Owning Yourself

“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 for the privilege of owning yourself.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

A friend of mine on Facebook posted this quote, and I started to type a response, but the response got so long that I realized I was compelled to devote an entire blog entry to this subject.  I’ve let my opinions on conformity be known several times here, so I’m sure it won’t surprise you that I agree wholeheartedly with what Herr Nietzche wrote.

Even before I fully understood the importance of owning myself, I lived this way.  From grade school through high school, I was picked on and teased for not “fitting in.”  At the time, I didn’t understand why I was being ostracized–just as I believe most of my classmates didn’t fully understand why they picked on me so–but no matter how much I was teased, I refused to cave in to peer pressure, because my mom taught me to think for myself.

There were many days I went home from school and cried, because I couldn’t figure out why the students didn’t like me.  My mom kept telling me that it was because they didn’t understand me, and she told me that I had a choice.  I could either give in and be how they wanted me to be (in order to be accepted), or I could continue to be myself, hold my head high around them, and act like nothing they said even registered.  I chose the second option, and built a barrier around myself whenever they were near.  Their taunts grew more vociferous in an effort to find a chink in the armor I’d carefully erected, but the more they teased me, the more I knew that I didn’t want to be like them, even if it did mean the name-calling would stop.

If I had given in to what my peers were trying to do to me, I wouldn’t respect myself nearly as much as I do today.  That respect came with a price, and it took many years to achieve, but I can honestly sit here now and know that I am who I want to be; not who someone else wants me to be.

Even lately, it’s been brought to my attention that I blog about some issues that many authors wouldn’t, because they’d opt for the “safer” routes, so as not to ostracize readers with polarizing opinions.  Not that anyone has told me I shouldn’t; quite the opposite, in fact.  I’ve been called “gutsy” or “brave” for posting some of my blogs.  But they make a valid point that, somewhere down the road of my career, I might have to face losing some fans, due to a differing opinion or a “how could you?” sort of huff.

When I began this blog, I did avoid writing about some topics–especially those politically themed–because I don’t pay enough attention to politics to be certain my opinions are very factual, and because I didn’t want to piss people off.  But as time wore on, I began to feel that avoiding certain topics wasn’t being true to myself, which made me feel like a hypocrite.

So while it might be true that I may lose readers from time to time, I hope others will subscribe to my blog because I write what I feel and believe.  I certainly hope that the YA audience I write for will appreciate my straightforward approach.  I might not always be right, but at least I’ll be honest to who I am.

I encourage others to do the same thing, regardless of which side of whatever fence you’re on.  If you’re a Democrat, born into a family of Republicans (or vice versa), BE that!   If you don’t agree with something I’ve written, TELL me (and thank you to those of you who already do).  Whatever you believe though, I beg of you to make sure it’s what you truly believe, deep inside of yourself.  Don’t jump on the popular or family bandwagon, just to be accepted by others.  Be willing to endure the censure of your friends and family to be true to yourself.  If you so desperately want acceptance and camaraderie, seek out those who believe as you do.  In a world as populated as ours, there’s bound to be a few thousand who share your viewpoint(s).

But until you find like-minded individuals, dig deep within yourself and find the strength to withstand all the pressure from those who disagree with you.  Allow yourself the moments of grief, of crying at home from all the pain their taunts might cause.  If you can do that, you’ll come out a much stronger person, I guarantee you.  Your hide will get thicker and tougher, and the names people want to call you will just bounce off, until you eventually (hopefully) get to a place where you hardly hear them being said, or better yet, are able to leave the comments on the doorstep of the person who said them.

There are those who will want you to live the way they say is best.  But the truth of the matter is that they don’t know who YOU are.  Not really.  How can they, when they’re not you?

Bottom line, if you’re living a life that someone else has convinced you to want, I don’t see how you can truly respect yourself.

I know I couldn’t.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dana Fredsti
    Sep 07, 2012 @ 12:12:19

    100% agree. 🙂 Shortest comment I’ve ever left!


  2. Edna N Ramirez
    Sep 14, 2012 @ 22:39:52

    Just wanted to say you have a great site and thanks for posting!…


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