I am in a writing group right now. It is five people in a coffee shop just sitting in silence and writing together. I am self-conscious. I just met these people. I randomly found this group on meetup.com this morning. It isn't normal to seek out writing groups on the internet and meet them on a Friday night during Mardi Gras. I honestly feel shameful admitting this. I can feel the pull of the Norm trying to get me to go to parades and drink, but I genuinely don't want to. Not that I don't enjoy those things sometimes, I just don't feel like it right now. The Norm wants to make me feel like a loser for this. I don't know how to say this without sounding ridiculously cliche, but society wants me to feel bad for acting the way I do and sometimes it succeeds.
I am obsessed with what every one thinks about me, even people I don't know or look up to. It's not a secret that most people are. This desire to fit in, the natural pressure every person feels to bend to the rules and expectations of their community, is often a helpful thing. It helps to ensure you have stability and that you can add value to that society. The problem arises when big groups get off track in their values, placing more importance on growth and prestige than well-being and sustainability. It is up to us as individuals to identify where the rules of society are benefitting us and where they are not.
There are certain people whose desire to act against the Norm is so strong that they figure out how to thrive off of this feeling of alienation, using it to their advantage. These are the non-conformists, those who have ascended the need to impress anyone but themselves. No domain of action is off limits to being the pursuit of one's true calling, and that calling may or may not happen to be accepted by the Norm.
Being a non-conformist sounds simple enough, just do whatever you want, but it is actually rare. I have definitely not mastered the art myself. I, like most people, am paralyzed. I am not free. There is a barrier between my intuitional compass and my actions. I am terrified of saying or doing something that causes my status to be diminished. Until I can be guided only by my own intuition, with no consideration of external influences, I will be a conformist, at the whim of the omnipresent yet arbitrary Norm.
Of course, this is not a binary thing and we all fall on a certain place in the spectrum of caring what others think. To truly not care, to be a true non-conformist in every way, you have to be a psychopath. Maybe that's what this essay is really about, my desire to be just a little more psychopathic.