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Dare to be Different: Why It’s Okay to Break the Mold

Be Different

“Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” ~Aristotle

Who am I? This is a question that haunts us all at some point, especially when the people around us are trying to constantly answer this question for us.

How do we remain true to ourselves in a world that is constantly trying to make us something else?

I can tell you that it isn’t easy.

I work as a full-time police officer in a busy department. In police work, everything is supposed to fit in its right place, and there is an established value system in place. In my experience the police system is founded on one major theme, and everyone is expected to conform to this mold:

Command is valued over communication.

This is an area where I have done a great job making myself an outcast.

You see, I chose to join a career where the belief system of the work is contradictory to my own.

I genuinely care for people, and I value communication above all else in my work. I prefer to talk instead of yell, and ask instead of tell.

My way of doing the job greatly differs from almost everyone else in my profession.

I have also noticed that I tend to get a lot further when I am dealing with people, and get in a lot less confrontational situations than my co-workers. Coincidence?

The truth is that people will do everything they can to make you conform to their “rules.” Because the police world is such a strong subculture, there is a lot of pressure to conform and breaking the established “rules” is even more taboo.

It can be exhausting sometimes to remain true to yourself in an environment where everyone expects you to be something else.

We have established that it is difficult and uncomfortable to be different, so why not just conform? The mold is there for a reason, right?

I can’t answer that question for you, but I can tell you that the mold didn’t work for me.

Let me explain why.

The reason I do things the way I do is because there are people that need and depend on me to be true to myself. The last thing the world needs is one more stereotypical burnt out cop.

Don’t be so afraid to color outside of the lines that you never pick up your crayon!

You have a unique perspective to offer that no one else does, so share it!

I can’t tell you how many thank you’s and phone calls I have received for my openness and helpfulness at work. All because I choose to do things differently.

I have helped to change people’s lives simply by being true to myself. I have gotten through to people that other officers haven’t been able to by because I don’t fit the mold. I promise you, nothing feels better than following the path in your heart.

Realize I am not saying that my way is better than any other way. I am simply sharing that the different approach that I bring to work has proven to be invaluable to others.

Also it is important to realize that being true to yourself means you might bump heads with other people. That is okay!

If there isn’t any conflict in human interaction it usually means one person is compromising their beliefs in some way. A little bit of conflict is natural; accept it and learn from it.

There is a sort of catch that comes with breaking the mold though.

It definitely isn’t the easy road and you are going to face some difficulties. At least I know that I have.

What can you expect if you choose to break the mold?

Will you be mocked? You bet

Misunderstood? Count on it.

Outcasted? Most likely

And all of it will be worth it. To the people you help and to your happiness in life, there is no alternative. You have to be true to yourself, against all odds.

I have had insulting posters made about me and posted up at work and I have been openly mocked for my way of doing things by other officers. I have been told on multiple different occasions walking up to a scene with violent individuals “Why don’t you just go give them a hug”… as if I don’t understand that the world isn’t that simple.

This is the price I pay for staying true to myself, and I grin and bear it. Because every time someone tells me I was the only person on the scene who really listened to them, and that I made a difference in their life, it makes it all worth it.

My way of living has been difficult, but also equally rewarding for me. I chose not to compromise my beliefs just to fit in, and I would gladly do it again.

The choice of who you will be is ultimately up to you.

If you choose to break the mold, I offer some advice to help you find your way:

1. Intimately get to know who you are and what you represent.

Without a crystal clear view of your identity, it will be difficult to survive the pressure and ridicule. Get to know yourself more. Spend time meditating, writing out your feelings, and organizing your thoughts before you make any big decisions.

2. Try not to take things personally.

What you need to realize is that humans attack what they don’t understand. It isn’t that they dislike or disapprove of you; it is that they don’t understand what you represent.

Realize that the attacks are not personal, no matter how they sound. The people attacking you are really just protecting their own ideals, because what you represent makes them question their values.

3. Realize that you are unique and important, despite what the people around you may say.

Your opinion and approach matters just as much as everyone else’s!

Once you start walking your own path, never turn back. Walk through life with your head held high knowing that you never comprised what is in your heart.

Being true to yourself will eventually earn you respect among many of your peers. I have had this happen to me, and I have more than a few co-workers who understand my approach and respect it. Coincidentally, these co-workers are the officers I always looked up to. We handle situations differently, but we respect each other’s methods. This type of support will go a long way to keeping you on course.

Even a few of the officers who initially gave me the hardest time have started to be more respectful. It takes time, but it does get easier.

If you ever feel alone on your path, realize that you are in good company. Almost all the great people in history chose to break the mold and to walk their own path.

