Don’t honk your horn – I’m just changing lanes.

I posted on LinkedIn about choosing to run in our own lane. Some people responded that they did this well. Others, like myself, felt it was less easy. And I started to wonder why some of us found comparison with others to be normal and the shift to focusing on running in our lane more difficult.I wondered how much the desire to conform added to this issue. And whether changing lanes could be an option.

The expected lane

As a child, it was instilled in me that I conform to certain tenets of behaviour. It was important to fit it, to be like everyone else. Conformity was prized. Following accepted norms was the “right thing to do”. And doing something outside the norm was frowned on. After all, “what would the neighbours think?” In childhood and youth my focus was on being the quintessential “good girl” (or qgg as one friend quipped). I took that focus into adulthood, but transferred it to being the good wife, one consequence of which was that I stayed in a dysfunctional and emotionally-abusive marriage for far too long. It was only after I left the marriage that my journey to “my own lane” began.

When conformity is prized then comparison and competition are natural consequences. If a prescribed outcome is the goal, then doing it better, achieving it faster and maintaining it longer than others is a measure of success. Competition with others is built into this way of doing life.

And if you fall behind that standard, by comparison with others, then there must be something intrinsically wrong with you. You’ve failed to “keep up with the Joneses”! Because you must always stay ahead, knowing what “ahead” looks like can only be determined by comparing yourself favourably, or unfavourably, with others.

Comparison and competition. Twin sisters in the conformity game. But changing lanes is an option.

The chosen lane

Learning to identify my “lane” has been a journey, and it began with my divorce. In that one huge step I deliberately moved outside the norms I’d been raised with. I was changing lanes into unfamiliar territory.  I had to unlearn many of the tenets and principles of my past as a new way of doing life emerged.

And making this shift doesn’t mean that I haven’t known myself – it’s more that I haven’t seen what I intrinsically bring as being of value. I haven’t valued the lane I was gifted with at birth. But I’m learning to. It takes practise and readjustment. I’m learning to resist the default pathways or what is perceived as the “right” way of doing things.

I’m learning to trust my intuitive genius and to act on it. And I’m noticing that when I give into the old norms (such as implicitly trusting the judgement of those in leadership even when I know in my soul that to do so is not right for me) I often emerge the loser. I am much more successful when I follow my path, my way of doing things because doing so is authentic and works with who I intrinsically am.

What’s your lane?

If you’re someone who struggles with conformity, comparison or competition, I’d love to know if these are concepts you learnt in childhood. And if you don’t struggle in this, what the messages you were given as a child that enabled you love more freely in your own lane. I look forward to some great comments and conversations as we connect the dots about our lives.

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