Ever felt like everybody else was going out having fun and doing great things except you? As if you were stuck in one place while everything around you keeps moving. Everyone around you is smiling while you're sad. That does not sound familiar to you? Then congratulations, either you have mastered the art of keeping yourself so busy to not even entertain this kind of thoughts or you've finally understood that you're movement or standstill is not defined by what people may seem or not seem to be doing around you. And that is exactly my attitude - I actually thought that it was my mindset all the time, but last week I had a moment that made me realize that 99% of the time it truly is, but I still needed to be on guard for that moment the 1% creep in.
It was a moment of "I'm just caught up in my own world while everyone is living life to the fullest." But what does that really mean? It takes a lot to be confident in being yourself without trying to be like the rest. There is literally a norm or standard for every aspect of life and how society expects things to be and what is considered "normal". If you dare to step out even a tiny bit, you could already be labeled as strange. Of course, these acceptable standards differ across societal environments and cultures but I think it is safe to say that in most societies the definition of a decent career path equals getting an education and then a job. Subsequently, that makes the workplace the perfect training ground for practicing "acceptable behavior".
Just a quick illustration of a typical work situation where the norm is separated from the unconventional. Here comes Monday morning again and there is the recurring competition of who had the most fun over the weekend. Even though a fairly innocent question ("So, what did you do over the weekend?"), there is more below the surface because your answer will automatically put you in a box. From the many "Monday morning weekend recap"-conversations I've had over the years, I've derived these four most common categories of weekend narrators:
- The "family"- colleague, who always talks about how they had family barbecues with their neighbors, took their kids swimming or went for a short family getaway.
- The "sporty"-colleague, who doesn't fall short of magnificent stories about hikes, bicycle tours, training for the next iron man competition or marathon and constantly beats another personal record.
- The "every day is a party"-colleague who talks about their wild nightlife and drinking adventures. Every weekend was either "dope", "lit", "cool" or only a faint memory because the terrible hangover wouldn't allow them to remember how much fun they really had.
- The "boring"-colleague, who basically spends most of their weekends relaxing at home, reading or is overall rather tight-lipped and doesn't want to share much.
And then there is YOU. If you don't fit into any of the categories above, you might be easily labeled the strange, mysterious or even unpredictable one. So, what's your Monday morning contribution? Stories of how you made the world a bit better? How you invested your time into something to potentially improve yourself? How you traveled to foreign and mysterious places? Or how you just did nothing? Probably a bit of all of the above.
The ultimate question then is, how do you make Monday mornings less awkward? Simply put, by not letting them be awkward. What truly makes a situation strange, weird or awkward is people's reaction. Thus, if you take away caring about the other person's reaction or what they might think then the pressure is gone. There is actually no reason for every situation to be exciting and fun. There is no rulebook of what is considered a fun and/or acceptable activity, good enough to discuss over Monday morning coffee. You create your own experiences and life stories - therefore make it the best story ever written even if the next person doesn't think so.