.  These are only ways of describing how you choose to conform. 

For most of my life, I have had deep problems with conformity and belonging.  But there are times when I look at how most people seem so good at belonging, how they seem to perfectly fit their positions in life, and sometimes I question my ideas about seeking and expressing uniqueness.  On the surface, everything seems easy when you fit-in.  People know exactly what to expect from you and they pretty much get it.  Most of us, from the earliest age, just want to be popular.  We just want to belong.

Perhaps if you are good at belonging and if you find it natural and easy, then this is the life path for you.  Who am I to say that you'd be happier, that your life would be richer, that you would realize the purpose and meaning of your life if you were to begin seeking a more authentic life?  This is not for me to say because maybe I'm different from you.

In my life, I have always found it possible, but extremely difficult, to belong.  I certainly know how to fit-in.  I absolutely believe in being appropriate in a setting or situation.  But, when I have any real choice  in the matter (my free time, etc.), I'd much rather be real, honest, and authentic.  Because I find it so difficult and unpleasant to be fake and conform, I'd just rather be myself to the extent that it is allowed.  If I'm judged harshly, shunned by a group, or lose a friend just for being myself and living according to what my experience and intuition tells me is right...then this is a price I'm willing to pay for the happiness and meaning I've found on this path of unique experience and self-discovery. But maybe you don't find it difficult to fit-in.  Maybe you get great joy from belonging, from being popular, and from being accepted by the the larger community. 

Everything I do as Abscondo is talking to just one part of you.  Maybe that part only exists in some of you or maybe everyone feels like I do to some extent...I don't know.  But I'm talking to that part of you that finds it hard to belong to a world that sometimes seems insane.  My thoughts and ideas have to do with that part of your soul that screams out in situations in which you are stifled by the crowd, limited by your family, judged by your friends, and questioned by society in general.  If this is how you sometimes feel, then I think you'll find some of what I'm saying interesting.

I would love your comments and feedback. Email me at mark@abscondoband.com.

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