By Letlotlo Thekiso
Society is the greatest equivocator. It encourages individuality, it praises uniqueness, but the
terms and conditions of the contract of uniqueness are never clearly communicated. The extent to
which one can be unique is limited according to what is accepted by society. Harsh
consequences are faced for not complying to the conditions set: harsh judgement, criticism and
marginalisation. We live in a world that only accepts differences that fit into a set criteria. A world
that fools us into believing that differences are embraced and accepted only for our differences to
be looked down upon.
In the quest of finding ourselves we search not only for our true selves but rather the part of
ourselves that we could freely express. Upon crossing the road of self-discovery we constantly
look left and right in search for external validation and acceptance. It is human nature to seek for
the feeling of belonging, we all crave for acceptance. More so we have become so obsessed with
the idea of fitting into societal norms and being accepted that we have let all the beauty that lies
within us die within. In fear of rejection we blindly adhere to all that is deemed as normal. We dare
not go against what has been scripted for us; we dare not displease our demanding audience.
The cinematic main character: built to stand out, to be different, to contradict societal values. The
nerds, artists, high school dropouts, the ones worth being written about. In reality these groups of
people are outcasts, the black sheep, a pure example of what not to be. In reality nerds do not
always find their popular boyfriend, high school dropouts do not always become multimillionaires
and upcoming artists do not always live an aesthetic life filled with croissants and travelling.
Instead, they are often excluded from the mainstream of humankind. All outcasts are placed on
one side, far from the rest, as black sheep all lack one thing that one needs in order to fit in: a
craving for mass appeal.
The presence of a craving is a result of an awareness of a possible reward. Drug addicts only
become addicted after experiencing and forming an attachment to the sensational, soulsoothing, euphoric feeling experienced once the drug is consumed. It is not the drug itself that
they are addicted to, but rather the reward of feeling that unexplainable feeling. Similarly so, an
addiction to mass appeal is created by the anticipated reward of being accepted or recognised. In
hopes of fulfilling the internalised desire for external validation we often blindly follow what
society has normalised.
Living life according to the guidelines of society may earn one a couple of friend groups and the
respect of one’s aunts and uncles. However, living life in such a manner instils a mindset of
comfort over growth in a person. It makes one comfortable with the idea of following the
expectations of society rather than challenging them and discovering different dimensions of
themselves. The only way one can have a healthy sense of self is by being comfortable with being
uncomfortable. Our full potential lies behind all the boundaries we are too afraid to cross.
Personal growth may only be achieved by refusing to dance to the music of society, by taking the
sometimes very difficult decision of prioritising internal euphoria and personal growth.
The process of transforming from an ovary into an embryo before becoming a fully-developed
human is a process that every single human being has gone through. The moulding of a soul on
the other hand is a process that cannot be explained nor proved by science. It is a far too
complex procedure; the formation of one’s soul is far too unique to compare to the formation of
another. Human beings may follow the same trends, develop in a similar manner and breathe the
same air, but our thoughts and emotions will forever be individual whether we choose to express
them or not.
Many choose to silence themselves in the midst of the chaos in the world in fear of causing
conflict. The idea of potentially offending someone simply terrifies the human mind as it is
associated with being disliked and rejected. Our emotions and thoughts are suppressed by the
fear we have of offending another human. Failing to understand that conflict is inevitable leads to
one fooling themselves into thinking that the suppression of true thoughts will protect the hearts
of others, we fool ourselves into thinking that external peace is worth neglecting all that arises in
our minds. We hold in all the colour we could bring into the world in hopes of fitting into the black
and white crowd.
To stand out in the monotonous crowd one has to possess some exceptional quality, some
extremely rare quality. Fitting into a crowd gets one to be accepted, but being better than the
crowd earns one a much more rewarding feeling, the feeling of being admired and adored.
Society preaches of individuality and the reward for embracing individuality would be being
different and standing out from the rest, being the best.This feeling slowly consumes one’s mind,
slowly makes them feel superior. The idea of being different from the masses pleases the human
mind, the idea of possessing scarce qualities instils a mindset of being superior than others.The
better than average effect describes how we have all become accustomed to viewing ourselves
as better than average. We have all been made to believe that being unique makes one stand out,
more so we have been taught to aim to be unique rather than to just simply embrace our natural
Only after a success story has been presented on a stand is uniqueness celebrated.Only after
being unique has earned one a billion or two is the worth of being an innovative thinker
recognised.Only after a clay pot has been sold is the effort of a porter recognised and respected.
Uniqueness has been given a monetary value, the more money an innovative or somewhat unique
idea brings, the more worthy of being pursued it is deemed to be. The beauty of the Mona Lisa
lies more in its monetary value than in it’s artistic elements.
The purpose of art is said not be beautiful, but rather to be questioned, art is supposed to have a
unique questionable element, however this said purpose of art has not been used to embrace and
accept uniqueness in a healthy manner, but it has been used against artists to determine their
worth, to determine whether an artist is unique enough.
The artists of the world:musicians, poets, sculptors, all of them have been put in a competition
they have never signed-up for. Being an artist does not only require talent and a certain degree of
understanding in the desired craft, but it also requires an acceptance of criticism and an
acceptance of never-ending competition. Each art piece of an artist is compared to the art piece
of another, to measure how good they are, to put a measure on whether a particular artist
embracing their individuality has payed off.
The interpretation of an art piece: poetry, sculptures, paintings or a song is most accurate when
done by the creator of it. The reason behind why certain artistic elements were used is best
explained by the artist responsible for the creation of a specific art piece. Similarly in life
individuals are the only ones with the true explanation of the way they act and express
themselves. The rest of the world’s interpretation of who a person is and why they are that way is
a mere assumption, it will never be as accurate as the explanation coming from the person
themself. Humans tend to allow people to define who they are, we tend to value external
explanations over our own definition of ourselves, leading us to a rather torturing life of either
trying to fit into or attempt to oppose what we have been defined as. We let the world define what
we see as art as a disaster.
People who show little to no care of what society perceives them as are often marginalised simply
because their presence intimidates society.One’s ability
to obliviously draw attention without attempting to do so makes them possess power that is
feared by the rest. One’s ability to simply exist in their most natural form with no fear makes one a
danger to society, their ability to simply not value mass appeal makes them a grave threat to the
self-esteems of those who thrive to fit in. In order for one to survive while still maintaining a sense
of self in our society one has to choose to see beauty in themself even if society has chosen to
define them as a disaster. One should find beauty in observing society from a third-person’s
perspective.By choosing not to conform to societal demands and expectations, one is given the
opportunity to see life from a more insightful perspective.
The over-analysis of differences has put a huge strain to society. We often spend too much time
seeking for differences and either trying to hide them or trying to emphasise them. Our actions
and thoughts are guided by how we want society to perceive us, our actions depend on whether
we want to fit in or not, we allow our assumptions of how society will react to our true selves to
determine whether we embrace, emphasise or hide our uniqueness. Peace is not achieved by
seeking for uniqueness nor is it achieved by hiding one’s true self, but it is achieved by embracing
all that makes one who they are, despite the norms set by society