Humans are very good at creating rules to make sense of the world. Without rules, it would be hard to understand the world and ourselves. When we’re kids, we form rules to separate things such as colors, sounds, and even that bully on the playground from the kid you want to invite over on a playdate. However, the development of those rules can have a detrimental effect on a person’s ability to express themselves and understand who they really are. Our differences often break the rules we’ve accepted within the culture we’ve been raised in. Bad and good become clearly defined by rules. Sometimes rules that define bad are wrong. The trick is to identify those rules and break them.
In our adolescence, we try to push away from these rules. This doesn’t usually go well. We quickly learn to follow the rules of what’s considered normal, or we’re punished, labeled as weird, or worse. The identity we form is solidified as we develop into “fully formed adults.” Creativity and imagination are taken from us as we instead create what we’re taught is a stable personality. I think most adults fear using their imagination because they’re afraid of where it may take them. But if you reflect on that fear, think about this: imagination is just dreaming, and no one ever dies in their dreams. There isn’t really anything to be afraid of when you imagine.
What if you chose to go back and examine with curiosity who you were naturally growing up? I’ll bet you’ll find a bunch of pieces of yourself you left along the way. When you look at the lives of Harriet Tubman, Jane Austen, Rosa Parks, and Susan B. Anthony, you’ll notice at some point they stopped following the rules, and they changed the course of history. Some of the most famous and influential rule breakers are women and minorities. They have a tremendous number of rules put on them from the day they are born.
To properly break the rules, you need to be authentic, which works out nicely because you can’t be authentic if you follow other people’s rules. You can’t be authentic if you’re trying to be like everyone else. However, authenticity doesn’t get you all the way to understanding how you are different. It just gives you the freedom to find it.