IDENTITY // Why do we shun ourselves for being different?

IDENTITY // Why do we shun ourselves for being different?

[Written By: Leora Mansoor]
[Illustration: Julia Rosner]

A ‘Where’s Waldo’ of Good Conversation 

I remember once telling a guy I really liked that I didn’t listen to music. It may have even been worse than that though, because I’m pretty sure I actually told him I didn’t like music at all. Obviously it had been a lie, one of the kinds that fall out of your mouth when you’re flustered in someone’s presence. There was also this somewhat innate fear of admitting that I really didn’t know what I liked, or couldn’t remember. It was also pretty hard to admit at the time that I had three double sided Billy Joel CDs on my iPod accompanied by, what I only realised upon returning home this Christmas, an ‘ABBA Gold’ tribute CD. I was sixteen; of course I didn’t want to say the wrong things. I was young and still afraid that my identity could be the wrong one.       

Looking back on it now, I wonder: has much really changed? I still hide my laptop at parties – not out of fear of being robbed, but out of the fear that someone may delve into my iTunes and discover some terrifying revelation about my personality that even I am not aware of yet. I still remember the day someone told me people could follow you on Spotify. It was horrible.

But it’s not just music. It’s me, and this absolute aversion to being different to anyone else or having differing views. I spent four years wanting to write yet hiding my writing from the world, terrified that people would talk about how bad I was. I then spent three and a half years lying to strangers about my maternal lineage and playing it down to acquaintances out of a spine-tingling fear of unwelcome, politically loaded questions, to which I feared answering with one wrong syllable, could cast me into the social fringes of society forever.

To an extent it’s normal, I suppose, this fear of social isolation and not being accepted for who you are or what you do. It is an affliction that never leaves us. We like the same petitions on Facebook and read the same articles. We use the same hashtags on Instagram, follow the same fashion trends and use each other’s hyperboles to support the same causes… we answer “I don’t know” to the things we do know, completely denying ourselves the pleasure of variety in conversation. But why is it like this? We seem to be so afraid of being different, but isn’t that kind of the point?

This was my lot way before the take-off of social media apps and before my eleven-year-old sister inevitably started getting more likes than me on Instagram. The internet did not liberate us when it came, and it did not give us a platform to speak our minds – just to reiterate everyone else’s. The thing is, though, that after all those nights of tossing and turning as I went over all the faux pas and tribute CDs, denying my ideas in order to become what I believed was the most networkable me I could be, I have forgotten who I am. And for what? And now I find myself at a loss, as it slowly dawns on me that in my endeavours I may have saved myself from beating against the current for a little while, only to have gotten lost in the vast blue.

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