The thing about being an individual: John Baker at TEDxMoorparkCollege
How to Be an Individual
It’s not always easy to be an individual, especially if you find yourself lost in peer pressure, confusing feedback, and loud personalities. However, if you make an effort to accept the person who you are while continuing to grow and evolve, then you’ll be on your way to discovering the person you were meant to be. Being an individual takes work and dedication, and it doesn’t mean you have to stick out in a crowd, either. Being a true individual means having convictions and not being afraid to go off the beaten path.
Developing a Healthy Perspective
Stop caring what others think.If you want to really move forward to become an individual, then you have to put aside your worries about what other people are thinking. You should want to be an individual just for yourself, not so the kids in your school think you’re awesome or that you stand out in some way. If you obsess over what other people are thinking, then you’ll never be able to really please yourself, because people are fickle and it’s impossible to please everyone.
- Of course, gossip hurts, and it’s hard to not be hurt by it. Still, if you hear gossip about yourself, just know that it’s coming from a person who is weak and insecure and that you know better than to stoop to that level.
- Even if you feel like the most awesome individual out there—even if you’re John Lennon, Nina Simone, or Lena Dunham—there will always be critics. It’s better to accept that now than to spend your life trying to please people.
Don’t be afraid to be yourself.As corny as it sounds, being an individual means being unabashedly yourself. It means not hiding your true feelings every time you go out in public, or acting like you’re perfect and refusing to acknowledge your flaws. It means being comfortable with presenting your flaws, quirks, and ideas to the world and feeling good about who you are. Of course, it can take time to get there, but you need to get in the habit of letting people see who you really are instead of acting like a person you think they’d rather talk to.
- Of course, it’s necessary to present slightly different sides of yourselves to different people. You probably wouldn’t let your boss or your teachers see the exact same side of you that you would show your friends; you’d work on censoring yourself a bit more, or avoiding topics that are likely to offend people. However, in general, you shouldn’t feel like you’re flipping a switch to act like a completely different version of yourself when you talk to different people.
- Work on opening up to people. You don’t have to tell them all about who you are, what your childhood was like, how much you love your pet tarantula, or your obsession with Shannon Doherty right when you first meet someone, but you should work on revealing who you are, little by little, so you build toward more meaningful relationships with people.
Don’t feel forced to be different.You may think that being an individual means wearing neon, playing a banjo, or just standing out in a room of 500 people, like “Where is Waldo?” However, it doesn’t actually mean that at all. You don’t need to be eccentric to be an individual; you just have to be happy being yourself, and asserting your own ideas and opinions. In fact, if you try too hard you may get the opposite effect, and may find yourself being less genuine than normal.
- If you like to wear low-key earth-toned clothes, for example, stick to the style that you like instead of thinking that you need to change your wardrobe to really be an individual.
- You don’t need to change your hair or makeup or to get a tattoo, either. Being an individual comes from the inside.
- Of course, everyone is different in some way, but not everyone is visibly different. If you are different for a cool reason that not everyone can see, like being able to speak 8 languages or being an awesome break dancer, then don’t be afraid to strut your stuff.
Build up your confidence.Though building your confidence up won’t happen overnight, you can take steps to working toward loving and accepting the person who you truly are. You can’t be an individual without having confidence in the person that you are, so you should work on finding things to be grateful for, focusing on your strengths, and working on asserting yourself and being positive in social interactions. The more you focus on building your confidence, the sooner you’ll become a true individual.
- One way to build up your confidence is to spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself. It’s hard to be confident when your supposed “best friends” are always putting you down.
- Body language can go a long way in making you look and feel confident. Work on standing tall, looking people in the eye, and avoid folding your arms across your chest or staring at the ground. Just projecting confidence can make you feel much better about yourself.
Stick to your convictions.An important component of being an individual is sticking to your convictions and not letting other people make you change your opinions every time you get in a debate. Of course, it’s good to be open-minded and to be willing to learn from others, but you have to work on not being a pushover and showing people that you really mean what you say. Don’t let people pressure you into behavior you don’t respect, and work on sticking to your guns the next time your friends are trying to get you to change your mind.
- If you really don’t want to do something because you feel that it’s morally wrong, don’t give in to your friends or acquaintances simply because it’s more convenient. Learn to explain why you believe the behavior, such as underage drinking, is wrong, and then walk away from the situation.
- Don’t let someone else put you down and make your ideas feel small just because the person is louder, taller, or tougher than you. Work to have concrete examples and evidence to back up your ideas, and don’t be afraid to state them.
- If a caring friend is genuinely helping you see a new perspective of a situation, then be grateful for it and ask more questions. You should work on sticking to your convictions when you know there’s no changing your mind, but you don’t need to be stubborn.
