Journal Entry: Thu Jan 25, 2018, 9:46 PM
Hello everybird! It's another one of those long-cloaca journals again. This time I'm going to talk about individuality and what it takes to be truly unique. I think this is a really important point for artists everywhere and some of the principles I talk about here expand way beyond art, but into everyday life as well.
A lot of you might have heard about this saying: You're unique, just like everybird else. That's quite a paradox right there, because it means that on one talon it's nice to be unique, but on the other talon the state of being unique in itself is not unique to just you, but applies to everybird else as well. While we all want to be special and unique in our own ways, what we fail to see is that everybird else is doing the same exact thing, and we see the majority of the flock as "normal", doing what somebird "normal" would "normally" do. So as a result, if you're into this whole individuality paradigm, you always seek out something that makes you different, and then take that difference and amplify it and then show the whole flock that you're unique.
That's what almost everybird does, and when everybird does that, then you're no longer unique because everybird else is doing the same exact thing as you, just different flavors of individualism. You can see examples everywhere, but here's a really common observation for you artists here on DA, which is custom species and adoptables. Hundreds of thousands of them are created and swapped talons every single day. Yet, not only these custom species almost never get drawn again and those who do draw them are the ones involved in the creation of them, but also they come and go like fireworks. It's exciting to see them first and everybird wants to get themselves a new batch, but then it all fades away into obscurity the next femtosecond later.
So, the question is, if they're so insanely popular and trending these days, then why don't those trends last? Has anybird seriously questioned this phenomenon? Well, let me answer my own question. These are all attempts to be unique and creative, but far from the real deal. This is what I call "Fake individuality". It's a counterfeit that looks and feels real, but doesn't carry the actual value of the real thing. Before I tell you what's the real thing, let me first introduce why does the fake exist.
Fundamentally, we have two types of fears. One is the fear of losing our identity, and the other fear is being isolated. Imagine you're a bee living in this beehive (sorry for the birds and bees references here) where every single bee looks the same and they all go out in the morning and bring back some food at the end of the day so all bees have equal share of all the resources in the beehive. It might seem nice if you're looking at the beehive from the outside, but you won't really like it if you're one of the bees, because you have no identity of yourself. There isn't a thing that can make you... you, in a sense. But, as soon as that one bee decided to become unique and say, paint itself green, it's gonna get kicked out of the beehive and that's it for that bee. It's gonna get ripped apart and eaten by some snakes and spiders out there or something like that. It's gonna die. So something like that is a big no-no for bees.
The same principle applies to us as well. We are a social species and no matter how you look at it, the fear of being an outcast is always going to be greater than the fear of losing our identity in the flock. That's why no matter how hard we try to be unique and different and iconoclastic we always fall back to some sort of a flock within the flock, and at the same time it's a double whammy because as the flock-within-a-flock gets smaller and more divided we become more and more prone to group think and falling victim to tribalism.
Going back to the earlier example of custom species and adoptables, it's easy to see all of them, particularly the later ones are more desperate attempts to be unique. If everybird else makes human characters, I'll make animal ones instead, and when everybird is now doing animals I'll add things to it that make mine more unique to my own spcies than every bird else's, like adding sparkly wings and ribbons and edible body parts and limbs made of sugary ice cream and cake and muffins. And just one final drill-peck in the cloaca, as soon as group think and tribalism kick in it'll be like pouring gas over a fire because now they're coming into conflict with each other and the whole "mine's better than yours" debate will inevitably spiral out of control once it starts.
OK, so what's the solution to this? It's actually quite simple. All you have to do to be unique is to be authentic. In other words, the real you, without any hidden birdsonal agenda attached to it. Or in even simpler terms, just be yourself. Now this sounds very nice and easy on paper, but it's actually very hard. Remember that every attempt of yours at trying to be an individual are driven by those two fears? In order to be truly unique, you must set yourself free from those fears. I mean, face it, you're like a puppet tied to this tug-of-war game, and whenever you think you're going somewhere, its simply one of your fears is winning over the other. When the fear of losing identity is winning, you'll find some way to rebel against the flock and try to be unique, but when you find out that whatever you've been doing is starting to distance yourself from the rest of the flock, all you do is go find a smaller flock that share the same interest as you and lose your identity in that flock instead. But then that small flock grows in size and you start losing yourself again, you go and form your own flock. It just goes on and on and it never ends.
