How to Survive in the System as an Authentic Individual

Dennis Stoelwinder - The individual in the system
Reading time: 10 minutes

From the moment our dad’s overlord sperm colluded with our mom’s fertile egg we belong to a system. Throughout our lives, we encounter many different systems. We enter systems, leave systems and stay in systems from the moment we are born until we leave this giant rock called earth. They are basically everywhere. A system is a collective of people/environment, rules, and behaviors. It’s a guidebook to make something work. To belong in a certain system means you have to abide by the rules and behaviors. It’s the only way to make it work.

But, while making it work there seems to be a conflict between the system(s) we live in and our individuality. How do we navigate these systems while staying true to ourselves?

Remember those movies where people trade their soul for something in a deal with evil? You know, those movies where you scream “NOO!” at your tv. Yeah, those movies. Isn’t it funny that when this happens on television we all know the obvious answer is “no”, yet in our own lives we say “yes” by the dozen? Even kids know Ariel shouldn’t give up her voice to Ursula so she can enter the system of humanity for a couple of days. Bad deal missy, you’ve traded your true being to be something you’re not.

Since we are on the subject of the little mermaid’s voice, let’s continue down that route. We as actual human beings give up our voice of authenticity to belong in systems. If everyone goes left and the individual makes a hard turn right the system malfunctions. It’s like putting your car in reverse while going 90 on the freeway. So, being authentically yourself in a system is a challenge. You can be yourself but only to a certain extent. But, do you really want to be yourself? Do you really want to cause conflict in the system? Do you really want to put your head above the parapet? Systems are safe, they work for a reason. If you follow accordingly, you can basically blend in without ever being noticed. You become a part of the system without any pain, but at what cost?

Basically, we ask you to add just a bit of color to keep the system interesting, but not too much. If systems only work when everyone kills a bit of themselves so they fit the mold of the system, isn’t a system than a collection of flattened people? A middle ground in which all the peaks are filtered out? It’s those peaks that make you, you.

The effect of the system on you

Systems will affect you, there is no way around it. What you have become is largely due to the family and community you’ve grown up in. All the stigma, behaviors and beliefs rubbed off on you, even if you didn’t want it. You are a product of systems. This is the child’s burden. They can’t take care of themselves and are handed down to the grace of all the lovely systems around them.

Friendships are systems. There are unwritten rules.  If you want to be part of a friend system you have to dress, talk and walk a certain way. Your ego tells you that that’s really who you are, but 9 out of 10 times you are just playing along so you have a sense of belonging. So you can look in the mirror with pride just because you are a cool kid.

But, you are not a cool kid. Your true being is something else. Your authentic superpower might differ 180 degrees from being the cool kid. This is what happens when you are unaware of your individuality and authenticity: You get dragged from one system to another, in search of an identity, just because you don’t know yourself. You have been conditioned so much by all these systems that you have no idea who that is when you look at yourself in the mirror.

Some people hop from one system into the other, stretching the essence of their true being, just so they can belong and be accepted in all those systems. Although, accepted isn’t the right word, the right word is tolerated. As long as you are of service your place is safe, the moment you lose that value you’re out. You’re out because you are replaceable, What makes you-you – is hidden so deep away in yourself that although you belong to all these systems and meet so many people, nobody has ever met the real you.

You’ve lost yourself by pleasing everyone, just so you can belong in a system in which you have no place. You’ve had it. You want your own individuality back. You’re angry and want revenge for all the bullshit that has been done to you by all these evil, corrupted systems!

Fuck the system

So, now you are mad at systems and start rebelling against them. Fuck your fat fuck parents, fuck your friends, fuck the community and best of all fuck the system. You’ve done it. You’re completely free from all systems and are an enlightened, ultra-spiritual being. Well-fucking-done.

But, in reality, that’s not what happens. You are now so stuck in these systems you have become a slave, a system junkie. Without them, you would be nothing. Your entire being depends on your conflict with the systems.

Fuck the system is something different than not giving a fuck about the system. Fuck the system means you are balls deep in the system because you are fighting the system. You act and the system responds and vice versa. There is a duality, a dependence, and an agreement.

As much as you think you are killing the system, the system owns you. You are a slave and the system is your master. This is even worse than being an obedient participant in the system. You aren’t even a threat to the system. If you were, the system would get rid of you. And so there are those that are always in conflict with the system. There is anger, there are problems, there is hate and there is violence. There’s a lot of lost energy and a completely lost soul who just needs a hug and a hot cocoa. Hugs and hot cocoa have the power to solve 90% of world problems, but that’s another story.

Denying the system

Denying the system is denying yourself. It’s choosing a reassuring lie over an inconvenient truth. It’s saying “nope” while the entire system says “yes”. It’s being egotistical and putting yourself at the center of the universe. But systems are ruthless. If you don’t play along, you get pushed out like a festering splinter.

A couple weeks ago a French family visited a wildlife park where actual lions and tigers roam free. Since they paid good money to enter the park they thought it was a good idea to step out, approach the lions and take photos. Not sure where their head was at at the time, but if the sprint back to the car took three seconds longer their heads would be in the lions’ mouths. The lovely family forgot that inside the system of the men-created park there was the system of nature. The system of lions that will defend their territory if you get too close.

Denying the system is dangerous. The husband who denies the writings on the wall comes home one day and finds out his cheating wife left him and took the kids and all his belongings. The prankster that goes to ghettos to record funny videos for his Youtube hits gets murdered. The severely overweight woman has a surprised look on her face when the doctor breaks the news that she will die in two years if she doesn’t stop stuffing her face with everything she sees. Seven billion people will have a silly look on their face after all the bees died and we don’t have shit to eat no more. Denying the system is the ultimate sign of not taking responsibility.

