Go Against the Grain. Live From Your Integrity!

October 24, 2016

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American essayist, lecturer, and poet spent much of his life championing the concept of individualism. One of my favorite quotes comes from him. He once said “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” I have found this to be oh so true. I think this quote defines what it means to live from one’s integrity.

We live in a world where conforming, kowtowing, and being compliant are rewarded and perhaps even expected. In schools, we want all the kids to sit calmly in their seats and pay attention. In places of employment, we want people to do their jobs and not question the methodology or the higher-ups. We are all part of this engine. We are all guilty of expecting people to conform to the set expectations of an environment, whether that be the environment of our family, our neighborhood, our places of worship, or are larger communities. We subscribe to the unwritten rules that exist. Yet, what happens when we don’t feel comfortable following the unwritten rules of a group? What happens when our own desires, dreams, and passions steer us in a direction that we may view as counter to the social norm?

It’s hard for people to go against the grain. People fear being scoffed. People want to fit in. Hence, people go with the flow and don’t make waves for a great portion of their lives. But when we make daily choices to go along with what is expected or what others want, we stop listening to our essential selves and our own integrity. We stop being who we are meant to be. I believe that much of people’s anxiety and frustration stems from this very notion. Examples of going against the grain can take many forms. Here are a few examples of acting from one’s integrity and speaking from your truest self.

  • Coming out as GLB or T to your family
  • Pursuing an education as a girl in certain countries around the world
  • Choosing not to have children
  • Choosing not to go home for a family holiday
  • Choosing to not participate in a part of family culture that is not part of your integrity (e.g., going to or not going to religious services, drinking, eating excessively, or speaking your truth to your family)
  • Choosing to stay home and take care of yourself as opposed to going out with your friends

Whenever someone acts from their integrity, whether the deed is perceived to be enormous or small, it is also an act of courage. It’s not easy to buck the system. I recently bucked the system in my family of origin and while it may seem minor to you, I can assure you that it took tremendous amounts of courage.

My family of origin was and still can be quite sarcastic. Both of my parents could be sarcastic, and naturally my brother and I both picked up this skill. It wasn’t until my late twenties or even thirties that I realized that sarcasm is not acting in a kind or loving way. Certainly, I realized this by being on the receiving end of sarcasm. Additionally, I had people along the way whom I hurt with my biting tongue. Sarcasm, in a nutshell, doesn’t feel good. Plus, I grew to believe that speaking in this way was not part of my true self. It is not who I essentially am. Therefore, I have tried to distance myself from sarcasm.

This past weekend I had a conversation with my mom that left me feeling a tad hurt and bothered. The element that hurt me was a sarcastic comment she said at the beginning of the conversation. Unfortunately, this comment led into a downhill spiral fast; I got defensive, and we bickered for about five minutes. The next day, I decided to call my mom and express to her that I was hurt by her comment, which unfortunately, I was unable to articulate in the original discussion. My mom and I had a great conversation about this. I expressed that sarcasm was part of the culture of our family, but that it always felt unpleasant and cruel to me. She agreed.

I am guessing that my mom has been on the receiving end more than a few times of this unintentional way of communicating. We also came to the agreement that we believed that we were better than this and certainly did not want a relationship that was based on sarcasm. We both want a relationship where there is trust and honesty, and where each of us feels comfortable bringing up feelings of hurt to the other in respectful dialogue so that issues can be resolved.

This was a moment where I bucked the system. This was a moment where I decided to act out of my integrity. Additionally, this gave my mom the invitation to act out of her integrity, which she did to listen and to meet me in a place of respectful communication. Our relationship became deeper and more meaningful simply by engaging in this authentic conversation. Thanks, Mom!

Where in your life do you want to be more courageous?

Share your stories with me. I would love to hear, and also I would be thrilled to support you on your journey to live with more integrity.

Sharing Corner

Imagine you lived each day anchored in your own integrity.
How would it feel to be grounded in your truth, in every area of your life?
Alignment in, joy out.
One person, one truth, in all situations.

Are you ready to find out?

I would like to introduce you to Martha Beck’s new, transformative, step-by-step DIY Integrity Cleanse Kit.

Discover the ultimate path to peace. Developed from her wildly popular telecourse, this kit will help you integrate the powerful yet practical tools and habits required to recalibrate your life to live in happiness, conviction, and peace, with more freedom and joy, regardless of your circumstances.

No more saying “yes” when you mean “no.”
No more stifling your truth to avoid rocking the boat (even a little).
No more striving to please no matter what it costs your soul.
How would it transform your work, your relationships, or even the rest of your life, if you could live your truth from a place of peace?

Begin the journey that will transform your life, your relationships, your world.

Disclosure: I use Martha Beck, Inc., affiliate links, generating a small commission that I use to do even more good work.


Last night, Kim and I watched a documentary on CNN called We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls around the World.

In March 2015, the president and first lady launched Let Girls Learn, which brings together the Department of State, the US Agency for International Development, the Peace Corps, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, as well as other agencies and programs like the US President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief, to address the range of challenges preventing adolescent girls from attaining a quality education that empowers them to reach their full potential. Per their website, Let Girls Learn “combines the necessary political will, diplomacy, grassroots organizing, and development expertise to create lasting change.” The documentary showed Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep, Frida Pinto, and journalist Isha Sesay on a trip to Liberia and Morocco, where they meet girls who have overcome incredible obstacles just for the chance to educate themselves.

The documentary was inspirational in and of itself. I encourage you to view this documentary, and I also encourage you to check out the Let Girls Learn website and take the pledge to get involved to support girls from around the globe to get the education that they want and deserve. The world will be a better place when all its citizens are given an equal opportunity to become educated.

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