Living it and Reaping from It
Two months ago, I met a young man. He is a freelance guru in web development, which makes the creation of websites his forte. I was looking for a good developer to work with and a friend referred him. Simply put, he was the best in the trade.
So, as we got talking after he showed me samples of his work, I casually commented how talented he was. Immediately, I felt that I had touched the wrong wire — judging from his reaction. He smiled and dismissed my sentiment. In his words, he was not “as talented as his siblings were.” Being an inquisitive person, I could not pass the chance of asking him what he meant.
“Well, my brother is a highly renowned surgeon in the US and my sister is a professor of literature in the United Kingdom.”
“My performance is below par, and that makes me the black sheep of the family,” he adds with a shrug.
“Did I tell you that my dad is a senior university professor and my mum is a revered pharmacist?”
Now, this tech guru is standing in front of me sulking how being an expert in website development is a mere fete. He thinks that success is defined by mainstream occupations such as doctors, academics, and accountants.
This is an incredibly skewed way of thinking, and sadly, most people fall into the black-sheep cage. A black sheep is a commonly used phrase that refers to a disgraceful person in a family or a group. It is so popular that almost every household or setting has one.
People are profiled depending on how they conform or defy the group rules and regulations. The phenomenon in society has led to the creation of the black sheep effect in which people that conform to a specific group are praised while those that are defiant to a full or some extent receive endless bashing.
The authors of The black sheep effect: The case of the deviant ingroup robot, give a good example of the black sheep effect. They note that if you belong to a group but prefer drinking alone compared to social drinking with the others members, one automatically becomes the black sheep in that setting. Similarly, in the army, traits like loyalty and how hard one exercises are highly praised, while factors such as cleanliness and timeliness make one look like an outcast.
The article further notes that in all group and family settings, the dominant majority will always find a black sheep who takes the fall for all the bad things that happen around.
Therefore, it is important to brace ourselves on how to live as a black sheep because sooner or later, we might be the ones on the hot seat.
How to be a Black Sheep and Never give a Hoot
The essence of joining a group is to reap the benefits that come with the subscription. However, it is usually composed of many individuals with diverse opinions that may make you do things that are highly appalling to you as an individual. So, what do you do? Do everything the group suggests to the letter or absorb the 90% benefits and do the remaining 10% your way?
I prefer the latter. Before you become a group member, you are an individual that has definite needs and sometimes weird behaviors that are non-conformant to the group’s expectations. Therefore, as you try hard to seek a sense of belonging, defy anything that threatens your personality because the shelf-life of the group is not infinite but losing your authenticity is out of the question. After all, employment ends, groups disintegrate, committees are disbanded and so forth. At the end of it all, the only thing that remains is your trinity commonly dubbed “Me, myself, and I.”
You are NOT People’s Opinions
In the case of the tech guru mentioned above, the people around him (the family) have managed to convince him that to be an honorable family member, he should leave the creative industry — that has made him the best in what he does — and join what they think is good for him. Crazy, right?
However, no matter how hard he tries, he will never be a good doctor, philosopher, or a sought-after Emeritus. Instead, he will always find the ability to transform some codes into a beautiful looking website a fulfilling undertaking. He is doing himself a great disservice by letting others define him and clog his head with self-doubt.
Factually, every business in the globe at some point requires the use of a functional website, which means that the geek is playing a greater role in the world than he even imagines. Interestingly, if he capitalizes on the on-going pandemic, he can make a load-full of cash tweaking websites to the currently increased online activity. All this time while the professor is at home snacking and the doctor is out there working, albeit under substantial risk to his life (no pun intended).
If it’s not You, They will Pick a Replacement
In any social setting, they will always be a black sheep. This means that if you cease being one — and compromise your values and beliefs in the process — they will shortlist your replacement within a snap of a finger. Why should you cede your originality when all the compliant group members are looking for is an object to push around and feel good about themselves?
In truth, when people label you a black sheep, they are bullying you, either mildly or hard. In some instances, they will make sure that you do what they want regardless of what you feel about it. When they use force against you, be ready to explode in their faces, because what else do you do to bullies other than standing up to them? The perfect response is to summon enough energy to fight them off. If you back down, they will choose another person to fix in your position. They might probably pick a weaker person but before they do so, raise the flag of the black sheep high, and wear a big grin while at it.
What if You a ‘Black Sheep’ In Deed?
In some settings, members are branded black sheep because they do unimaginable stuff that hinders the growth or the functionality of the affiliations. Take the example of a person that comes to all meetings drunk and keeps on diverting the discussions, probably because they are pissed at somebody, or want to remain the center-of-attraction.
If you are such a person, you have a lot to improve to fit the context of the people I am discussing in this article because if you are as bad as they claim or portray, you are the problem and not the other members of the group.
You can be better by going at it this way; in your scenario, the comments and sentiments by the other members might be helpful and may get you out of the predicament you are wailing in. Alcoholism, drug abuse, depression and other forms of mental illnesses that promote dysfunctionality may alter one’s response or compliance to a defined set of rules or expectations. Moreover, most people may not understand the pain of dealing with such issues and may end up judging a person’s suffering wrongly.
However, amidst the dissenting voices, there may be one or two that show concern, which we can use as a ladder to hoist us from our abyss. In the voices, we can learn something that can help us get out of the undesired situation such as depression or drug use. I am yet to see a person that is comfortable with overthinking or pessimism because we are always trying to move away from these addictive vices. Therefore, if help comes in the form of criticism, we should gladly take it. While we may not lose the black sheep title, we will better our situations and improve the quality of lives we lead.
___________________________________________________________________ As we stay at home and fight the Coronavirus pandemic, we need to realize that being a black sheep is not as wrong as it sounds. It only becomes bad if the things the group accuses us of are indeed working against us.
Let us use this burst of free time to internalize what we want and find the ropes to lift us from the pitfalls that have held us captive in our quest to become better humans and achieve greater heights. In short, let us make this time our hibernation and shed the old skins that halt our progress.
Above all, let us trust that the Good Lord will bring the calamity to an end and that we shall resume our daily undertakings in one piece.