“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
There are no unanimous opinions. Beliefs held by 100% of the population are not called opinions, they are called facts. And other than the most elementary truths (2+2=4, the sky is blue), 100% belief in anything is becoming increasingly rare.
Change, by definition, requires us to embrace a new (or contrary) opinion. Whether we are seeking to change ourselves or the world around us, there is no transformation without the introduction of a new idea. And new ideas are almost always met with confrontation on some level.
For me, this occurred just hours after making the decision to remove our unneeded possessions and pursue minimalism. I made a phone call to my mom to tell her the news. She was less than excited. She had plenty of preconceived notions about minimalism—at one point even wondering aloud how we were going to eat if we stopped going to the grocery store.
We laugh about it now, but in the moment, it was significant. Only hours into my journey, I was forced to decide if I would succumb to the pressure of popular opinion or if I would pursue what my heart was telling me to be true.
To be fair, years later, I have learned to present minimalism differently and cut off many of the most common objections before they even surface. Nowadays, rare is the individual who argues vehemently against my understanding and case for minimalism. I have learned to promote the positives of minimalism rather than the negatives of consumerism.
However, on a macro-level, the objections refuse to slow. The stakes are just too high. There are businesses and economies and governments and personal livelihoods based on the pursuit of consumption and mass production. The introduction of any idea that seeks to tear it all down will be met with confrontation. It will require us to stand firm against the sway of popular opinion.
How then, in the case of pursuing simplicity, do we hold an unpopular opinion? How do we stand firm against the sway of popular opinion in this regard or any other? Whether we are in conversation with family and friends, attempting to live in a countercultural manner, or alone battling our own thoughts, here are some helpful principles to remember.
How to Hold an Unpopular Opinion
1. Celebrate your uniqueness. Your life was never meant to be lived like everyone else. You don’t look the same, you don’t sound the same, and your deepest-held values are unique. Throwing that away just to conform to popular opinion is one of the cruelest things you can ever do. And it will always prevent you from living your fullest life.
2. Remember popularity and accuracy are not the same. As the proverb goes, “Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path.” Our desire should be to discover and hold the right opinions, not just the prevailing ones.
3. Count the benefits. Discover, remember, and focus on the benefits of your belief structure. Be able to quickly articulate to yourself and others why you hold the position that you do by embracing the positives. In the case of minimalism, whenever I explain my countercultural decision to others, I always highlight the benefits of owning less. It helps makes a stronger case for the lifestyle in both my mind and theirs.
4. Find strength in community. Unpopular is not the same as alone. From politics to religion to world views, there is no shortage of opinions available in our world. And almost certainly, while unpopular, there are others who believe the same as you. Find them. And discover greater resolve because of it.
5. Understand the counterarguments. Thinking critically and asking questions go hand in hand. Know your opinion, but work hard to understand the case and arguments against it. If you are right, you have nothing to fear. If you are wrong, you have everything to gain.
6. Hold opinions humbly. When discussing opinions of any kind, exercise humility with others and with yourself. We live our lives with certain assumptions and biases based on experiences. Sometimes these experiences lead us to truth, but other times they lead us away from it. Find the proper balance of humility and fierce resolve in all of your opinions.
7. Present your case boldly. I think owning less is a better way to live. Because of this opinion, I feel a responsibility to tell others and present the case for it whenever possible. Inviting others to a better way of life is an act of love. We must see it as such and stand firm in the face of opposition. This obligation remains true whether we are speaking of minimalism or countless other unpopular opinions.
Your life is valuable. It is the greatest asset you own. And it holds potential for great things.
Don’t slip into mediocrity by living your life based solely on popular opinion. (tweet that)