Saturday, April 7, 2012

Don't accept yourself

What is the first refuge of a misfit? A gang of more misfits.

There were 60 of us in our Engineering class. With such a large number, diversity is a sure boon. So you had your share of nerds, hippies, leaders, poets, zombies, fashion divas and the notorious back benchers. While each of our natural strengths served a strong magnet to pull us together with similar others, the group that ensued made sure we never moved away from our strengths. We played our roles to perfection because it defined us and gave us an identity, a USP in a crowd of sixty. We loved our identities and they could never be too bad.

So, when the teacher blundered, the back bencher hooted. He hooted because that was what one with identity would do in that situation. He would bunk. He would walk out of that class. He was not a bad person. He was only preserving his identity - because it is so important to preserve the self. He thought his actions were okay because they were endorsed by similar others. He didn't mind the negative consequences because there were others too and surely the support system would assist him in times of need.

Contrast that with my PG class. There are 17 of us. The class is almost homogeneous in nature - almost all of them are serious, driven, well-read and conscientious. So the two or three who came in at the beginning with 'back bencher' traits eventually changed and gradually blended in; because there was going to be no group to shield them. At the beginning, they might have criticized our ways of working and secretly detested them but in the long run, they had to catch up. They had to survive. After all, there was no support system for them, a community to shield them.

When we know that there are a lot of other people who approve of what we do, our justification of the action increases manifold. When we know that there are a lot of people in our immediate surroundings who also do what we do, our chances of continuation increase manifold.

For a long time I thought there were so many serious issues in me that I had to fix – to change; issues that common sense dictated would not allow me to carry on a productive life, such as extreme disability to keep sense of and manage time, disinterest in networking and forming contacts, tendency to seclude myself and so on.

And then psychology happened. I learnt that there were a lot of others like me and that there were different types of people in the world and mine was not a diseases; just a typology.

I found out that there were introverts and then there were extroverts. I found out that some people tend to keep their options open and others need closure. I understood that getting too absorbed at something to the exclusion of other brain controls can make one lose sense of time and that this was just one way of functioning. In short, what were previously things to fix now became my identity, my individuality.

Acceptance is great; Acceptance is okay but is acceptance the way forward? Is acceptance what was needed?

Suddenly, I accepted myself really well – by seeking refuge in my community. I looked up for more information on my typology, I took tests and re-tests on the same to ensure I was indeed that, I searched for communities that existed for my kind and soon started believing in the glory of it all.

Soon, lack of time management was not a personal defect to be fixed; it was simply a way of being of a minority of people whose ways were misfit for the society’s norms but who were gifted in their own unique ways nevertheless. Even today, I believe in this principle. Anyone who feels his functioning to be maladaptive in relation to carrying on life (functioning that does not harm others) is simply different, not diseased.

So, in one way, I had taken a great leap of faith, a huge step forward to betterment, self-confidence and esteem boost. Yet, one another hand – end of the day, misfit is a misfit. I could form my customized groups, take solace in their existence, have all of us tattoo yellow eyed dragons to show solidarity and even host kitty parties and meet every year to shake our hips and do tribal dances around the fire in toast of our identity of being time sense retards – yet end of the day I have to come back to and live in the world I am a misfit in.

In the end, I feel acceptance is great but change is unavoidable. I could think I am great but I have to change in order to be functional. Acceptance is more suicidal in the long run if not merged with adaptation and this is exactly the lesson that Darwin wanted us to learn. 


The Visitor said...

Sindu - are you just in your twenties? The insight that this post shows belies it.

Hm... Acceptance is a must, only then can one change. But one can live on with just acceptance alone - it is at least comforting, whereas adaptation means moving out of one's comfort zone.

-Uncle OT

Arumugam said...

Interesting line of reasoning

But what you call good/bad qualities are just functions of time and place and what our society happens to prize at that time,as you said too.Moreover I don't even think you can change inherent temperaments like introversion.

In a capitalist society,its helps to have entrepreneurial drive and 'time management'for squeezing out max productivity from every hour.In a bureaucratic society,it helps to get along easily and smoothly with superiors.In a mass democratic society it helps to look good on television and speak short superficial soundbites.

And there can be great benefits in grouping up and finding similar souls.Cancer survivors,AA etc.All too often,in bed late at night,we panic at sorrows which seem devilishly unique to us.No such illusions are then possible.

harishsram said...

i was wondering where was this going with this long jargon. and then the ending came. phew. i wish to read it with a clear mind someday.

Sinduja said...

@V: Acceptance and change, I feel, are not really related to each other. We can change, with or without acceptance though yes, the former makes it a smooth process. Moving out of one's comfort zone, while not an easy thing is the surest way to growth in all forms.

Sinduja said...

@Arumugam: So true! What I call functional is relative to the conditions of this day and place.

About changing inherent qualities - hmmm, we could definitely balance them. An introvert cannot change to the other extreme but he could definitely try going towards the borderline.

There are tremendous benefits in grouping up - well said. But I feel, we need to be able to draw a line between finding solace and being over-loyal to the group.

Sinduja said...

@Harish: Ohooo..everything need not have a message sir :P enjoy the journey that brings the destination.

harishsram said...

oh no .. i meant it was great. the right expression should have been 'wow' & not 'phew' ... was typing in a hurry - sorry

Sinduja said...

@Harish: Hehee... what a difference the words could make! :D It was 'wow'? Phew! Thanks! :)

CHIBI said...

it's funny how in a society, even for being unique, you need to get accepted by a group of common people with completely different idealogies.

I guess a misfit being accepted in a society is like a camouflage used by the chameleon,it does not merge with the environment to get adapted to it, it's just protects itself from danger by doing so.

sumitra said...

Awesome, you pretty much nailed the 'gang' psychology within college-mates. Very well said, agree with you!

harishsram said...

@chibi - thats a wonderful angle. Prodding further - but will the chameleon show its true character ever??

CHIBI said...

@ harishram : yes, the chameleon always shows it's true color in it's natural habitat. so a misfit also will show his/her true character admist a bunch of like minded misfits..!

Sinduja said...

@Chibi: Quite a short comment but what wealth of wisdom! Hats off! As always I don't know what to reply to your comments but only nod vigorously in agreement and amazement.

@Sumitra: Thanks Sumitra! Something we have all observed at one point or the other, isn't it? :)

Abhishek said...

Great job on the new post! =)

CHIBI said...

@sindu : i too don't know how to react to such nice compliments from you. i just have a sheepish grin on my face. :D

Shailend said...
This comment has been removed by the author.