Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Individuality and the Permission to be Paradoxical

It has always saddened me to know that many people go through their lives wanting to break out, be free and let their freak flag well and truly fly - but they don't. They refrain because they were told not to make a spectacle of themselves, or because they don't want to be the subject of ridicule. They refrain because they don't think they can pull it off, they don't feel entitled to it or they don't see anyone else blazing the trail so they feel as if there's no one to lead the way.

As I grew up in a small town in the shires, I never felt that sense of pressure to conform or fade into the background. I was always the one who turned heads with her outfits and hairstyles, and I was known as the oddball in my year at school. Peer pressure is a societal norm in playgrounds and classrooms all over the world. It can be a destructive element of an already tense and -for many kids- miserable experience. Worries about fitting in, fear of being ostracized - these problems often lead young people into quiet conformity. Some can free themselves in adulthood and start permitting themselves to be more authentic, but many stay trapped.

I have always believed that one of my biggest blessings in life was having parents who were real peacocks. They love to look good and they both have a defined sense of personal style. They're both big talkers who come from long ancestral lines of big talkers. Confidence and individuality run in my blood. I never saw my parents try and fade into the background or fit into the cookie cutter. Although it's true that people can grow up markedly different from their parents, there can be no doubt that I took my lead from them when it came to my understanding of individuality and its true worth. I was also blessed to have a mother who lived in a pretty, rural town and a father who lived in the heart of East London. I was exposed to both country and city - two very different backdrops, two opposing energies. Staying with my dad in the style-conscious, multicultural inner city at weekends exposed me to so many different ways of being and dressing. I would often return from a trip to Camden with outfits to raise a few eyebrows on non-uniform day at school!

During my teens I definitely sported some outfits and hairstyles for shock value. I was a deliberately subversive teenager in my dress sense, opinions and antics (not to mention my musical tastes). I was playing with the possibilities as many adolescents do, proving to myself that I didn't have to play by anyone else's rules. But by my early twenties my desire to make an impression had morphed into a passion for being me and letting myself be comfortable with that. I understood that I wasn't stuck in the same 'gear' all day every day and neither is anyone else. We all have different layers, nuances and paradoxes in our natures.. It's ok to honour that 'in real time' rather than trying to define who you are and put yourself in a box. This attitude has absorbed into my spiritual outlook and practice, my way of making friends and understanding people, and my way of doing business and creating art.

I truly believe in enclothed cognition - the philosophy of clothes as language. I love saying something when I get dressed in the morning, and the expression need only be for me. I know that I can lift my mood, inspire myself or get myself motivated and energized depending on what I choose to wear. When it comes to my words and actions, I don't concern myself with fitting into the general consensus. I know that this may incur judgement and resentment to an extent, particularly from those who may feel challenged by someone who doesn't consult the rule book by which they check their choices. But I must be true to myself and permit myself to flow freely. I know that I will be alone on my deathbed. No one is going to be there with me - I need to be happy with the way I chose to live.

Although I acknowledge some beneficial factors in my upbringing which definitely helped me to fly the freak flag, I still believe it's never too late for people with a fear of being different to start doing just that!

It's never too late to let yourself be who you are in any given moment. Don't tell yourself that you can't do, say, think or wear something because it doesn't fit into your constructed persona. You are not obligated to uphold a one-dimensional facade in order to make other people feel comfortable. You are complex and multifaceted. You are allowed to favour different moods, clothes and activities. Permit yourself to be paradoxical! You can try something new just because you feel like experimenting. You can let your voice be heard. If you've got a deep desire to be unabashedly individual, let that stuff bubble over!

All my life I've come across people who say, 'I wish I could wear that!', 'I could never be so bold and upfront,' 'I'd love to start a channel or blog but I can't put myself out there like you..'

Why the hell not?

Life is finite. I think it does us all some good to think like that sometimes. If you reached the last few days of your life and looked back to find that you never permitted yourself the privilege of full expression, how would you feel?

Believe me, I'm under no illusion. I know that some people make it their mission to be cruel and cutting, especially when faced with someone who rocks their individuality without apology. Those who wear, do and say what most people wouldn't have a tendency to intimidate just as many people as they inspire! You will definitely come across the occasional person who feels it's their place to tell you that they don't like your haircut, your outfit, your make-up or what you stand for. But there's never been a doubt in my mind that it would be a tragedy if I let those people stop me from being me.