March 2018

Marching to the Beat of Your Own Drum

Author: Becca Edwards

Last year, my middle daughter Ruth Love wore Bermuda-style socks to school. She had purple hair extensions. And, to complete her personalized look, she wore a faux fur vest no matter the temperature outside. But that was second grade. Now she is in third grade. The socks, hair and vest are sadly gone. The other day she asked, “Mom, am I normal?” to which I replied, “What’s normal?” She didn’t have an answer.

If you were asked the same question, what would be your response? Pop culture and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram translate the word “normal” in such a way that it has become a tricky adjective. Is it normal to have everyone well-dressed and coifed, in a group hug, smiling while enjoying a #familyvacay? I don’t know about you, but usually when I take a family trip, I need a vacation from my vacation. Sure, there are some joyous moments, but there is also projectile vomit, missed flights, lost toys, time outs, and several bouts of, “Are we there yet?”

“We have negated the benefits of negative emotions,” said Rosemary Clark, LPC, LMFT, of Whole Health in Bluffton. “To be sad, or mad, or any emotion other than happy means something. Something has disappointed you. Feel that. Be in touch with that. Honor that so that it can pass.”

Clark continued by explaining, “We are complicated, too. Know that you can be sad and happy or confident and doubt yourself at the same time. It’s not all or nothing.”

In honor of this month and the social pressures we all feel, consciously and subconsciously, let’s discuss the health benefits of marching to the beat of your own drum. When we talk about individualism, we do not mean narcissism or even expressing the “Millennial-like” characteristics we all like to make fun of, but rather being true to yourself. When you live your authentic self you:

Reduce stress
When we try to be someone we are not, or a feel an emotion that isn’t real, it actually creates a stress response in our body. Stress is like kudzu. Allow a little to take root, and it can take over your body, affecting other feel-good hormones like serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps with sleep, pain management and mood balance.

Advance in all facets of life
You don’t have to grin and bear it to get through hardships, much less life. Quite the opposite. People who allow themselves to truly feel and experience a range of emotions are more likely to have a positive self-image, which leads to setting and achieving goals, as well as a better ability to overcome challenges. “Healthy emoters” also tend to have better relationships both personally and professionally, a deeper spiritual connection, and are less prone to anxiety and depression—just to name a few benefits.

Contribute to society
Not to delve too deeply into the “Me Too” movement, but it does serves as a good example. People who are honest about their feelings will try to reconcile their emotions, often reaching out to other people experiencing a like situation. As a result, a community develops. Often these communities work to effect positive change, not just for their niche, but for society as a whole.

I used my daughter as an example of how the word normal sneaks into conversations almost frightfully so, but please know that the concept of marching to the beat of your own drum applies to all ages and stages of life. As Clark so aptly said, “Allow yourself to feel how you feel. Be who you are and do not live by unreal expectations, because who you are is pretty cool. The world needs you, not more of the same.”

Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer, and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (bewellbecreative.com).

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