“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Mark Twain
I recently read about the “pain of independence”, in a fantastically thoughtful book by Ozan Varol. Ozan writes: “Resisting conformity causes us emotional distress…[It] produces…“a pain of independence.”
This idea particularly resonated with me as I seem to have adopted a number of beliefs that run counter to prevailing wisdom. I’ve discovered that conventional relationships are not the only place to find love, that “working for the man” is anything but a safe bet and that living in many different countries allows for a richness that I’ve never been able to replicate in one spot.
THE IMPORTANCE OF INTROSPECTION
As Ozan says, swimming against the tide can be painful and I’ve found that it requires continuous self-reflection. Every day I ask myself if I really feel this way or if I’m just incredibly adept at coming up with justifications for the way my life has “turned out”. (No doubt it is a bit of both.) I ask friends and people I respect about their experiences and try always to be seeking out evidence that contradicts my point of view.
I‘d argue that this type of introspection can be useful for everyone, however seemingly conventional their path. 2020 has shown us that, in the modern world, safety in numbers is an illusion. That our jobs, freedoms, rights and relationships are not as secure and dependable as we’d assumed.
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Ozan offers some questions to prompt us to look more closely at our unexamined habits: “What do you assume you’re supposed to do simply because everyone around you is doing it? Can you question this assumption and replace it with something better?”
I wonder if the pain we feel when we find we’re separated from the herd is more a reminder to check in with our level of intentionality, especially around the big questions. What to study? Who to marry? Where to work and settle down? We could also ask further questions. Do these rules apply to me? Am I around people I care about and who care about me? Am I doing all I can to live my best life?
Either way, I’m pretty sure it’s more a nudge than something likely to cause an injury and therefore nothing at all to be afraid of.