Though I’m not sure what the true definition of “the norm” looks like these days, I can say, I’ve been less than normal for most of my life. More often than not, I find myself questioning the expected, ignoring societal pressures, and doing things differently.
These different doings of mine include, but are not limited to:
- Opting to be vegan for nearly a decade (and still going strong)
- Exiting the 9 to 5 office world (more than once)
- Choosing to be a one car couple
- Scaling down my belongings, rather than accumulating more
- Marrying my best friend in a nontraditional format (and almost not telling the Internet)
While choosing to live your life in a way that does not align with societal norms can bring about great breathing room and internal reward, I’ve learned by doing, these choices aren’t always met with open arms.
Here are five things I’ve learned by doing things differently.
1. You can’t wait on the approval of others to make changes in your life.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed my nature is to seek selective approval and validation. It’s taken me some time, but I’ve reached the point of realizing that if you wait for the approval of others, you’ll be waiting forever.
While it’s helpful to value perspectives of those you respect, be it your family, friends, or mentors, we’re all on different pages of life. Ultimately, making a positive change or simply doing what you believe is the best thing for you in your current chapter of life must be honored first and foremost.
2. You don’t have to explain yourself. If you choose to explain, don’t be defensive.
Maybe you’ve quit your job that offers a 401K to pursue your passion. Perhaps you’ve sold your home and are officially a nomad. Maybe you’re embarking on an uncertain career change that will allow you more time with family, or the flexibility to travel. Whatever the decision is, the best way to share your current path with others is to showcase it in the positive light it deserves.
When questioned, don’t feel pressured to explain yourself. Your decision doesn’t require justification to anyone, nor do you have to have it all figured out (spoiler alert: no one has it all figured out). If you do choose to explain yourself, be sure to use an honest offense. Being defensive is the quickest way to say to others you aren’t entirely comfortable with the route you’re choosing. It’s also the quickest way to lose friends and supporters.
3. Do it for you, not for the aesthetic or potential response.
In this overly connected universe, it’s hard not to fall into the trap of broadcasting our every move to the masses, by way of the social media trap. Three weeks ago, I got married and didn’t share this news on social media until just after our small family ceremony had taken place.
You’d think this was the most taboo thing I could have ever done, but to me, and to us, it made total sense. Those we saw in person during our intentionally short engagement or those afar who we keep in contact with regularly knew what we were up to. Everyone else knew after the fact.
The response has been, for the most part, an overwhelmingly positive one. Within these responses, I’ve also been met with numerous, “I wish I could do that!” comments.
Here’s the thing … you can.
This isn’t to say you should have a small wedding like I did or not tell many people. This is to say you can do it if you want to. The point is, you should do what is most special and sacred to you without feeling the pressure to include, or even share with, the masses.
4. Walk humbly. Don’t carry your choices around like an ego.
The fastest way to turn people off from your chosen lifestyle is to tout it loud and proud, as if it gives you some sort of bragging rights or a one up on anyone else. Maybe you truly believe that your path represents the best or even the only way to live, or that the chance you’re taking is one everyone must take to find meaning.
Whatever it is you’ve chosen, seek to simply live it out the best you can, rather than rub it in the faces of others. You will never win anyone over nor will you best represent yourself by coming off as high or mighty.
5. Worry not what they think.
Even when walking humbly, there will always be people who think what you are doing makes zero sense and who might even think you’re a little crazy, a little off, a little … something. I’ve found the following to be true in my own life. And wherever you are on your own journey, I believe it to be true for you too:
Those who know you and your heart will understand the journey you are on, or will at least make the effort to understand.
It’s not up to you to convince others to change their own way of thinking or being. It is up to you to walk in honesty and compassion and live by example, as you invite others in for a closer look at the way you’re choosing to live, and share with them the rewards that come from living a different kind of existence.