Deconditioning Yourself

Breaking The Rules of Tradition

From birth, us humans have been being trained. We’re trained to walk, talk, go potty, and around ages 3 or 4, we begin social training — things such as: manners, sharing, and etiquette. The next course of training is morality. This is basically where we are taught the difference between right and wrong, and then TOLD the difference between right and wrong.

Religion and politics play in the background, as each of the aforementioned trainings take place. If your family votes Democrat, then likely, so will you. If your family votes Republican, then you probably will too. Voting opposite the party that your family favors is not an option, because you’ve been trained that one is good and the other is bad.

It’s the same situation when it comes to religion. Whatever denomination you family follows, is likely the only denomination that you will ever consider, because you’ve been programmed to believe that the faith that your family follows is right, while all others are wrong. If you come from a family who attends church once, or several times a week, it’s most probable that you will too.

This conditioning has been going on for for generations, and will continue to go on for generations.

Back In The Day

When we were children, we had no choice — we had to follow our parents’ rules. It was their house, and they paid the bills, so we had to comply. If Mom and Dad said something was wrong — it was wrong. If they said go to and be active in church, we did — whether we enjoyed, and/or agreed with it or not. Not abiding by our parents’ rules was not an option, unless we really wanted to make things difficult for ourselves.

Our parents instilled morals and values in us — partially, to ensure that we’d be safe and successful. We’d know how to “act in public“, the difference between “right and wrong“, and religion as the core of morality — knowing that there’s a heaven and a hell (rewards and consequences). Our parents also understood that society also has rules, and not following them would result in much more dire consequences. So, following the rules of the house would make it a little easier to follow society’s rules, since all of your life, you’ve been conditioned to follow rules. All of that is understandable, on one hand. But on the other hand…

Who Am I?

Now, you’re all grown up and perhaps, have a family of your own. Staying true to your training, you’ve passed the same systems of morals and values, and rewards and consequences, onto your family — thus, perpetuating the cycle.

What about you? As an adult, why do you continue to follow the same system? Do you really believe in it? Or is it just all that you know? Maybe you’ve become comfortable with the way things are (and there’s nothing wrong with that, if you’re happy). Or, maybe you’ve inadvertently become a member of the Society of “Supposed To Be’s“.

Now that you’re an adult, what if you don’t agree that what you were taught as right, is actually right? Maybe you’d rather vote Republican, even though your family votes Democratic. What if you don’t care for religion and don’t like going to church? What if you’ve never liked church, and now, years later, you’re only attending out of habit? And, if that’s the case, what are you getting out of it?

Learn To Be Yourself

Many people are apprehensive about breaking free from familial chains, because they are afraid that their true selves will not be easily received. It’s easier to play it safe and be the person that you were conditioned to be. While doing that would be pleasing to your loved ones, it will leave you conflicted and unhappy. If you never believe anything that I write, please believe this:

You are the last person that you would ever want to have conflict with, because you’ll never let yourself off the hook. Experience taught me that.

Break Away, Now That It Seems So Clear

When you realize that you are not living your life (even stylistically), the way you want to live it, it’s your choice whether or not you change it. Take some time out and reevaluate yourself. Based on what you know, from your own experiences, what do you believe? What is your definition of right and wrong, true or false? Or, are you like me, and believe that it’s all relative? What are you? Are you gay, straight, Christian, spiritual, Bohemian, atheist, or just you? Only you have the right to make these decisions for yourself. It’s your life — you only get one shot to do it your way.

Holding Back The Years

How many things have you missed out on because you were afraid to go against what you’ve been taught? Think of all of the chances that you didn’t take, experiences you never had, events that you were not a part of. Eventually, you’ll regret not taking a blind leap, even if only once or twice. The most disgusting thing about about playing it safe (to me, anyway), is that it takes away the courage that is required for you to take a chance on yourself. It can stifle growth. You’ll never know what you can become until you free your mind and unchain your brain. Be bold enough to be you, in spite of anyone else. Besides, your family and friends will still love you; they’ll just think you’re strange. Eventually, you’ll learn how much of a compliment that is.

Don’t Take This The Wrong Way

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I don’t believe that the codes of morality and ethics are valuable to society — that isn’t the point that I want to make. I’m not against values and principles. I am against groupthink mentality, because it shames people from living. Groupthink is responsible for the creation of a Stepford society, where people have two choices: stay in line, or, be ostracized for not staying in line. Sadly, most people do not realize that they’ve been brainwashed.

Dare to be the person that you were designed to be, instead of the person that you were conditioned to be. Keep the lessons and the rules that you believe in, but you don’t have to be confined to what works for others. You are beautiful, smart, talented, and perfect in that no one else can ever be you! The world needs you in your purest form. The Universe has your back!

“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively”

~Dalai Lama

Not Feeling Guilty About Our Guilty Pleasures.