Work on being more comfortable in your own skin.Another way to be an individual is to be happy and comfortable in your own skin. Work on developing a love for your body and mind, and make your presence known when you enter a room. If you hunch over, complain about yourself, or are uncomfortable talking to people, then you’ll project a lack of confidence and will come off as a person who isn’t happy filling his own shoes. Make a habit of loving inhabiting who you are, of being self-assured enough to state your opinions, and of learning to talk to new people without hesitation.
- People who are true individuals are comfortable in their own skins because they don’t care what other people think of them. If you look comfortable and happy with what you’re doing, then people will give you the respect you deserve.
Know that there is literally no one else like you in the world.This may sound silly, but if you want to change your perspective and work towards being an individual, then sometimes the best thing you can do is to stop and realize that there’s no other person in the world who has had the same upbringing, values, looks, and thoughts as you do and that you are truly unique and different. You may feel like there’s nothing that makes you stand out, but you have to remember that everyone is different in some way. Even if you have a twin brother, you are your own person and no one else can see the world exactly as you do. Be proud of that fact and own it.
Find a new hobby.One way to be an individual is to find something that you truly and deeply care about and to make an effort to really explore it. If you don’t know what you’re good at yet, then you should try to join more clubs at school, pick up a sport, or take a class in Japanese, creative writing, watercolor painting, tap dancing, or really anything at all that you’ve been wanting to try. Finding something that you love and sticking to it will help you boost your confidence while finding a new way to help you express yourself.
- Along with finding a new hobby, you can work to see if you can turn it into a passion. You may discover that you really want to be a writer, photographer, or dancer, and this will give you even more confidence and conviction in your abilities.
Explore your creative side.Not every person has to be creative to be an individual. However, exploring your creative faculties can open up new ideas and can make you feel more aware of new possibilities. Try your hand at writing a short story, a poem, a play, or even a novel, or work on writing a skit with your friends just for fun. Explore your artistic side and work on drawing, ceramics, oil painting, or charcoal sketching just to see what strikes your fancy. You don’t have to be particularly good at it, but you should be willing to try if you want to be an individual.
- Even if all you can draw are stick figures, exercising the creative part of your brain can help you see the world in a new, original way. This is a big part of being an individual.
- Being creative can also help you discover new ideas you didn’t know you had. You may never have thought about the world in a certain way until you tried your hand at writing short stories.
Accept challenges.Another way to be an individual is to step outside of your comfort zone and to accept the new challenges the world may bring. Volunteer in a new part of town; run for class president; apply for a job that you’re not sure you’re qualified for. Help your friend figure out a difficult project. When a challenge comes your way, don’t bat it away and stick to the things you know, but make an effort to try new things and to tackle new and difficult questions.
- True individuals are always growing and changing. They face challenges with fortitude and work to find the best way to succeed, no matter how difficult the circumstances are.
- Of course, if you’re overbooked, you don’t want to say yes to everything, either, or you’ll be too busy to grow as a person. But if you’re worried about trying something new because you think you might fail, then you should take up the challenge and see what you can do.
Spend more time with people you admire.Another way to be an individual is to surround yourself with independent thinkers whose ideas and ways of life you admire. You can learn a lot from people who are creative, interesting, and not afraid to be who they are. If you spend all of your time with followers or with people who don’t really have much to teach you about the world, then it’ll be harder for you to grow as an individual.
- This doesn’t mean you should ditch every person who you deem to be too boring for you, but it does mean that you should seek out people who challenge you and inspire you to be a better version of yourself.
Use your critical thinking skills.True individuals are critical thinkers. They evaluate every aspect of a situation before reaching a conclusion, and they use a large knowledge base to help them find the best approaches to tricky situations. They don’t accept everything they hear from their friends or on the radio and do their own research, making sure that they’re reaching the best conclusions instead of resorting to lazy or incomplete thinking.
- True individuals think outside the box and know that most situations are more complicated than they seem. They don’t accept everything they hear at face value, even if it’s coming from a person they respect.
- Individuals are always asking a lot of questions and aren’t afraid to admit when they don’t know an answer. They know that the best way to be informed is to question everything.
- Become more well-read. Read every book you can get your hands on, from the complete works of Virginia Woolf or Franz Kafka to contemporary non-fiction about historical events or modern science. The more you read, the more knowledge you gain, and the more information you have at your disposal.
Don’t do things to fit other people’s expectations.One of the reasons you may be struggling with becoming an individual is because you feel like you have to fit the expectations of your parents, friends, significant other, or society at large. If you truly want to be an individual, then you have to do what is best for yourself, not what your parents expect you to do. It can be hard to say no to people or to tell them that your goals are different from theirs, but this is the only way you can truly move forward.
- For example, if your parents want you to go to med school because you come from three generations of doctors but you’d rather study creative writing, be up front about it. You don’t want to fall into a life that doesn’t feel like your own.
- Of course, you shouldn’t go against all of the expectations of society just to be an individual, but because you really think you’re doing what’s best for you. For example, if you drop of out college, do it because you have a great reason for it, not because you think it would be rebellious.
Developing Your Individuality
Don’t try to fit a mold.If you want to be a true individual, then you can’t think of yourself as fitting a mold. You can’t just be preppy, a jock, a nerd, a hipster, or a regular frat guy, either. You have to be beyond categorization like that if you want to truly be a unique person. You can have elements of different molds of people, but you can’t be so easily able to be pinned down if you want to be a true individual. Instead of trying to be a certain type of person, work on developing qualities that you admire.
- You can hang out with a certain type of person, but you don’t have to worry about fitting in with that group or looking, talking, or dressing exactly like the people you’re friends with. Variety is the spice of life, and things will be pretty boring if you look like everyone else you hang out with.
Develop your authenticity.To be an individual, you have to be authentic. If people think you’re phony or putting on airs, they’ll be able to tell from a mile away. Instead of trying to be overly nice, wearing clothes that really aren’t you, or hanging out with people you don’t really like because you think it’ll make you more popular, you should work on being true to yourself, wearing what makes you feel comfortable, and not saying things just to please people if you really don’t believe a word you’re saying.
- Before you step out the door, take a look in the mirror. Do you recognize the person you’re looking at? If not, then you better give your look more consideration.
- Don’t give phony compliments just to suck up to people. Instead, tell them when you genuinely like something about them, even if you think it’s a bit offbeat. If you’re not being sincere, they’ll be able to tell.
Be more honest.To be an individual, you have to work on being an honest person who is comfortable with stating the truth, even when the circumstances are difficult. Avoid lying just to make yourself look better, to sugar coat the truth for your friends when they really need to hear it, or even to cheat in school or to get ahead in an unfair with. True individuals are genuine people who aren’t afraid of the truth and are comfortable enough with themselves to state it.
- Don’t lie about how much money you have, how much money you make, or about your material possessions in general. This won’t impress anyone and they’ll be able to tell that you’re trying too hard.
- Of course, telling a white lie, like not telling your friend her new haircut is too severe, is perfectly fine if you’re not hurting anyone.
Address the flaws you can address.If you want to be a true individual, then you have to be willing to improve yourself. You can’t be content with every aspect of yourself or you’ll never grow and improve. Though you should work on accepting the things you can’t change about yourself, you should make an effort to address the flaws you can address, so that you can be on your way to being a more honed version of yourself.
- Take it one step at a time. It doesn’t have to be anything major, at first. Maybe you’re always late to things. Make a goal to be on time to everything for a week, and then a month, and then make it a habit.
- Know that working on larger issues, such as trust issues, can take much longer than a few weeks. Still, making a plan to get there can help you grow faster.
Be more assertive.To be a true individual, you have to be able to assert yourself and be comfortable stating your ideas. Speak clearly, be articulate, and look people in the eye when you want to get your point across. Don’t let other people put you down or interrupt you, and stick to your beliefs while being open to other well-meaning suggestions. Don’t let people walk all over you and don’t get stuck doing something because you’re too nice to say no. Individuals know what they want and think and they aren’t afraid to make it known.
- If you feel really strongly about something, don’t let another person sway you just because you don’t want to hurt his feelings. Make your feelings clear, and have hard facts about why you feel a certain way.
- Work on saying no to people when you genuinely can’t or don’t want to do something. Be comfortable explaining that you’re too busy to take on more work and don’t let people make you feel bad about not doing more.
- Speak with conviction. Instead of starting sentences with, “I think that maybe…” or “It could be possibly that…” make firm statements like, “I will not work on another project with Karen.”
Learn to laugh at yourself.True individuals know not to take themselves too seriously and are comfortable poking fun at themselves at the right time. They are aware of their flaws and are okay with not being perfect, and they don’t make people feel like they have to walk on eggshells around them, either. If you want to be an individual, then you should be as comfortable laughing at yourself as you are asserting your beliefs. It’s okay not to be serious all the time; it doesn’t make you any less of an individual.
- True individuals are always growing and always learning. You can’t be a true individual if you’re so serious about yourself that you can’t even laugh at your own flaws or be self-aware enough to want to change.
Listen to your gut.Listening to your intuition is crucial if you want to be an individual. Sometimes, something like a job offer will look great on paper, and everyone will tell you that you should take it, but you may get a nagging feeling that you know it’s not really what you want to do with your life. If you really want to be an individual, then you have to work on knowing when you get a bad or good feeling about something and following those instincts instead of logic some of the time.
- Individuals are original thinkers. Though they think critically, read a lot, and use facts to back up their ideas, they are also able to trust themselves and sense when something isn’t quite right.
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