What It Means To Be A Nonconformist

not jack london

“Most people would rather be wrong than be different.”

                                                                              – Henry Jacobsen


It has been said that to be human is to be at war with oneself. I agree, but it’s rather more than that — to be human is to be at war with oneself on many fronts, with no prospect of total victory, and an ever-looming prospect of defeat. Be that as it may, I am of the mind that one such front is more important than the others to be largely winning on, and it is this: the pursuit of one’s passions vs. the fulfillment of the others’ expectations. The status of this contest, in particular, is massively predictive of our well-being in life, moment-to-moment. Those of us who’ve opted for the path of least resistance — i.e., doing what we know others expect — will be overrepresented in the “Had A Mid-Life Crisis” population, I’d wager. But why is this?

Doesn’t it make sense to do what Normal People™ spend their lives doing? Isn’t that the goal, the dream — “success”? What are “normal people” doing at this moment, anyways? Well, let’s take stock.

For the most part, in the Western countries, “normal people” my age got to have their fun in grade school. Nowadays, they’re working jobs, paying bills/off their debts, and re-watching TV shows in the evenings. They’re rooting for their local pro-sports teams, planning their weekends, and either settling to marry that one cute & quirky former friendzoned colleague, who already lives and breaths by their same schedule — ugh, it’s so romantic, I am swooning — or they’re hoping for a miracle on Tinder.

They’re awaiting their vacations, stashing money for retirement, and are, in general, now dreaming exclusively by night. Fading are the traces of some naive childhood dream of really being somebody when they grew up; broadway actors, country singers, writers … all unborn behind their eyes.

But they’ve outgrown such dreams, you see. They’re living in the “real world” at long last, and normalcy pervades it. It’s accessible. It’s tangible. It makes the others happy. And so it goes, they make the Devil’s bargain: simply curb-stomp all your dreams behind a dumpster, and a routine, average, standard, stable life is yours to keep. And it’s not bad, you know? It’s like, decidedly “alright.” What more did you expect from purgatory? Get to work!

Even they themselves might claim their lives are “boring”, and they’ll give a knowing laugh — but boring is familiar, and common. Indeed, the very rationale for things like “boring” and “familiar” offers them a comforting notion: surely, all these other normal people can’t be wrong. 


To be a nonconformist is to look upon such notions with disdain. To scream, through false consensus, “Yes, they CAN be wrong, and you ARE wrong.” 

To be a nonconformist is to reclaim words like “crazy”, “childish”, “weird”, and “idealistic”; to rinse away the venom with which words like these are spat, and to protect them.

To be a nonconformist is to choose the more resistant path, because it is that path alone which leads to meaning.

To be a nonconformist is to pursue voraciously that fleeting chance to manifest one’s calling on an unknown, distant day, at the expense of social capital today.

To be a nonconformist is to prioritize the opportunity of sincere self-acceptance over the guarantee of instant — but cosmetic — group approval.

To be a nonconformist is to live authentically; to speak one’s truth fully; to stand up and be counted when adhering to minority positions; to keep safe the precious lights of dignity, and empathy, and goodness in this life, and to mock, harass, and undermine the advocates of evil.

To be a nonconformist is to embrace self-transcendence, self-respect, and self-determination… it is the act of giving shape to one’s own thoughts and ways of thinking, rather than adopting the opinions of another unexamined.

To embrace nonconformity is freedom.



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