Coloring Outside the Lines

Our lives are a work of art.

Each day, a new stroke of color added upon the canvas of our lives; the bright colors representing good times and the muted colors, times of struggle.  As our lives play out, the picture changes; a seamless metamorphosis into the person we are today.  Our lives are a canvas, yet we treat them more like a coloring book, always careful not to slip across predetermined societal boundaries.  We follow the rules and try to live up to other people’s expectations, sacrificing our identity and ignoring our authentic selves.

But our life hasn’t always been this way.

As a child, we ignored the lines in our coloring books; they presented no resistance to our crayons.  We scribbled and laughed, free to create without limitation.  As we got a little older, our parents taught us the “proper” coloring technique.  They praised us for staying inside the lines and our desire for affirmation killed our passion.  From then on  we restrained our enthusiasm and creativity, coloring diligently within the lines so that we might please our parents.

This was our first lesson in conformity: stay in the lines, follow the rules.

Things haven’t changed much since that first lesson.  Today we’re expected to assimilate at work and in our community.  There isn’t room for creativity and individuality.  We’re expected to follow the rules; go to college so that we might have a great career, settle down with a nice girl, get married and have 2.2 children.

It’s all anyone expects of you…but what if this isn’t the life you want for yourself?

It’s your life…paint your canvas however you wish.  If that means stepping outside of the box to find happiness, it’s time to do it.  Forget about the social expectations.  You weren’t born into this world for the pleasure and satisfaction of other people.  You don’t have to follow society’s rules and there’s no reason to buckle under the pressure to conform.  Be yourself, do what you love, be who you want to be and find happiness in your own way.  Erase the social restrictions that have been imposed upon you.

You don’t have to stay inside the lines.  Live life on your own terms and by your own guiding principles.  Life is too short to live according to someone else’s wishes.

“If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

3 thoughts on “Coloring Outside the Lines

  1. This is only somewhat close to what you are saying, but I’ve always personally been amazed by how many children are interested in art (coloring, painting, etc) when they are young. If you ask a 5 year old if they are an artist, they will say yes. This lasts until about 4th grade, at which time the self-consciousness that rules us all kicks in. They begin to doubt their abilities and if they don’t feel they are good enough, abandon it completely. Ditto with singing and most other artistic things; they have no concerns about what others think but do it because they enjoy it, with no inhibitions.

    I hate that we lose that.

  2. I wonder if it is self-consciousness or a desire for conformity? I don’t think people just one day wake up and decide to be insecure about themselves or their abilities. It comes from somewhere else, be it directly through a lack of support or through observation of others (in adults, this would translate into “keeping up with the Joneses).

    I’ve seen it in my own life, growing up I never quite fit in with the rest of the kids and I felt the pressure from my peers, adults and teachers to conform. I never did, though. And now that I’ve passed that point in life, I know I made the right choice to maintain my individuality. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. I’m 28 and don’t have a career or a wife or a mortgage or plans for children…and for some people, that doesn’t sit quite right with them. They don’t understand. But I’m happy with my life and it doesn’t matter to me if they understand. Then again, they probably aren’t interested in understanding as much as they are interested in just trying to get me (us) to fall in line.

    I don’t remember what it’s like to be a child (and I never had a conventional childhood anyways) so it’s hard for me to comment directly on the example you make but it wouldn’t surprise me if it isn’t some desire for the child to not stand out amongst their peers. I think there is a lot of pressure to become just another face in the crowd so to make friends and not be ostracized by their peers.

    Then again, I may be entirely wrong.

  3. Steven,
    I have always been a little different from others. I would rather be with animals. I’m ok doing my own thing, what makes me happy. Many people that I have come across in my life, do not see things as I do. I am ok with that, the problem is that usually it is not ok with them. Some one recently said that I am like jello, I have my own mold!! What a compliment!! Being outside the lines is a good thing, it is how I view life that I can live to my potential, what I am capable of doing, what makes me happy. It has taught me to be more excepting of others. I am proud of my life, I am proud of what I have done, even my mistakes. (I’ve made enough of those, but they have made me truly stronger) Thanks for the blog!! love reading your blog, always !

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