I grew up with traditional values, I preferred conventional dating, I participated in a tradition-heavy sport, and I tried to act in “socially-acceptable” ways. In short, I wanted to conform, I valued tradition, and I believed in social norms. However, I always had an “itch” for breaking rules and for doing things “my way”. When I quit my sport in August 2016, I decided to break with these patterns, test these norms, and find out for myself what was useful.
Three Years Later
I have realized that I enjoy breaking reactions patterns. For example, I want someone to genuinely respond to what I am saying, and by relying on shock, humor, or split-decisions, I can elicit some wonderful responses. I marvel at the ability to change my mind, my opinions, and my plans, in turn changing myself and my world, all at the flip of a switch. Changing at the drop of hat and doing the unexpected are thrilling acts, but they can have dangerous consequences as well.
Self Trust + Anxiety
I have come to the point that I cannot help but do the unexpected, say the outrageous thing, or change my mind in a split-second. By seeking to break norms, I trained myself to break more and more patterns; and I have reached a point where I no longer feel novel, I simply feel anxious. This past year, there were moments where I did not know, for myself, how I would respond to a situation. I could not predict my behavior and I found myself distrusting ME.
By breaking norms, I was breaking patterns and expectations, which instills a kind of chaos both in the world and within me. Pattern breaking contrasts the status quo and rattles people. This in turn can cause you to think about a situation, concept, or problem in a different way. However, when you constantly break patterns, you lose a comparison point; you cannot find the normal, the balance point, on a sliding scale of possible reactions. Comparison becomes obsolete, and you simply become unhinged. This “unhinged” feeling is what destroys your self-trust. Living in this chaos has made me realize that there must be an equilibrium between pattern following and pattern breaking. I want to live with a healthy balance between comfort and challenge, but I must start from a point of comfort and return to it episodically.
A Balance Point
So, where is the line? This is something I do not have an answer for; I think it may be something we each need to find for ourselves. How much do we conform and how much do we write our own rules? I know, for myself, writing too many of my own rules makes me feel like I am swimming an upstream battle. It makes life unnecessarily difficult and can be self-sabotaging. However, if I conform to a situation, a belief, or a role that I do not value, I feel suffocated, squelched, and submissive. All I know, at this point, is that I can cultivate my intuition by choosing to do what “feels best” in situations, and not simply what feels shocking, exciting, or novel. By trusting my gut and following my advice and desires, I can rebuild my self-trust and find my balance point.