Thinking Like a Rebel
Hold unpopular views on political and social issues. A central part of being a rebel is to develop views that go against popular, traditional views.
- Musical rebels like Kurt Cobain and Tupac Shakur based much of their work and philosophies on fighting the establishment, defying expectations of their peers, and acting the opposite of others' expectations. They did what they felt, said what they believed, and didn't care about what others thought.
- The United States and other free countries were founded on unpopular beliefs. In the 1960s during the civil rights movement, interracial marriage was deemed illegal in certain states. Segregated marriage was a popular belief and is now considered wrong. The people who fought against it are now credited as being upholders of freedom and thinkers who were ahead of their time.
- Remember that "popular" is relative. People at your school may believe partying and doing drugs is the popular social norm. Defy this norm by being clean and proudly advertising that to others.
Question popular and common beliefs. Part of holding unpopular views is to question things that most people believe at face value.
- The French scientist Georges Cuvier tried to convince people that African-Americans were not as smart as Caucasians because of their skull shape and size. His student, Friedrich Tiedemann, questioned this theory and showed that there was no scientific evidence to support this commonly accepted "truth."
- Questioning your beliefs and the beliefs of others is difficult, but rewarding work. Remember that accepting things at face value is common among people because it is the easiest. When you question things, you will naturally stand out from the pack because the act of questioning tends to be rare.
- Questioning things isn't just a way to stand out, it is a way to arrive at the truth. When you question things that turn out to be true, you will be held in high regard by your peers. Most people in the 16th century believed that the Earth was flat. Pythagoras, the person who proved the opposite, is now revered in both science and mathematics.
Know that some conformity is normal. You don't have to be completely different from everyone around you to be a rebel. Following trends is part of being human, and actually helps us navigate everyday life.
- Musicians like Kurt Cobain and Tupac Shakur are credited as being some of the most rebellious artists in their respective genres. Still, they tended to dress and behave in ways that were similar to their peers.
- Most people aren't even aware of when they are conforming. Following others is a natural process, but that doesn't mean that you can't consciously notice when you are following others and decide to do otherwise.
- You might notice that on the path to being a rebel, you'll find that there are others who share and believe in similar views. This isn't uncommon, and is often the way movements and revolutions start.
Think of rebellion as a movement, not just an attitude. Being a rebel involves taking physical action, not just holding and believing in unpopular views.
- Even if you're determined to be a rebel without a cause, you will need to show others that you're your own person.
- You don't have to hurt other people's feelings or say outlandish things to be a rebel. Being a rebel simply means displaying behaviors that are uncommon or unpopular.
- For example, it may be popular and common for your peers to play football and wear letterman jackets on campus. Do the opposite by wearing torn jeans and obscure band t-shirts.
Acting Like a Rebel
Put your own spin on the rules or on common behavior. You don't necessarily have to break the rules to be a rebel. All you have to do is act in a way that stands out from what's common.
- For example, if you play sports and have a letterman jacket, stand out from your athletic peers by removing the sleeves of your letterman and wearing it like a vest.
- If you are required to call teachers proper names like "Mr. Moser" or "Mrs. LaGuerta," put a playful spin on it by calling them "Mr. Most-definitely" or "Mrs. L."
- If your school requires you to wear a uniform, like a pair of trousers and a smart collared shirt, throw some personality into your wardrobe by leaving your shirt untucked. Or, you could tuck your shirt into trousers with holes at the knees.
- If your peers tend to walk slowly while looking down at their phones, grab some attention by skipping through the hallways on campus. Strut proudly, sing a song while skipping, swing your arms like a gorilla. People tend to remember things that are unusual or difficult to understand.
Speak your mind, especially when others are afraid to. Speaking your mind doesn't mean just blurting out whatever you are thinking at a given moment. It means advocating for your opinions and beliefs, especially on issues you feel strongly about.
- You may feel that your cafeteria is severely lacking in yummy foods like burgers and tacos. Tell the school administration that they should include more foods that teenagers enjoy.
- If you can't rally up people to present your case, do it by yourself. Having numbers may be a powerful way of showing people that you mean business, but it isn't the only way. As long as you provide solid evidence for your beliefs, you should be fine (for example, good tasting foods help learning because they increase serotonin levels, and high serotonin is essential for memory).
- If your school is hosting a poetry slam, write some spoken word about how the cafeteria food sucks. Paint a picture of foods that you want to eat at school, and hang it on people's lockers. Sing a song during lunch break about people's choice of what to put in their bodies. Art is a great way of getting people to see the merits of your views and expressing yourself in creative ways.
Do what you want to do, not what people expect from you. Doing what's in your heart may possibly be at the ultimate core of what it means to be a rebel.
