Addressing the Stress of Going Against the Grain


Students, when it comes to choosing a path in life, or parents, when it comes to helping your child discover the path to a healthy and meaningful life, how do you address and manage the stress of what is perceived as going against the grain? Here are some perspectives to consider to help you find peace in the process:

  • Remind yourself that this stress is real. We are conditioned to feel distress when going against a perceived norm because we have a survival need for belonging. It’s an appropriate response to feel this stress. But stress doesn’t have to be the decision-maker. 
  • Focus on the need that the stress response points to, belonging. Remind yourself that there are many ways to belong. Get curious about what communities, people, organizations, activities or situations generate or inspire a feeling of belonging and which ones generate a feeling of alienation. You get to choose and create belonging in your life and the more curious you can be about discovering your place of belonging, the more joyful the process can become. 
  • Look for beauty in the process. To make choices that are right for us sometimes means to go against what we have been taught is right. While there is stress in this process of untangling what it is to be true to ourselves from what we have come to believe is expected of us, there is also beauty. Beauty can be found in our shared stories, in poetry, in art, in nature, in knowing we are all figuring this out together.

Read this excerpt from Toko-pa Turner’s book, Belonging about the necessity of rebellion and going against the grain in adolescence: