{flickr photo}

I know that quote’s about how hard it is to find things. But I think it may have dual meanings.

If you’ve grown up like I have in a community/family/school where everyone is a haystack, it must have been hard to be the needle. Who wants to stick out like a sore thumb when everyone else around you are doing the same thing? It can make you feel like a deviant, unworthy, unlovable, the weird one.

But while it hurts like heck to stand out, it’ll crush your spirit even more to push your true self down.

In The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron says:

“If I allow myself to be bullied and cowed by other people’s urges for me to be more normal or more nice, I sell myself out. They may like me better, feel more comfortable with my more conventional appearance or behavior, but I will hate myself. Hating myself, I may lash out at myself and others.”

I fight with allowing my inner weirdo out. It’s so much easier to pretend like nothing bothers me, to act as if I got everything figured out. But how much more genuine and courageous it is to let all the ugly spill out. And how much more truer I will be to myself and kinder and more loving to others.

How do we fight against conformity and free our individuality?

We do it by saying, “No” when we feel like it.

By saying, “Yes!” to the things we love.

By saying, “I can’t do this. But I can do that.”

By refusing to compromise our values, our comfort, our priorities, out of fear of not being nice, of hurting someone’s feeling, or being rejected.

Every time you decide to put your own needs first, you take a giant step in the path of self-love. Once you decide to be that needle in a haystack, you will unintentionally give others the freedom to unleash their own uniqueness.

It won’t be easy to walk in that less traveled path. You will feel alone at times. You will be clouded in self-doubt. But as the years pass by and you grow more comfortable and at ease with yourself, you’ll look back with less regrets.

To do great things, you can’t just follow the crowd. True courage has always followed the path of those who rose above conformity and decided to stand out.

What road will you take?

More from Beliefnet and our partners