Starting right now, I challenge you walk your own path and don’t compromise your beliefs for anyone.

Take the first step and never turn back.

Photo here

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  • Tim

    That was really cool. You are definitely a brave individual. Thanks for sharing that with me, and I just might try some of your advice. 🙂

  • SC

    Oh wow. I just became a big fan. You’re amazing. Thank you!

  • Being yourself is one of the most difficult things to do (at least for most people), however, once you stop worrying what others may be thinking of you, and start living your true self, it also becomes one of the most rewarding things in life.

    Lots of people worry what others may think about them, truth however is, most people are too busy with themselves to think much about what may be wrong with others. And if they think about others, they are more concerned with what those others may think about them 🙂

  • MizK

    I always struggle with — should I be myself in an environment that isn’t like me? Or should I find an environment that supports me as I am? Would love to hear your thoughts on this one.

    (selfishly, I want you to always be a cop — we need more cops like you! http://www.parade.com/66565/linzlowe/meet-antoinette-tuff-the-woman-who-stopped-the-atlanta-school-shooter/)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    So inspiring, David! Thanks! It takes a lot of courage to go your own way, follow your heart, and be true to yourself no matter where you find yourself… but as a police officer, it takes a unique form of bravery. Cheers Pioneer!! 🙂

  • Talya Price

    I know I am different from everyone else and I embrace. I don’t want to be like everyone else. I choose to be me. Great article.

  • Valerie Rogers

    You are at a higher level of consciousness David. It takes courage and fortitude to be who you are, and that is the best thing an individual can be. Never sacrifice beliefs and values, as that drive to ‘fit in’ with the status quo is very strong in society. “To thine own self be true” as Shakespeare said. Listen to that inner voice and higher calling and never betray the self.

  • Char

    Thanks for sharing that personal struggle with us, David. I wish you were in my town! And I also appreciate that your picture is you eating a donut!

  • Hannah Eagle

    David, your post is wonderful. Such a great message about being true to yourself. Not being overly concerned about what others think is a lot easier when we change how we talk to ourselves and to others. Language is key. Please take a look at thishttp://reology.org/?s=be+yourself

  • maria

    What a wonderful post! Couldn’t agree with you more. Thank you for sharing.

  • as’why

    How does practicing compassion and understanding that there is no one right way or truth fit into this? That our environments provide opportunities for growth. And what does it mean to compromise our beliefs?

  • David Gomes

    Very powerful message David …This is what the world needs now. Folks who are willing to become themselves, their true compassionate selves….The key to all you could become lies in your willingness to let go, and allow your own evolution, in which you are deeply entangled to proceed. Thank you for this article

  • Well done and said! 🙂

  • Interesting post, David. I can only imagine the pressure to conform in your profession. I work in city government and know several officers. Problem is if we all conform to some “standard” we lose our individuality and our very ability to leverage our best asset: our true selves.

    Reminds me of an ee cummings quote, “to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight and never stop fighting.”

  • David Goettsch

    You are very welcome Tim! I am humbled and grateful that the tinybuddha community has supported my article so much! You guys are awesome!

  • David Goettsch

    Thank you! Personal development isn’t the same without having others to share your ideas and experiences with. So thank you so much.

  • David Goettsch

    Haha Robert I completely agree! It took me a minute to digest your comment, it was like a wise riddle!

  • David Goettsch

    Thank you so much Tayla! I never get tired of hearing people being proud to be themselves! Keep walking your own way and never turn back!

  • David Goettsch

    Valerie, you are too kind. I’m nothing special I assure you, but I am flattered! Being true to yourself sounds so simple, and it can be. But doing so while handling external pressures seems to be where we struggle. It isn’t that we don’t know who we are, it’s that we don’t always know where we fit in. The irony of course is that by just being ourself we already fit in! When we stop trying to find ourselves in others people and different “ideas” we truly remember who WE are. And that we are enough! Thank you for your comment!

  • David Goettsch

    You are so welcome char! I’m glad you caught the irony of the picture, the other hand is holdin a cup of coffee! Hahaha!

  • David Goettsch

    Thank you for your kind words Hannah!

  • David Goettsch

    Im glad you enjoyed it Maria! Thank you for your comment!

  • David Goettsch

    I think the very premise of being true to yourself represents the idea that there is no right way beside your own way. I am a huge proponent of using conflict for growth and learning from any situation you find yourself in! I think compromising your beliefs truly means you took a step away from your true self. You can always find yourself again, but everytime you do so, you lose identity and purpose and get one step further from who you are meant to be. Wonderful questions, thank you!

