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It’s a paradox that so may of us strive to distinguish ourselves by being different but we also want to fit in.

Western societies hum along to a refrain of individuality. Some of the words in the chorus are: “Accept me for what I am”; “I’m allowed to be different”; “I can do my own thing”… You get my drift.

Now we have ‘Personal Branding’; the idea that self-packaging can make you stand out from the crowd (important if you want to succeed in a competitive world, they say).

At the same time, and conversely, being singled out as different by others is seen as a mark of disrespect. The media bombard us with aspirational images of people having fun in groups, fitting in with each other and being accepted (while laughing a lot). Anything less, it suggests, and you are a failure. Solitude is seen as social dysfunction and a shortage of friends suggests the need for clinical help.

So on the one hand we want to be special, and we want our kids to be too. On the other hand, we all want to be normal, and our kids do too.


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