Denying is easy until it isn’t.

Escaping the system

If you can’t fuck or deny the system, there’s just one thing left you can do: escape the system. Google gives me 35,000,000 pages when I search “escape the system”. It’s a hot topic and many people seem to want to escape the infamous system.

But there is no thé system, there are systems. They’re inescapable. Let’s say you leave the system of society to live in the woods because the system is unfair and life ain’t treating you so well. So, now you live in the woods where all is dandy and you don’t have to deal with all these unfair people, good for you. Only, now you have entered the system of the woods which also has rules in place. Rules that will kill you if you decide to color just a bit outside the lines.

Anyway, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But, if you’ve seen a lot of grass, you’ll know that a lot of grass isn’t actually green, and those that are, are either fake or laced with chemicals. We travel the globe only to realize the grass in our little garden is the prettiest of all.

It’s like Neo in the Matrix. Morpheus gives him an opportunity to escape the system, to get out of the Matrix. He can be free. But, as we all know, he isn’t really free. He just gets into a new system. A system of the real reality which is not some coded world in which he is being leached. It’s still a system with people, roles and behaviors and Neo has to act accordingly: Do his job, or else he is won’t fit in the system. Cypher found out he’d rather have the reassuring lie over the inconvenient truth, the steak and the lady in the red dress.

And so, many people leave their country because they want to escape the system and they move to far away countries because they believe everything is perfect there. They will be free, the sun is shining, daiquiris and piña coladas on the beach, but after a couple of months reality is sinking in. Sure there might be daiquiris on the beach, but you also became a part of a new system. A system of poverty, junkies, rats and roaches, a system of corruption and disorder. How’s that for a system?

So the question is not can you escape the system, the question is which system do you want to be a part of?

The individual in the system

Why is it that we fear to be picked when we are in an audience? Because the moment we get picked we lose our anonymity, we become an individual and have to take responsibility. We are at the center of attention. Many don’t like responsibility, so we just mutter along with all the people keeping our heads down and not using our voice. We don’t take responsibility. We don’t want the accountability. This might not be the heroic life we desperately dream of, but hey, it beats the hell out of taking responsibility.

So, what’s the alternative? The alternative is to become an individual in any system while working in the system. Being an individual in the system is something totally different than going against the grain of the system for the sake of disturbing the system. The individual goes along with the system whenever it’s in alignment with his own being. The moment it’s not he goes his own way. No problem, no worries, no bad feelings.

The authentic individual creates his own rules and his own system within the system. Nobody sees him, nobody bothers him, he just creates a loophole in which everything pans out for his individuality. He doesn’t work for the system, the system works for him. And in that way, he contributes to the system while contributing to himself. 

Individuals are not easily caught off-guard. They are confident in their own being and don’t bother too much with outside events. The status quo doesn’t bother them too much also. How things are done is just a measurement for the majority to follow along. It’s the way things work for most people, but the individual is the exception to this rule. He designs his own life within the systems he is part of.

The individual finds out what works for him and sets things in motion. Every gym around the world is busiest on Monday night, right after dinner. It’s like this because the majority of the system that plays by the rules of the status quo are in the gym at that moment. Because that is what you’re supposed to do. And so your gym is a mess on Monday night. Overweight and unhealthy people are fighting for a parking spot, people are in line for the incline bench and you’re lucky if someone’s ass doesn’t touch yours in the showers. People hate it and complain about the dirty sauna, but never took the responsibility to make it work for them. Everyone is in the gym, except the individual.

The individual was in the gym at 7 in the morning, in a clean gym with just a couple of success-oriented people around him. He can do whatever he wants, it’s his gym at that moment. He’s the first to hit the clean showers right after the cleaner left. The sauna is all his. After a great workout and some relaxing in his private sauna, he continues his day. He found the loophole in the system that worked for him and he does the same in every other system he is part of.

The individual is taking responsibility for his own life and his authentic being and expresses that. He’s the one doing it while all the other people are trying to figure out how. Be authentically you and many systems will accept you and respect you, even tho you are the odd one amongst them. 

Your responsibility in the system

There are flaws in systems and individuals notice this. That’s why they create loopholes within the system that work for them. Individuals know what the system needs to thrive. They have a vision to change the culture of the system. But, changing any culture is one of the hardest things to do. This takes time and you might not even live long enough to reap what you are sowing. It takes time and so much patience. Two things most people don’t have and that’s why they choose to be in the system while complaining about the system.

The individual respects the system he’s part of because he is the system. If he doesn’t respect the system he doesn’t respect himself, because then he is part of the problem. All the individuals together are the system like the ocean consists of drops of water. A drop of water is just a drop of water while at the same time being the entire ocean. 

The individual doesn’t complain, he provides a solution, a manifestation of an idea he has to share. At the base of every change stands an idea. An idea strong enough to give people the courage to manifest a new reality, which then changes the culture. An idea others can implement so a new system can arise. A community which spreads like an ink mark.

The individual is a community of one. By being an individual and creating loopholes within the system, individuals inspire other people that are on the edge of the system. They feel it’s not working for them, and desire a change.  These people are looking for guidance and individuals can be the guide. But, then the individual needs to use his voice. By using his voice and spreading ideas people get a glimpse of what is possible and make a shift. And this is his responsibility. 

Individuals are innovation and have the responsibility to lead. Even though the system at large doesn’t know it, individuals are changing the culture of the system. Not by breaking shit, but by slowly bending things in the right direction. They are making the world a better place. Not by force, but by being authentically themselves, inspiring others and empowering change. 

Photo by Alexander Kustov on Unsplash


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