Taking Ownership

We are all weird in our own ways. Some hide it better than others. Some don’t hide it at all.

I find it best to just fess up to things I would otherwise try to hide.

If everyone was open about their particular flavor of eccentricity, the world would quickly become a better place.

Things are deemed weird or taboo due to a perceived lack of participation or discussion. By hiding or denying one’s involvement with something, they are only further contributing to this. People have this bad habit of blindly following each other’s lead — with each person incorrectly believing that the others around them have it all figured out — and what is normal or not is determined purely by observation.

A particular hobby or activity could, for example, be regularly enjoyed by a majority of a population, yet, if they all were to hide it, the remaining minority would still incorrectly believe it to be weird. Worse still, those who did participate would also continue believing it weird, unaware of the others — all around them — who are themselves secretly involved.

It is not until a sufficiently large percentage of society is willing to admit to liking something — a so-called “tipping point” — that it enters the mainstream, and is magically bestowed the attribute normal.

Adding further confusion to the whole ‘how did this happen?’ puzzle, nothing is even gained by hiding these things to begin with. Nobody cares about what you do with your life. The few people who mistakenly believe they care are actually only concerned about what other people might think.

Nobody cares about your oddities, but everyone thinks that everyone else does.

The people who act annoyed or disgusted about something do not themselves even care, either. They are just subconsciously following a script and acting the way they believe they are expected to act, lest they are themselves exposed as being not normal.

When everyone is afraid to be themselves, everyone will instead put on an act. When everyone is acting normal, everyone will be afraid to be themselves.

But there’s a way to break the cycle.

Rarely is a solution to such a universal problem so easy to come by. It’s so simple, in fact, it can be summarized in only two words:

Take ownership.

If you enjoy something, then do it. Do it openly, and do it proudly. Own it.

Nobody’s going to stop you. You will instead serve as inspiration for others to themselves open up.

The people all around you, the ones who blindly follow each other’s examples — these people will see what you do, awe in your boldness and independence, and follow your example.

This problem — that robs joy away from so many people and vilifies so many things — could be eradicated by the actions of a few who are willing to just do what they already want to do.

Pride Card Back

One comment

  1. Let’s unpack the themes here. First of all, you seem to value joy and “liking” something. That’s the core of the hedonistic philosophy of placing joy above everything else. It can also be part of the philosophy of hedonistic utilitarianism, which seeks the greatest joy or happiness for the greatest number of people. I’ve come from the same philosophical direction, but have recently shifted to a more nuanced position that’s a bit hard to describe. Let’s just say that I value knowledge and growth much more than periods of instant gratification.

    Secondly, you approach the topics of societal taboos with the apparent understanding that they are irrational. Indeed, most taboos operate on a level that is fueled by societal pressure, rather than rational insight. However, each taboo has a history that could at least rationalize its existence. And even though many of such rationalizations may be based in magical thinking, the effects of these taboos might still be functional for enabling society to thrive – or at the very least not to collapse. Taboos are usually associated with the feeling of disgust. Disgust is related to a perception of something that threatens personal or group health. Before the emergence of germ theory the mechanisms for that were badly understood, but sometimes those perceptions were on point. All too promiscuous sexual activity historically contributed to the spread of sexual diseases, so anything that was connected to sexual activities was prone to be tabooed. In this sense, disgust could be seen as biological mechanism that is aimed to reducing the spread of diseases. Sometimes, it’s actually relatively effective at that.

    Thirdly, you discuss the perceived norm of social conformity. In other words, why people seem to prefer being seen as boring, when they have so many unconventional interesting aspects of themselves that they could openly share with the world. What function could such a norm have, when it seems to be so absurd? Well, I think its main purpose it to decrease friction within the social interactions with others. Appearing to be less normal means that you also appear to be less predictable for others. And many people hate a lack of predictability, because it means potentially uncontrollable and harmful chaos. It means they would have to learn to know you, and that actually involved a lot of effort, if you can’t be “pigeonholed” quickly. The consequence of that is that you will lose a lot of opportunities, due to the sole reason of appearing to be “too” different to be considered worth the cost of in-depth communication. On the other hand, you may gain new opportunities from being truly different, but that strategy is a risky one.
    You might consider this as a kind of economic game. For each deviation from a societal norm, you incur a cost in the form of being “less approachable, because not normal enough”, but also a potential gain due to being “different enough to be interesting”. There are of course the extremes of trying to appear “absolutely normal”, respectively “absolutely eccentric”. For most people, such an extreme position won’t really pay off. Each person has their own golden middle in this spectrum. Quite likely, that golden middle lies outside of their current comfort zone, which usually has a clear bias towards being “too normal”. In that sense, your post may inspire people to experiment with leaving their comfort zone towards seeming “less normal”. And that would usually be a good thing…

    … except that not all forms of deviations from the social norms are a good thing. The important question is: What kind of relation between good and bad results does an action provide? If that relation is high, it should be supported, even if it is unusual. If that relation is very low, it should be discouraged, even if it is currently seen as normal. In other words, we should focus more on the intrinsic ethical worth of certain actions, or hobbies, or habits, rather than their prevalence in society.

    Yet, it’s not as easy as that, because taking ethics seriously requires a lot of time, intellectual effort, and psychological effort, because you may not like the results of a thorough examination of your current beliefs. It’s easy to demand too much from people in that area, and then you lose them. The more you try seeming similar to them, the higher your chances of convincing them to change in at least one important area. If you are as unique and individual and different as you could be, it’s easy to become a complete societal outcast. Outcasts are usually not very effective at changing society. So, there’s a clear trade-off situation here. Again, the ideas of the personal golden middle and comfort zone apply here, too.

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