Embracing Your Interests And Curiosities

I’m sure that we all have a few oddities that contributes to the people that we are–perhaps, some interests or hobbies that do not reflect our cultures or outer selves. To avoid criticisms and judgements from those who may not understand our unusual interests, we might choose to enjoy our “guilty pleasures” in private. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what I used to do. I didn’t want to waste time and energy explaining my interests and defending my right to choose what I am passionate about.

People can be very quick to set parameters for what others should do, how they should dress, act, talk, what kind of music they should listen to, or what kind of movies they should watch (to name a few things).

Black people don’t...

Ladies shouldn’t …

White people can’t…

And the list goes on.

I don’t understand why some of us humans prefer to limit ourselves to the societal “supposed to be’s” when there is so much to explore on this planet. The more we know, the better we will understand each other, and nothing but good things could ever come from that.

Definitely, there is more to life than what is in front of us at any given time. We live in the Information Age. We have access to anything that we would like to learn 24 hours a day. Why not take advantage of that?

I’ve always been a curious person–always interested in how things work, what happens in other places, what words mean and where they come from, and pretty much everything else. Because of the environment that I grew up in (outside of my childhood home), rarely were those interests shared. Instead, they were met with blank stares, brazenness, or eye rolls nine times out of ten. But, that tenth time was always golden! Since I’ve never allowed my environment or stereotypes to curb my enthusiasm about about being turned on by new and, perhaps, abstract things, I’ve grown to be an open-minded and eclectic person. I’ve met plenty of like-minded people, and I’m not afraid to try new and exciting things.

Here are a few things that are of great interest to me that most would probably never guess just by looking at me.

1) The Golden Era of Hollywood

When you chance upon a Black woman who wears a 58 inch Afro, distressed jeans, Shell Toe Adidas Superstars, and a T-shirt that reads, “Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud“, it’s reasonable to assume that she’s an old school Hollywood fan, right? Lol! Whenever I tell anyone about that part of me, they are usually quite taken aback.

I’ve always been fascinated with the culture, characters, and stories of the Golden Era of Hollywood. On my first trip to Los Angeles, I really didn’t care to do all of the typical tourist stuff (that’s really not my thing), but I absolutely had to see some of the homes of movie stars from that era, the Knickerbocker Hotel, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and of course, the famous Hollywood sign!

I’ve watched hundreds of documentaries and interviews centered around this subject, and I am not ashamed to admit that I am a fan of the era.

2) Mafia Movies And Mafia Stuff

That’s really not too far of a stretch from my love of the Golden Era of Hollywood (Lol!). Once again, it’s the culture and the vibe that attracts me. The structure of organized crime is fascinating to me because it’s set up like a government inside of a government. They had very strict rules and a unique set of morals, and they controlled everything– from the entertainment industry to politics–not just vices, as what is usually portrayed. There is a torrent of life truths and life lessons to be found in Mafia Movies, if you are capable of looking deep enough to find them instead of simply concentrating on the violence. In my opinion, some of the most important things that we need to understand about life can be found in The Godfather (the greatest movie ever made!).

3) Charles Manson

Let me make this clear from the beginning: I do not love Charles Manson! He was a horrible person and the world would have been a much better place if he had never been born. (It’s usually best that I lead with that disclaimer so no one will mistake my fascination with adoration. I certainly DO NOT adore him!). Nonetheless, it’s undeniable that he was an interesting little man. And if you are able to listen to him, apart from the gibberish and nonsense (which can be quite difficult), he was an oddly intelligent person. The entire subject of the minds of psychopathic people is an area of interest for me.

These are only three of the many things that I could call guilty pleasures, but I won’t, because I don’t feel guilty about my interest in them. Believe me, there are many, many , more, but these three are probably the most far fetched. I’ve been picked on and ostracized about them, but those reactions have never made me less interested or ashamed.

Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and learn new things or look more deeply into the things that go on, or have gone on around you. Satisfy your curiosities without regard to what your type is “supposed to be” into. This planet is full of subjects and ideas that we can explore. The masses will always try to pigeonhole us into staying inside of a jaded and stereotypical box that they have created for us; don’t allow them to stifle you. Most of us carry hundreds (and maybe thousands) of dollars in media devices that allows us access to immeasurable information. It’s shameful that most of us limit the use of said devices to Facebook and Instagram.

Challenge!

Try spending ten minutes per day learning something new, regardless of how crazy it is (in fact, the crazier, the better). I can promise you that you will be surprised at what you’ve been completely clueless of; that alone is fascinating. You have the time to do it. If I can do it, anyone can!

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”

~Walt Disney

Feeling Good About YOU!

Loving Your Flaws When Others Do Not

“If you’ve not been criticized, booed, jeered, or such; it’s not because you have no flaws, but because you don’t count so much”

~Danny Thomas

I fell in love with that poem when I heard Danny Thomas say it at the end of a Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roast that was held in his honor. I’m not sure that these are his original words, but they really hit home for me. I’ve always had to deal with harsh criticisms from people who don’t understand me and aren’t interested in trying to. All they know is that I am different from what is acceptable as normal, and it sometimes seems most important to these people that I know that they believe me to be “weird“.

