A client asked about something in his personal life. He does things one way that most parts of society do differently. To be clear, his way harmed no one and was in no way illegal, but he was concerned that people who learned about it might freak out.
Sorry I have to keep the details to a minimum, but we all recognize his situation is universal. We all have things we do a certain way that society/family/school/church/government/etc does differently. A great thing about the internet is that we can easily learn that millions of others also do it that way, even if we can’t meet them in person.
You can’t anticipate or change other people’s expectations before you meet them.
Like everyone, you also have things you do one way and you’re nervous about being found out. If you don’t think so, you probably aren’t being true to yourself. Everyone has different values, meaning they react differently to different situations. Their emotions differ, so they have different motivations and rewards.
I pointed out to him that if he behaved consistently with what he felt was right some people with opposing values would not appreciate his way and would disappear from his life. But if he behaved the way mainstream society expected, a different set with different values would disappear.
When you behave consistently with your values, you tend to attract people who share those values or at least respect you for holding yours and behaving consistently with them. You can’t change the expectations of people who expect you to behave in a mainstream way before you meet them. You can only earn their respect by remaining true to yourself when they get to know you.
You repel people who don’t appreciate your values, but you don’t repel everyone, just people you would only superficially get along with. As a result, though, you give yourself more time for people who you’ll get along with better. Your life improves overall.
Note that some people will freak out and leave no matter how you behave. Only one way you live your way and don’t have to act. Life feels more natural and easy. And the people who leave will respect you even if they don’t spend as much time with you. You’ll be spending all your time with people who like you more anyway.
The main potential problem with living by your standards when they differ from others’ expectations is if you imply (or overtly state) you will live differently. Then you say one thing and do another. Nobody will accept that behavior, not even your parents. The problem there isn’t your non-mainstream behavior. It’s your hypocrisy.
What matters is behaving consistently to your values. In that consistency, based in honesty and self-awareness, lies freedom.
I noted that if he already led some people to believe he would behave differently than he wanted to then he’d have some problems. Incongruities may happen on occasion as you identify and purge values society/family/school/church/government/etc stuck in you that you don’t share. They hurt, but not nearly as much as living by other people’s values you don’t share.
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