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Break The Rules!

January 17, 2011

Photo thanks to fulbert05

..Banish the guilt. Boot the hesitations out the window. Crack open the windows of your soul and let in the fresh air. Don’t doubt.

If you’re my age, you’re handling a tricky time. Famous psycholgist Erik Erikson (great name, huh?) proposed that humans of ages 12-18 are struggling with their identity versus role confusion. During this stage, we try to determine who we are apart from our families and what we want in our lives. If we’re unsuccessful, we experience confusion and conflict. Sounds like heavy stuff, but I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about.

Everyone experiences the same struggle to figure out “who they are”: ie. their values, opinions, likes & dislikes, preferences, attitudes, standards. Along the way, as we try to find strength in our newly shapen identity, we stick (stubbornly) to our guns about our self-imposed opinions & tastes. At times, I’ve been known to insist I hate something that I haven’t tried, since I’ve already decided it doesn’t jibe with who I’ve decided to be. I’m sure you’ve all experienced that as well, either with yourself, or with friends and family.

The point is: it’s understandable, this stubbornness. No one can fault you for trying, in this crazy world, to figure out who you are and, once you’ve got it, stick to it with every ounce of your being. It makes sense!

But never be afraid to break the rules.

Never be afraid to smash down the restrictions you’ve set for yourself, when you said “oh, no, I’m not that kind of person” or “I can’t stand zucchini” or “I never stay up past midnight” or “I only like clothes in shades of black, white or grey”. Challenge yourself. Step up to the plate and break all your own rules. Your identity is important, but nobody else cares too much about whether or not it’s consistent. Try on different hats! Experience new things! See for yourself. Never get so boxed into your identity that you don’t try things you think seem fun or interesting.

If you want to, then..

…try the wackiest fruit in the grocery store, even though it’s “too exotic for you”

…start a blog, even though you have “nothing important to say”

…read the news, even though you “don’t really care about politics”

…read the tabloids, even though “they’re much too fluffy for your taste”

…take a nap mid-day, even though that’s “highly unproductive”

…try a recipe you think looks delicious, even though “it’s much too complicated for you”

…buy a vibrator, even though “you’re not that kind of girl”

…go out to a speech instead of a club, even though “that’s totally lame & nerdy”

…cry, even though “real men don’t do that”

…sleep around (safely, of course), even though “real ladies would never”

…use the five-second rule, even though “that’s disgusting!”

…eat nothing but junk food all day, even though “you don’t even like food like that”

…go figure skating, skiing, dancing, karaokeing, surfing, biking, running, even if “you’re not very good”

do whatever you want.*

.

To a lot of you, this advice may seem totally intuitive. If it does, I applaud you. You’ve managed to keep yourself from being tied to a rigid identity. But I suspect that many of us are guilty of falling victim to this technique of saying: “that’s just not me”, and limiting ourselves from new experiences. Or, if we free ourselves from our restrictions, we feel an automatic sense of guilt about doing something outside the norm. We feel we’ve failed, somehow. I urge you (and myself) to escape this guilt. Say bye-bye!

If you feel like doing something, do it. Don’t question whether or not it’s right for you (it is, by the very nature of you wanting to do it), don’t worry that it contradicts “who you are”, don’t feel guilty about having done something you’ve previously deemed “uncool”, “unproductive” or “not like you”. Live your life first, and your identity will come later.

Happy adventuring, loves!

xoxo,

*Edit: It’s been pointed out to me that maybe some of these statements would imply going against your personal values/morals. That was not my intention! I’m not implying that you should push yourself to do anything that doesn’t jibe with your core standards. My only goal with this article was to serve as a reminder that our self-imposed ‘rules’ do not need to be so rigid. By all means, if something really isn’t you, at your very core, then don’t do it! Sorry for any misunderstanding. :) xo

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2011 10:32 PM

    I’ve learned this lesson over and over the last few years. Sometimes, though, I still find myself sinking into the comfort zone. “I don’t do *that*” and I have to remind myself to push myself. Good post!

    • January 18, 2011 11:00 PM

      Thanks, it’s something I have to constantly remind myself of too!

  2. Laura permalink
    January 19, 2011 2:38 AM

    I would love to do whatever I want…all I want to do this summer is a volunteer trip to Peru or Ecuador…unfortunately it costs over $3000 to volunteer and I need to spend my summer making money at a boring mind numbing job instead :(

    • January 19, 2011 12:43 PM

      Haha, when I said “do whatever you want”, I meant don’t let societal/self-imposed restrictions hold you back. I wasn’t referring to financial troubles holding you back, that’s a completely different article entirely!!

  3. Chris permalink
    January 22, 2011 10:13 PM

    While I applaud your gutsiness, you really should be careful when it comes to “doing what you want”. We can only function in societies once we understand the social contract that membership implies; this usually includes suspending some of our desires for the common good. While it never hurts to try a new fruit, or different sports, or even go to a rally or a speech to see if you like it, trying things like buying a vibrator and sleeping around are socially unacceptable because they often lead to destructive behavior.

    When deciding whether or not you should “do what you want” think about how doing it will affect you 10 minutes, 10 months, then 10 years afterwards. I think it’s very irresponsible to recommend just “do[ing] what you want”.

    • January 23, 2011 12:46 PM

      Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. Sorry for any misunderstanding, I want to make it clear that I don’t necessarily condone any specific behaviours that I laid out in this post. I was just making some broad, sweeping statements, meant to inspire people to step outside the boxes they’ve made for themselves. In the “Edit” at the bottom of the post, I wrote that I wasn’t implying you should try things you’re personally against or don’t match with your morals. The “do whatever you want” line was meant to be inspiring, and was not intended to promote “destructive behaviour” as you call it.

      But thanks for taking the time to add to the discussion!

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