“How to Stand Out In a World That Wants You to Blend In”

There you are, standing up in front of the 32 people you have been affiliated with for an entire two semesters. These are the same people you have laughed with, argued it, created bonds with, and become estranged to within that short time span; yet there you are, afraid to the core of your being. You stand there with hands as clammy as the Mediterranean sea, and a heart racing at the speed of light. You can literally feel your heart about to explode. And in your mind is something that can only be explained as neurosis; you are over analyzing every word, every movement, and every gaze directed towards you. You feel your voice is shaky, and unable to project, you see yourself as unable to grasp any sort of attention; and worse of all you feel plain ol’ stupid. Before you know it you’re walking back to your seat to the tune of a mediocre applaud.

Congratulations, you just faced humanity’s biggest fear; public speaking.

The Normalizer

Around the time we begin our formal education, happens to be the same time in which we are introduced to this concept we often call “grades”. This is a ranking system that measures the scholastic worth of a child depending on their ability to perform well on standardized tests, exams, and assignment within a formal setting known as “school.

The tests we receive are by no measure distinct, unique, nor do they cater to the different character types that are found within people. Instead they are formulations of a single school of thought, yet they are given to each individual indiscriminately.

There is a process that has to take place early on in our lives to make sure that we begin to fit this mold.

Immediately we are tossed into a machine of sorts, which extracts every ounce of uniqueness and individuality we once had; the other end of this machine spits out an overly processed version of our former selves. What was once a distinctive human being is now another replica of something that once was, in a procedure we can call “the normalizer”.

The purpose of the normalizer is to make us better suited for the format in which these standardized tests are coded in; to put our minds in a place where they can regurgitate the same thoughts, concepts, and ideas that are given to us in a classroom setting.

There are rewards for those who come out of the processor fully normalized, for they will be called,

  • good student’s
  • able
  • focused
  • attentive
  • smart

and any other title there overseers see fitting. These are the children whose parents are told things like, “Sue and Johnny are such good kids, they always follow instruction and do as their told. And Sue passed all of her subject with flying colors, she’s the smartest student in the class.”

For those who aren’t fully processed however, there are a different set of labels that are of the opposite nature; these labels include,

  • trouble maker
  • incompetent
  • distraction
  • unrealistic
  • dumb

along with an entire laundry list of negatively associated titles. Instead of being placed on pedestals. they are thrown into detentions, suspensions, and sometimes expulsions all together.

These are the children whose parents often hear things such as “Michael and Quinn aren’t doing so well. They’re always talking in class, they never listen. When we put Michael in detention where he should be doing his homework, he’s in there doodling, and writing “raps””.

Only a select few of the unprocessed are able to hide behind the mask of a “good student”, they learn to cooperate with the norms while still holding onto their sense of individuality. Most of them, however, fall into the machines trapping once again, completing their normalization in the fear of standing out and being punished for it.

When the Tribe Speaks:

There was a time in which it was dangerous to stand out from the rest of your tribe. To stand out would make you a threat to those who were distant from you, and more so those who surrounded you.

Often times the tribe would not accept those who did not follow the rules of conduct, or the way that the society was ran. These people would be banished, ostracized, and sometimes killed for their lack of “cooperation” with the status quo.

For example, in the Spartan culture which was based on war, if you were a child who showed any signs of sympathy you would automatically be labeled as weak. You’re compassion was looked down upon amongst such a war-like people, and you would be kicked out or killed.

Yet in the Athenian culture it would have been looked down upon to be a child of rage, brute and war. Instead the Athenians respected intellect, virtue, and politics so if you stood against any of these standards you would have been labelled as incompetent.

Not much has changed in the times we are living in today. To stand out from those in your surroundings automatically makes you a threat, even if it does not physically put you in harm’s way.

If you are born into a lower class neighborhood and you look to become educated and wealthy you will sometimes be met with resistance from those outside, and inside of your immediate circle of influence.

