To be great is to be misunderstood.

Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mess up your hair. If you are wearing makeup – smudge it. If you have a pair of pants that don’t really fit you – put them on. Put on a top that doesn’t go with those pants. Go to your sock drawer. Pull out two socks that don’t match. Different lengths, materials, colors, elasticity.

Now two shoes. You know the drill.

Need to add more? Ties? Hair clips? Stick your gut out? I trust you to go further.

Are you feeling dread? Excitement? Is this not the image you have of yourself? Write about the fear or the thrill that this raises in you? Who do you need to look good for and what story does it tell about you? Or why don’t you care?

(Author: Matthew Stillman)

In one month I will celebrate my 48th birthday. I spent the majority of my life worrying about what others thought about me. I grew up in a home and during a time where it was not acceptable to be “different.” I enjoyed the thought of being different and on occasion I would push the limits but in a safe way, a way that wouldn’t cause too much controversy. I wanted to conform. I needed to conform. I needed to be just like everyone else…it was safe. It was also boring. Many mornings I woke unhappy. I was unhappy with my refusal to stand out. Fear was my constant companion. Fear of change. Fear of not changing. This fear kept me living a vanilla life.

When I began running in the early eighties I ran in a pair of red and white striped running shorts. Not that running in and of itself caused me to be different. I recall thinking, “I don’t care.” In 1997 Apple computers began using a slogan which I continue to admire and have adopted as my own slogan. That slogan was the “Think Different” slogan.

As a therapist today I care not at all what others think about the way I practice my craft. I care deeply about my patients and would never do anything to harm them. I love the art of therapy and I love seeing the twinkle in the eyes of my patients when they “get it.” As a wedding and portrait photographer I did what most new professional photographers do; I watched the work of other, better know, better respected photographers. Today I care little about these things. I don’t want to be like every other photographer.

No changing, not confronting my fears, not “Thinking Differently” is certain death. Certain death is far more difficult for me to accept that it is to face my fears and change.

I choose change. I choose, with a broad smile on my face to be different and to face the fears which have kept me stranded on the island of conformity.


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