Some of Us March To Our Own Drummers/ Some of Us Have Our Own Rhythm Section

People who are not afraid to march to their own drumbeat often endure the criticisms of other people– sometimes even the ones that we love. Personally, I’ve been labeled with a plethora of adjectives that were used on me with the intent of hurting me or breaking me. Terms like: different, weird, crazy, strange, even retarded! Even more outlandish terms such as: snooty, stuck up, and selfish! (Clearly these are people who have never gotten to know me, or people who did something to get on my bad side). I think my favorite snide remark about me is: “You’re too much”. Because of the context in which it is used, that is ACTUALLY supposed to be an insult! I’ve always wondered if they knew that being “too much” is so much better that being “not enough“.

There was a time when those types of remarks would really sting. Especially when they came from relatives and so called close friends. I spent many years feeling as though I really did not “fit” anywhere. I felt unwanted so I tried to follow trend–at least enough to fit in amongst my peers. As a result, I started losing myself. Sure, I fit in and everyone thought I was cool, but I didn’t like myself so much anymore. I decided to take a time out for self assessment. I needed to decide which was more important: that “they” like me, or that I liked myself.

You Have To Live With Yourself

Of all of the components of this issue, there would be one thing that would never change– I would have to live with me for the rest of my life. No one else would ever be obligated to live with me forever except for me; so I’d better get as comfortable with myself as possible. With this mindset, I decided that fitting in to avoid criticism was no longer an option for me. Regardless of the general consensus, I would always be the me-est me that I could be!

I won’t pretend that this was easy– it wasn’t. In fact, at times it was physically and emotionally draining. I felt alone and misunderstood which moved me to create a fence around myself. That might not sound like a good idea but at the time it was necessary. I needed the time and space to get comfortable in my own skin. Even though I felt alone often, I believed that I truly needed the time to myself. I’m an extrovert, so this was a difficult but necessary step to take if I really wanted to get back to “me”.

I stopped going to clubs and parties. Most of the times that I spent time in these kinds of places was at the behest of people that I thought I needed to blend in with. Instead of going out to night clubs and parties, I started hanging out at Barnes & Noble at night on weekends. I’d always loved to read but I hadn’t read a book in a couple of years because I was too busy fitting in. In fact, books became an important part of this odyssey. I spent a lot of time in libraries as well. I read about everything that I saw. I had so many questions and there was a book or 100 for every question that I had. This new behavior aligned me with others who shared my newly reformed interest in reading. These were people that I met at Barnes & Noble or the library. Eventually, I started taking classes at a community college where I met even more people who loved to read and learn.

I did not completely cease contact with my party people–instead I inserted reasonable distance. From time to time, I’d still communicate with a few of them. I told the few that I still dealt with what I had been doing and where I had been going, and to my surprise, one or two of them became interested also. I will not take this as an opportunity to pat my own back but I have a couple of friends who are now very well read…because of me-the de facto weirdo.

Conversely, there were also people from my former band of associates who felt that I was “acting funny“. Being called uppity and sadity (I really cant stand that (non)word) didn’t bother me at all but rather, showed me that I was better off being in my own “little world” and away from such people. This would prove to be much better for me. I felt lighter, I smiled more, and strangers always seemed happy to have me around. This felt right. This was the life that I knew before my experiment with conformity.

Loving YOU

As time has moved on, I’ve found that I can comfortably be myself in any company and I never feel the need to readjust myself. On the rare occasion that I am uncomfortable in certain company, I simply remove myself–physically if possible. If I can’t remove myself physically, I remove myself mentally. I worked hard and had become brave enough to be accept my eccentricities –not take umbrage from those who couldn’t appreciate my “me-ness“. To this day, I dress differently, I speak differently, and my belief systems and are ideals are different compared to those of my peers– and if that ever changes, it will be only because I want to change them– not because they do not work with the masses. And people…well, they still have things to say. It usually comes back to me through the grapevine, but I never spend any time on their opinions. I wish them all well and move on with my life.

Stand Up To Stand Out/ Inventors vs Consumers

Not everyone is meant to be one of the crowd; some of us were placed on planet Earth to stand out. I call it “inventors vs consumers“. You have to be a little odd to be an inventor. To create something, you have to be able to think differently than the masses. Most of the things that have become necessities in our everyday lives were invented by weirdos–people who were talked about, ostracized, picked on, and misunderstood. The same can be said about the greatest leaders of the world. But they worked on their crafts and they made a difference in the world. They are all very important people and life as we know it would be very different had they decided to become one of the crowd in order to avoid ridicule. Consumers are equally important because obviously, someone has to buy and use these inventions, and by nature they follow. It’s us weirdos who provide the crowd with what they need in order to be cool.

I carry Danny Thomas’ poem in my mind because it reminds me that no one takes the time to criticize, jeer, or put down insignificant people. We actually have to qualify to be subject to insult. Our flaws are integral parts of who we are, they make us beautiful. Love your flaws and be flawsome as you go on to do great things– be they public or private victories. Stay steadfast, confident and vested in yourself!