This week I gave a talk to an assembly of 10-11yr olds at middle school. This week has been #mentalhealthawareness, and I was asked to bring ideas to the children on individuality.
Individuality is a familiar word, we see it as positive and important when we view ourselves as a group or collective. But what of the benefit to the individual? Perhaps it doesn't conjure the same reaction as often our differences bring unwanted discomfort and pain, particularly as we grow up.
Naturally we all want good things for ourselves, and broadly those things appear the same:
- to find love and have a family
- to have a great job
- or simply to have fun and laughter
So what has this got to do with individuality? EVERYTHING.
We can’t make good choices for ourselves if we don’t know who we are, if we are not BEING ourselves. Because when we're natural and happy in our own skin, free of judgement of others, we shine and attract the things we love. Our uniqueness truly is the root of our happiness and wellbeing.
When we’re not experiencing natural and happy we know there are things to learn about ourselves. This conflict between the two states creates a beautiful tension as “Who am I?” becomes an important question and "What can I learn?" becomes a catalyst for good.
The challenge we face is to be WHO WE ARE in a world where it feels we need to be like everyone else.
There are 7.7 billion humans in the world, so on that scale the imperative nature of learning to be ourselves as our "no 1 wellbeing job" becomes obvious. But just take a moment to look around and you'll see we are living in an age where to be an individual is fast becoming a rebellious act.
Society is increasingly guiding us to lose our individuality in the pursuit of the same goals. This isn't collective harmony, this is economics rather than human wellbeing. There are perceived choices that we all should want - such as buying a house, or going to university. Who says they’re right for us personally? As the trajectory of world markets brings increasing uniformity for the homogenised masses, to push against the grain is courageous.
The route to true collective harmony is developing the ability to self-listen and nourish ourselves - as by reducing inner conflict we reduce outer conflict.