  • David Goettsch

    Thank you for your comment David. You know, it took me a long time to truly become comfortable in my skin. It is so much easier said than done to always be true to yourself. But like you said, it is the one thing that the world needs right now. We each are unique and we all have something to bring to the table. Bringing the same thing as everyone else is the reason why so much of our world lacks compassion and passion for life. Conformity, when it makes us compromise identity, takes the passion for living that so many people lack in today’s world.

  • David Goettsch

    Thanks alexey!!

  • David Goettsch

    It truly is a never ending fight Jonathan, awesome quote. It’s been interesting finding a balance between doing my job and still being myself. But I have discovered that it makes my work so much more rewarding for me. And you are right, the pressure to conform is staggering sometimes, but beautiful communities like this one on tinybuddha always keep me on track and assure me I’m going the right direction. We are so much more powerful when we surround ourselves with people who support us and truly care for us! Thank you so much Jonathan, and to the entire community here at tinybuddha!

  • David Goettsch

    Mizk, for me it has been a healthy balance of both. Some of my greatest personal growths have occurred in environments that were not so supportive and friendly. Conflict can be a serious tool for personal growth for those brave enough to embrace it. But that being said, living in an environment of constant conflict is taxing on the spirit. I think it is important to surround yourself with a supportive environment, but to sprinkle in a little conflict to keep you on your toes! You never really know your limits until you push them, so it’s good sometimes to step outside of your comfort zone. There is a ton of growth waiting to be found there! Great questions, thank you for sharing!

  • David Goettsch

    Thank you for the compliments Alexandra! Pioneer eh? That has a nice ring to it!!! Haha! It isn’t always easy but I wouldn’t ever be able to live any other way. There is no right way for everyone, there is only the way that is true to who you are. When you feel what it is like to be unapologetically you, you won’t ever be able to turn back.

  • Sorry – I know, sometimes I’m more complicated than I need to be 😉

  • RandyH

    Absolute brilliance, Robert! Well said!

  • RandyH

    Hi Dave! Once again you are an inspiration to us all! I never tire of your blogs! keep them coming, PLEASE!

  • Thanks Randy – I’m glad you liked my comment 😉

  • David Goettsch

    Thanks for the unending support Randy! I’m really glad you liked the article!

  • Joseph Dabon

    First being you is the first requirement for success. But being you may not suit well with others, and this can be stressful at times. Be ready then to walk the lonely road because you will if you dare to be different. For me, I’ve always been me since the day i can remember – http://withinyouisyoursuccess.com/

  • Michael

    Thanks a lot for sharing your inspiring thoughts, David! They mean a lot to me, and you have my deepest respect for the path you chose.

  • vicky

    great job david I”am just inspired a lot after reading your post thank you very much 🙂

  • SSher

    I needed to read this today. Thank you.

  • MountaineerGal

    “Don’t be so afraid to color outside of the lines that you never pick up your crayon.” Hits home. Love it. 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing your experience, David. It is truly inspiring and provides a model of authentic action. It made me think about the importance of standing up for your principles even when others may disagree with you. It is often really tough to go against the tide of others’ opinions. I love the quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” I try as best I can to live by my values of contributing to making the world better. Your post was another reminder to me to be true to myself and what I believe in.

  • Kerry

    Wow, such strength, David. The world needs more police officers (and humans) like you! And I’m sure there were others that began in your position but allowed themselves to be pressured to act differently. I’ll bet you secretly inspire others on your team. I truly believe that by taking a stand and living your values, you can cause cultural shifts.

  • David Goettsch

    I agree completely Joe. The longer I have walked this path, the less lonely it has become though. It seems like you are all alone, but you would be amazed how much support you can find when you just keep being you!

  • David Goettsch

    Thanks so much for the compliment Michael. I am grateful for your respect, it isn’t always what I get from everyone around me, but it always is what I get from those who truly matter!!

  • David Goettsch

    You are welcome Vickie! When I wrote this I never even thought that the word inspiring would apply to it, I just wanted to help people to see even in a field like mine, there is room for each person and different views. I am truly humbled at the response, I can’t believe how much my experience has resonated with you guys! The response works both ways, all of the support has inspired me to keep doing what I am doing no matter what, so thank you as well!

  • David Goettsch

    I’m glad it helped you! You are so welcome!

  • David Goettsch

    Haha yeah I thought it was an apt metaphor! I’m glad you liked it! It’s so sadly true that some people let fear of failure or ridicule control them though.

  • David Goettsch

    Thank you so much for your comment CJ! It means everything to me that it helped others to remember who they are. That is such a powerful quote, it pretty much summarizes my entire article!