I remember when I decided that I wanted to stop smoking, and selling drugs; yet the people I spent most of my time with were weed smokers and drug dealers. When I came out with the news of changing my life for the better I was met with confusion, disbelief, and sometimes outright anger. My tribe could not fully accept that I was going to be the opposite of everything they represented; everything I once represented.

Where I thought I would find support, I was surprised to meet apathy. Almost overnight I went from “the most popular in the group” to another “square” who thinks he’s better than us.

Don’t get me wrong, my closest and actual friends did not leave me as some others did, but they still did not fully support my change and instead questioned it. Instead I found support from outsiders, those who were not, or no longer involved with the lifestyle I once portrayed.

Unwritten Rules:

From the classroom to the pavement, there is almost this code, this unwritten code that says “if you show that you are any different from your surrounding you will be ATTACKED”. This subtle reality brings on a perpetual state of fear and paranoia, and therefore silences those who want to speak out.

Even for those of us who know of our uniqueness, and individuality, we sometimes still put on these mask’s in the face of society, to cover up those things that may make us seem as if we are a threat to the norm.

We might have aspirations of becoming artists, healers, business owners, chefs, plumbers, yoga teachers. Yet when we are in the presences of the norms we fear to speak out on our deepest convictions; instead we tell them what they want to hear like how much we want to become doctors, lawyers, or engineer because of its financial security (if you are truly convicted to be in any of those professions, do you boo boo).

This same fear bleeds into almost every facet of our existence, and is mostly prevent in the one place we seek the most acceptance; home. How many times have you told your parents, or guardian exactly what they wanted to hear so they find favor in you. How many of us do what we feel would make those around us happy, instead of doing what it is we are drawn to do.

Remember that one time you wanted to speak on an insight you had about life on another planet, or spiritual manifesto, but when it came time to speak you did not utter a word due to your fear of being laughed at by your peers.

Even when we try to come back to ourselves within isolation it becomes close to impossible to actually do so, since most of our lives are spent with the multitude of masks on. We cannot find which one of these masks is actually us.

Why You Must Stand Out

To stand up to yourself and be yourself is as necessary to your being as water is to the body. Whether you see yourself as spiritual or not, there is always a part of you that tells you who you are and what you want, but when you accept the normalizer you are ignoring that voice.

When this voice is ignored you cannot help but fall into a depressive state of being, and feel the gripping effects of isolation along with the life and joy snatching presence of anxiety.

Yet this voice is often silenced by the voices outside of ourselves. This is why it is dire to shut those voices out, and  disconnect from the rigid beliefs of the tribe without disconnecting from the people themselves.

There in a true irony in all of this, that irony being that when we are brave enough to go against the unwritten code of fitting in; when we reject the processor and normalizer, we put ourselves in a place where we can stand as examples of what freedom looks like.

Every great change that has come to pass in our history as humans has come through the individuals who chose to be mocked, persecuted, and ostracized for standing up against the status quo. Just like every other human being they had the fear of standing out, yet they did so anyway. If it were not for those who faced the greatest fear of all, we would not live in the world that we do today.

It does not matter if you are standing up against an oppressive system such as Nelson Mandela, or you are standing up against the old ways of thinking in your own family; both are a necessity. Regardless of the format your resurgence of individuality comes in, it is key to you living a life of fulfillment, a life in which you are confident enough to do what you are drawn to; and have a high enough self-esteem that you do not need the acceptance of the crowd.

Standing up in front of those you know and speaking out is a fearful experience, but the fear does not mean you cannot give the greatest “speech” you’ve given in your life. You might swear, shake, and doubt every step of the way, but after it is said and done you can say that you were you.

‘To be you is to stand out, and to stand out is to be naked in front of the entire world.” – Yours Truly

-Tinashe Hwande


So tell me, which parts of yourself were taken during your normalization, and which parts of yourself are you in the process of reclaiming.

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