I’m not wearing your uniform!

20 June 2013
Author   Christine-Rita Abankwah

I find it interesting just how much power we allow other people to have over our lives.

As human beings, we have a tendency to judge and categorise each other on sight, and then treat each other accordingly.

It’s almost as though those categories are ‘uniforms’. You can take one look at me and decide what kind of person you think I am, and if I walk like that uniform fits, then it becomes who I am.

But then again, I can alter it to suit my size, complexion and height, thereby somehow toeing the line between conformity and my own uniqueness.

I can put a uniform on you, so that you belong to my school of thought. It’s up to the ‘wearer’ to play the part or not. Sometimes people see you in a certain way, and are either let-down or positively surprised when you prove them otherwise.

“Who made up all the rules? We follow them like fools, believe them to be true, don’t care to think them through… And it’s ironic too, ‘cause what we tend to do is act on what they say- and then it is that way.”- Jem

Others can have an impression of you that is so powerful that it begins to shape your vision of yourself. This is why we are always advised to watch the company we keep and also why it’s good to encourage one another too.

When you are surrounded by people who support, uphold and believe in you, there’s a good chance your actions will follow suit, positively.

You’ll feel inspired to continue doing your best. And if you’re surrounded by those who over-praise, the fan-fare sometimes leads to a big head and an even bigger ego.

Now, when we are surrounded by haters, in the process of protecting ourselves, fighting them back and trying to prove them wrong, we can actually lose sight of our purpose.

I once left a situation that was negative and toxic for me. I don’t have good memories of that place at all. Not just because of the way I feel I was treated, but mainly because of who and what I became while I was there.

I didn’t fit in with the people there: we had conflicting ideals, principles and morals and I really didn’t care to conform.

Little did I know that resistance was coming my way. I was made to feel incompetent and unable, and instead of channelling out that negative energy, I absorbed and mirrored it.

As my passion and work ethic started to wane; I felt I was fighting a losing battle. This is because I lost focus and stopped navigating through my inner compass.

When my tolerance ran thin, I began to play into the trap of fighting back, using the techniques of my opposition.

Instead of finding my own way out of the situation, I adopted the culture of silent treatment, creation of allies and polarisation.

I was becoming just like them. Then the unthinkable happened: I became exactly what they were saying I was- a disinterested non-performer.

I was losing myself, compromising my principles and polluting my person. And you know why? I placed the world these people had created above me. I placed myself beneath the situation until it suffocated me.

“Trying to fight the system from inside eventually corrupts you -but that’s what you get when you put a corporation above you.”-Immortal Technique

It was at that crucial point, where I could continue to degenerate and eventually blend in, stop trying to be different and encrypt myself into their system.

The result would be I would finally be awarded their honorary uniform and the attacks against me would stop, since I wasn’t trying to be different anymore.

But what would I lose? I would have lost my essence: the outstanding traits that attracted them to me in the first place. I’d have lost my integrity and I’d have lost the ability to think critically and out of the box.

Most importantly, in being like everyone else, I would have lost my sense of discernment. When you stop thinking for yourself, and conform 100 percent to your external environment, you become a lazy thinker.

“Don’t let them fool ya, or even try to school ya! Oh, no! We’ve got a mind of our own, so go to hell if what you’re thinking is not right…No matter how you treat him, the man will never be satisfied.”-Bob Marley & the Wailers

I’ve learnt that in life, you have to fight for your right to be. Virgin Group founder and Chairman Richard Branson had the craziest, unconventional ideas and had several doors shut in his face when he was starting up. Today his massive empire includes the soon-to-be first commercial flights to space via Virgin Galactic. He’s written that he wonders what would have happened if the companies he approached when he was younger had given him a chance– perhaps Virgin’sventures would belong to them by now?

“So if the solution has never been to look in yourself, how is it that you expect to find it anywhere else?”- Immortal Technique

Sometimes you just have to fight for yourself and design your own uniform. And if you really can’t, for heaven’s sake, sit down and alter it; customise it a little and know who you are!

We can’t all do our own thing, but we can sit down and analyse the situation like a tailor sitting at a sewing machine trying to make do with the little material he or she has.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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