  • David Goettsch

    Kerry, what you mentioned is something that I have often thought of, and that I have begun to notice from time to time. When people see that there are other ways to handle things outside of what they thought, it really seems to get them thinking. Any chance I get I try to be the catalyst to get people thinking outside of the box. I agree completely with whoa you said, it only takes one pebble to start an avalanche. That pebble can be a single action as well. Thank you for your awesome comment!

  • DanielleWCarter

    Thank you for sharing! Inspiring especially as a performing artist/songwriter! Janelle Monae+ Bjork + Beyonce = #Dani W Project http://igg.me/at/DaniW/x/4610124

  • Luca Samson

    Awesome post!

    I find that many people struggle to be happy if they don’t follow their dreams and go their own way. They get stuck in a rut and can’t ever get out unless they change, change to a better life, a life of passions.

    You need to follow you’re true passions in order to live and not just exist.

    Cheers

  • tamrenzi

    David, your posts are always so inspiring. I followed you here from your blog, and you always stay true to your message. I find that so refreshing!

    It’s unfortunate that the environment in which you’re in is not as accepting of your approach, but it looks like you’re changing that one interaction at a time. I think that is an important point for everyone to remember. Just because your opinion or approach isn’t popular, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I also like how you and some of your co-workers respect each other’s approaches and learn from each other.

    Ah, what a world if we were all to have open minds! Thank you for another great post!

  • Joseph Dabon

    Sorry, I find this kind of funny. If one struggles to be happy, he will never be happy. Happiness is spontaneous, not something like digging a ditch.

  • Joseph Dabon

    Actually, we can always find people along the way who can help us with something, or help us discover who we really are. Until that need arise, I find it a blessing sometimes not to be encumbered with people who don’t take the pains of taking us as we are.

  • Luca Samson

    But if you are not happy the way you are, and you don’t make an effort to change those ways how are you ever going to be truly happy?

    If you work an office job for 20 years, which probably isn’t your passion, you arn’t going to wake up one morning and be truly happy. You are going to wake up, realise you are unhappy and try to change.

  • David Goettsch

    Thank you as always for the unending support Tammy! I’m glad you noticed i tend to stick to my guns when it comes to my ideas and principles, that means a ton hearing it from you!

  • David Goettsch

    I agree with you Luca, it’s not that you can’t get by doing anything in life, of course you can and you will find some happiness. But to live a fulfilled life, it’s a must to follow your passions and make them a part of your daily life. Thanks for your comment!

  • Luca Samson

    No Worries,

    Cheers for the post David!

  • Joseph Dabon

    I think we care coming out like children here. While it is our obligation to find happiness and success, we also have obligations and responsibilities to others which my not like to do but we must. Being stuck in an office for 20 years to send a child to school is worth letting go of what makes you happy now for what will make you happy in the future. There are no absolutes in life. Everything is judgmental. It is up to you to use your own judgment.

  • Luca Samson

    That is true, as I said in other comments it all depends on the situation

    Cheers Joseph, you have had some great insights

  • Stephanie

    This article really spoke to me. I really appreciate your perspective in life. It is inspiring to hear you state to be different and be proud! I really loved “What you need to realize is that humans attack what they don’t understand” – that really hit home and makes all of direction in this article make more sense and hold strong.
    Thank you for for going against the grain and spreading the inspiration!!

  • Jay R.

    Just found the site today and its so addictive. 🙂
    Just what I needed in life right now. I feel relaxed and can breath.

  • It makes me happy to know that you make a difference as a police officer. I can’t imagine having your job but I’m sure people in distress appreciate that you listen. Thank you for choosing to remain true to who you are.

  • Peter Van Rhee

    Thank you so much David. I was starting to think that I was alone in the world and there was not any one like me. I am a correctional officer and I can identify with the stereotype of officer that everyone else wants me to be.i seem to be an outcast and object of ridicule as I stay who I am as the way God made me and wont put on a false front and be something that I am not just to be accepted into the so called norm of the jail.And I find my way works better than theirs. I have a lot of respect for you, there should be more people standing up and being true to themselves. cheers Peter

  • CA Los

    Wow. Thank you so much! I’m saving this to read on a daily basis for inspiration. This post is so relatable to me, it makes me feel so good to know that I’m not alone.

  • Alexandra

    I respect you for being a cop and having such an honest, mindful and kind-hearted attitude towards others. And I respect and value your feelings and thoughts the most for being able to totally change my prejudice against “rude and insensitive” police officers that I didn’t even know I held! Wish the world had more brave and true people like you. You truly are amazing.