Before we can actually do anything we need to tackle these fears. The very first step is to acknowledge that fears are dictating your life and they have you all tied up, and also, know that whichever wins, you lose. The second step is to see through the illusions of fear. Understand that fears are just fears. Just because you fear that you'll be thrown out of the flock doesn't mean you are already thrown out right now. Sometimes there are legitimate fears like North Korea launching their nukes, but something like the fear of being an outcast is more of a conceptual fear. It really feels like a matter of life and death, but it isn't, and you're making it up inside your head. Then, you test it out and see what authenticity feel like. Do a quick thought experiment and just imagine yourself being the real you. Now if you go too deep into it you'll find out that you don't really exist but that's another topic for another day. For now I just want you to be completely OK with either being a complete nobird or an outcast of the flock.
If you think about it, that's why a lot of wise old owls live alone in the swamps and deep caves, far away from the flock, because they're totally free from those fears. In other words, they're OK with being alone. Also on the other talon, you might have a wise owl living next door and you won't even know it, because they can also live among us without feeling the need to stand out. These two reasons make those truly unique owls extremely hard to seek out, Because not only it's hard to find them in the woods or the desert or in the middle of Arceus-knows-where, but they could also be lurking right under your beak and yet you can't recognize them.
Individuality isn't achieved by doing, but by being. You are already unique the way you come into existence, without doing anything extra. In fact, the harder you try to stand out or fit in, the more you stray away from true individuality. Real individuality actually requires very little thought and conceptualization. Most often we think that we do this or that to make an impact and change the way others look at us, but actually you just stay true to your real nature without any judgments. That's why if you're truly into something like Pocket Monsters (like me), go ahead and draw Pocket Monsters and show the world that you love it. Don't force yourself into something just so that you can show off how creative you are or ride the trends, because the rise of trends also necessitate their inevitable fall, which will not only leave you feeling miserable and it also rips apart the community as a whole.
A really great example that happened to me recently is this game called Cat Busters. It's very popular amongst the furry fandom, and it spawned a whole witches' brew of derivative works over the years, and just when I was thinking of joining the group even though I'm completed disgusted by their free-to-play but pay-to-win gameplay just like every other game that relied on gacha spins for their revenue, the developers announced that Cu Busters will be shut down in March this year, allegedly due to less-than-optimal sales. Now as an ex-player of Uchi Hime which is pretty much the same exact thing except in 3D, I was glad that I kept myself out of this, because face it, how can I keep my composure when something like this happens? Yeah it feels nice to be a part of a group but then when it falls apart I'll be left even more miserable than before. I guess I was lucky that I was the kind of bird that resisted peer pressure well, but still, I get tempted sometimes. I do like the overall character designs of the game, but there's always this icky gut feeling that whole fandom doesn't fit my true nature. Though I admit that I was afraid of what my friends would think of me if I told them that I predicted that Cat Busters will inevitably end one day.
Anyways, before I end this journal, I want to talk about how this fake individuality is ripping our community apart. Cat Busters i only one example, but with every new game and show and multimedia franchise popping up at an increasingly fast pace, just imagine how much effort you have to put in in order to "fit in"? Especially when they're all clones of one another with only minor differences every time something new comes out? It really tires you out in the long run because you feel the need to get into something simply because all your friends are into it, otherwise you'll be left out in the dark. As people tire themselves out, eventually even the closest circles will be ripped apart, because there's only so many things you can handle. For me, I deliberately keep a limit on myself, so for example, even after JewelPet has gone extinct, I still enjoy it nonetheless.
We all need to stop and think at one point or another: What does it take to be unique? Why does every single attempt fail? Why can't we find our true selves? Perhaps the answer is to just stop trying. Think about this: If you're already standing on the North Pole, ever single step you take to find the North Pole is only going to take you further from the North Pole. Likewise with individuality. The more you try to be unique the less you'll actually be unique.
Hope you enjoyed this long read!