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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

6 reasons it’s OK to be different (and not feel oppressed by the system)

Breaking with convention is not for the faint of heart. And yet, it’s the inevitable path of those who innovate and lead in the world.

Just to be clear, leading doesn’t imply a macho-absurd approach of the all-conquering Trumpesque variety. Leading for the good means evolving humanity to its highest potential through your own evolution, because you take others along with you. You touch a deeper part of you and from here you can move in the world with more ease, trust, and spontaneity.

A growing number of organisational and leadership specialists, like Simon Sinek and Otto Scharmer, as well as my friend Prof Vlatka Hlupic who wrote Humane Capital, are bringing attention to the importance of organisations that are conduits for human creativity and amplifiers of human potential rather than soulless, industrial machines in which individuals are cogs competing for ranks.

If you’re not part of one of the more progressive organisations, you may find yourself routinely overwhelmed without feeling you’re doing meaningful work that fulfils your potential. Worse, you may feel that it’s too difficult to break away and change the situation, especially when you realise your own mindset has been shaped to favour a compliant, fearful employee attitude.

You may also wonder if others are coping better with the situation and what you could do to handle things more effectively.

But the truth is: you don’t have to.

If you feel stressed and overwhelmed at work, chances are the environment is toxic or you’re not in the right place for you.

Of course, it’s important to make sure that your mindset and attitude are empowered rather than victimised.It's not uncommon to start a transformational coaching journey with an intensive reset of attitude to work, power, and authority: setting boundaries, how to say “no”, and creating space to strategise rather than be constantly reactive and caught up in unnecessary drama that serves another person’s agenda.

If you feel that something else is possible – like a better way of working and living - for yourself and, through your example, for others - trust this intuition that is forming within you.

[Read on or watch the video below]

Here are six reasons to take heart and cultivate your own way of being in the world of work even if it breaks with convention:

1. You experience liberating fulfilment rather than box ticking achievement

On your unique path, any milestone you reach will bring you a sweet taste of calm wholeness (rather than the anti-climax of empty achievement). Your progress may not always be recognised by others, but you’ll know how far you’ve come emotionally and psychologically to get to where you are materially, and it will bring you fulfilment.

2. You feel strong (even if you’re tired)

When you step in to your unique way of being, you feel supported by invisible forces and a sense of right intention and right action. Because you’re connected to an authentic, deeper part of you (not just the persona shaped by societal expectations), you feel endlessly energised – perhaps even unstoppable!

3. When you connect with people, it’s deep and authentic

Poor quality relationships, loneliness and competitive comparison that isolates are reaching epidemic levels. One reason is the fear of being vulnerable by accepting who you are, what you truly want, and sharing this with others. Instead, defaulting to people-pleasing, judging others as inferior, or both becomes a protective and isolating shell.

As Prof Brene Brown points out: “Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance”.

4. You inspire others – especially little ones

If you’re a parent, you’ll know that your children are more likely to follow what you do, rather than do what you say. Every time you step up and show courage, your children take note. If you’re incongruent, stressed, and fake in your behaviour, they will pick up on it and make meaning out of it that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Whether it’s your children or people around you looking for signals to guide them along their path, your courage to follow your own way will inspire others to do the same.

5. Your inner-conflicts start to resolve

Months if not years can be wasted in doubt over what path follow and what decision to make about your career or life. But once you commit to a course of action, even in the face of crushing uncertainty (especially in the face of crushing uncertainty), your inner-conflicts start to resolve.

The tension over failure and pain starts to dissipate. What’s more, you start to find unlikely alliances and support in unsuspected places. As Goethe said: At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you; and: Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

6. Your creativity is amplified

Because you’ve given yourself permission to be who you are, you’re no longer wasting energy on trying to perfect your shell or manage the system and how you fit in it. As a result, you have more cognitive and emotional space for your unique vision to crystallise, you pay attention to the right opportunities, and find ways around obstacles – your creative genius is activated because you have more capacity to listen to it.

Pioneering artist Anni Albers expressed this phenomenon: Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done.

Of course, being different by following your unique path isn’t always a jolly walk in the park. There will be ups and downs and it’s important to know that being different, means that you may generate polarised reactions.

Some people – including some of your friends and family - will react strongly to this unusual, more powerful you. But that’s not a bad sign because if no one responds to what you say, you could be back to being a compliant, overwhelmed cog in the machine…

Those who are meant to be with you on this path will eventually recognise and accept this authentic version of you – and support it.

Embrace the change.


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