It seems people are more scared than ever to be misunderstood. At any minute you could be called a traitor or a bigot or any number of horribly damaging things. It could mean the end of your career, people say. It feels critically important to manage our reputations and chase after the opinions of others.
For our culture, this is almost a death sentence for virtues like spontaneity, originality, and authenticity. No wonder comedians, the standard bearers of these virtues, are scared to perform on college campuses, where mob rule has become the norm in recent years.
If we’re misunderstood, we get concerned that our reputation, what some call our most valuable asset, is ruined. But our reputation is something that ensues from our genuine and original actions. If you adjust your actions to try to effect what others think of you, you’re likely to become someone that’s not worthy of having an opinion about at all, good or bad.
But more importantly, what you lose in the process of chasing the opinion of others is incalculably valuable. If you are not willing to risk being misunderstood, you will never do anything really of your own or that isn’t average.
But even in more ordinary areas of life, it feels dangerous to be misunderstood. The pressure to conform is hard-wired into our psychology.
It is an extremely empowering exercise to say what you really think to others without worrying about the consequences. You can start this off with your friends where the consequences are small. Consider a conversation with them as an exercise in self-exploration and listen to your inner voice through it all. Then say exactly what you think regardless of how they will react. If these people are too similar in their thinking to you, do this with people that you aren’t so similar to. Don’t do all of this for an effect you’ll have on anyone else, do it for yourself.
Doing this can create a lot of value for yourself and others. People crave “authenticity”, especially today. If you have the courage to risk being misunderstood, you will help draw the right people and things into your life because you are sending valuable information to those around you.