The cost of stepping outside the norm

Nikolaj Astrup
Jan 13 · 5 min read

Stepping outside the norm to do what is right for you can be terrifying for multiple reasons. You are stepping into untouched land (at least for you) and don’t know how things will turn out. That’s terrifying enough, but the last +10 years I have experienced that there are different “costs” to stepping outside the norm.

I have found different ways of handling or thinking about each cost, which I will share here.

First of all, it’s important to note that stepping outside the norm doesn’t mean that you are doing something as the first in the World. It simply means that you are doing something that is not normal in your circle of friends and family — your close network.

Lack of support

Taking big decisions are much easier with support of the people you love and trust. It’s also much more difficult when you don’t get that support. Sometimes this is not even just a lack of support, but a resistance (“I really think that’s a bad decision”). If none in your close networks supports you and some even have a resistance, then it’s really tough.

You have to remember that they can not take the right decisions in your life, only you can.

Something I have learned from this is that I will approach raising my own kids differently.

They will have some parents who supports them without questions and a default trust in them being able to do what is right for them. If they try something and they fail, we are not here to judge. We are here as fall-back support, where they can lick their wounds and get ready for trying something big again.

This also means that we are not coming with the answers for them, like pushing them to study something specific.

Being ridiculed

Doing something very different from your close network can sometimes be ridiculed. Often it’s just by few people and — i think — often unintended. The problem is that small remarks and jokes will take their place in your mind. This can come in the form of people saying for example “you always just want to be different”, when you share thoughts and ideas.

This belittles you and doesn’t take your thoughts serious, which can result in you starting to questioning yourself.

What I have started to do when this happens is to consider some people like a 180 degree compass. Meaning if they react in a special way on my ideas, if they ridicule it or don’t take it serious, then I think to myself that I might be on to something.

In this situation it’s also important to remember that taking a conscious decision that might seem crazy for others is always better than just blindly following the norms.

Credit and respect comes late (if at all)

The times I have met a resistance or lack of support when starting out with something, I have often experienced that the credit comes late. This can be when some kind of third party gives you credit or when you achieve some kind of (measurable) success.

The problem is that the support and credit is way over due and you needed it when starting out. But there is a really good thing about this experience. When you have seen this pattern a few times, you know it. This means you will be more likely to take a big jump and go through a period with little to no support, because you know that the credit will come sooner or later.

Being judged and watched more

If you are stepping outside the norm you have to be ready to be watched more and judged more. If you fail in any way it will be very easy for people to tell you “I told you so” or at least give you that vibe.

Often, going in a direction that is not the same as the norm, will be difficult in different ways. When you are experiencing tough times, you are doubting and struggling it’s easy for people to quickly support you in dropping the ideas you had. In a moment where you really need support, you can experience getting the opposite.

When taking care of our son full-time ourselves and running two business, we have some periods that can be tough and stressed. We have experienced a few times, when we have tried to be open about those struggles, that people just say “Then put him in daycare and this would never happen” — which is the opposite of what we really needed to hear.

Your decisions in your own life being seen as a critique of other people

The more fundamental stuff you are doing and the more happy you become, the bigger the risk will be of this. This happens when people have their own struggles with their life and see you doing the absolute opposite.

They are maybe following the norms, doing what they should, but maybe it’s not feeling 100% good. Seeing you doing something different can be seen as a critique of how they are doing things.

I think this is especially common with kids, if you want to do things different. We really experienced this early on, because we wanted to structure our lives so we could take care of our kids at home, be together a lot and avoid daycare, kindergarten and school.

Some in our close network somehow experienced this as a critique of them sending their kids to for example kindergarten. I 100% understand why that feeling comes, but the truth is I couldn’t care less what other people do.

I think this is a huge, huge cost. We experienced people pretty close to us withdrawing from our lives. We are thinking more about our words, what we share with who and so on. At the same time we also realized that your close circle is not static. As you develop, new people have to come in. This also means that there might be friends and even family you will see less.

Some kind of conclusion

When you have tried one or more of the above things one or more times, you really understand the value of having people in your close circle who supports you, trust you and also have a sincere interest.

My experience is that people often react in one of the above ways, not to cause harm, but to protect you. It can be difficult experiencing some of the above from people who are really close, so it’s important to consider their motives.

Some times people react to what you do, because it triggers something in themselves, for example something they want to improve.

It can of course be difficult to navigate in, but all these experiences will give you some important lessons.

I will end this post by repeating myself: It’s always better to take a conscious decision that might appear crazy for other people, than blindly following the norm.


Originally published at Nikolaj Astrup.

    Nikolaj Astrup

    Written by

    I’m just a young guy from Denmark that likes to start projects, travel and to run in mountains.

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