- If you feel an uncontrollable urge to dance, join the dance squad or dance feverishly in the quad during lunchtime. If you like to argue with people about their beliefs, join the debating club and pick people apart in a structured, diplomatic manner. Rebelling isn't just about using your voice, it's about using your body.
- Find something you are truly passionate about and align your actions with that passion. If you hate animal cruelty, picket the school cafeteria queue for hamburgers with signs of cute baby calves. Rebels with a specific cause tend to be the most prominent and memorable.
Dress outrageously. Making a spectacle of yourself is a great way to make people do a double-take. Dare to grab hold of people's attention from everyday, mundane routines.
- Outrageous is subjective. If your school tends to have multiple people who sport mohawks and ripped jeans, dress in a rock/preppy fashion. Wear a long sleeved collared shirt with the sleeves ripped off. Wear dress slacks with holes in them. Wear a tie that is loose and extremely loud.
- Rebellion is all about contradiction. If you can create contradiction within your wardrobe, people might notice you even more. For example, wear a mohawk but also wear thick framed glasses. Wear a pair of worn sneakers with a business skirt. Throw a nice blazer over a Black Sabbath t-shirt and jeans.
- Sport accessories that are strange but relevant to your personality. If you love teddy bears, have a teddy bear keyring attached to your keys but dye the fur your favorite colors. Dye your hair blue to match your outfit. Don't be afraid to clash and look "weird" to others.
Shrug off people's negative opinions about you. Focus on "doing you," not on pleasing others.
- It will be common for people to mock and tease you for being different. Though you shouldn't lay down and accept their cruelty, you should also not take any of what they say to heart. People tend to fear things that are strange or different.
- If you find yourself being mocked and teased for being unusual, flaunt what makes you weird and embrace it. Write "weird" or "strange" on a t-shirt and wear it to school. When people see that those words don't affect you, they'll know they don't have any power over you and will find calling you those names useless.
- If people call you really hurtful or offensive things, tell a teacher. The reason people tease others is to "get them in line," and is probably a remnant of the evolutionary behavior to regulate the group. Still, you shouldn't have to experience hurtful things for wanting to be different.
Stand up for your beliefs and for people who share them. Shrugging off ridicule is a great trait to have, but knowing when to advocate for yourself and others is also very critical.
- Don't let people tease you for being different. You don't have to fight them physically or verbally. A simple "leave me alone, I'm not hurting anybody" is enough.
- Teachers may tell you to act, dress, or behave a certain way because it is "part of the rules." If it genuinely is part of the rules, you may be better off obeying them. If your teacher is simply telling to behave a certain way because it is the norm, tell your teacher that you're not breaking any rules.
- If you see someone who looks, acts, and believes the things you do, ally yourself with them. Rebels don't have to be lone wolves. Having a friend with similar beliefs and attitudes is a great way to expand on what makes you a rebel and come up with rebellious ways to express yourself.
Pick your battles wisely. ou don't have to fight the school administration over cafeteria items. Maybe freedoms of expression, like the right to wear certain band t-shirts or play certain music, is a more valued issue.
- If doing a certain action - like questioning your teacher when she tells you to tuck in your shirt - means getting sent to the principal's office and possibly getting expelled, choose whether or not you believe enough in that action to bear the consequences.
- Fight for issues that matter the most to you. You may be a fan of Led Zeppelin, but maybe being a vegetarian is more important. Forego your plea for "rock music during lunchtime" for "more menu alternatives other than meat."
Know the difference between rebellion and recklessness. If your actions have a possibility of seriously hurting yourself or others, avoid doing them. Rebellion is about standing out; you don't need to do harmful things to do so.
- It's normal for teenagers to be curious and to experiment. If you truly are curious and want to experiment with alcohol, drugs, or sex, be safe and cautious. Know that you don't have to do these things in order to be thought of as a rebel.
- Remember that being a rebel means fighting conformity. Within your rebellious group, you may still face peer pressure to experiment with drugs or alcohol. If that is something you truly don't feel comfortable doing, don't do it. Tell your friends that you're "being an even bigger rebel" by not following them.
- Some people think that being a rebel means damaging or vandalizing property. You don't have to be infamous in order to be a rebel. If you want to express yourself visually, decorate your own property with spray paint, stickers, and permanent markers.
Remember that your actions always have consequences. If being a rebel to you means constantly disobeying rules and fighting with other students, know that there are other consequences besides being "known" as a rebel.
- You don't have to be violent and unruly to be a rebel. Sure, you can talk tough and walk with your chin up, but you don't have to harm people to be noticed. Being a rebel is about being original, and demeaning others to gain popularity is too common among many people.
- Decide whether being expelled and losing an opportunity at an education is really worth being a rebel. Many political rebels like Tupac Shakur, Malcolm X, and Mahatma Gandhi were focused on getting an education as a form of rebellion. As the old saying goes, "knowledge is power," and being a rebel is about showing individual power.
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