A few weeks ago I had a lovely visit with Laura, one of our former KeyHolders who has been living abroad for a few months now. She was in town for a quick weekend, so we set up shop on my couch and caught up for a few hours.
Laura and her husband had recently spent some time in the Netherlands and we were discussing the differences between life here in the US and life there. The culture in the Netherlands is all about conformity - based upon the Law of Jante, a code of conduct that portrays doing things out of the ordinary, or being overtly personally ambitious as unworthy and inappropriate.
“I feel like it’s almost the anti-SheHive,” Laura shared. “You have to look it up!”
So I did.
There are ten rules in the Law of Jante, all expressive of variations on a single theme: You are not to think you're anyone special or that you're better than us.
Don't laugh at us... or at all
The ten rules of the Law of Jante state:
Is it really that bad?
This proud Leo who thrives in the spotlight almost had a meltdown. I couldn’t imagine living in a society where trying not to stand out or carve out your unique niche is the cultural norm. “This is horrible!” I exclaimed.
We moved on to other topics, but long after Laura left - headed to Beijing by way of Thailand - I couldn’t get the Law of Jante out of my head. For someone who has spent the past decade immersed in the study of the science of positivity and strengths-based development, the Law of Jante rubs against my every grain. It feels abhorrent to my senses.
But, really… is it?
Harmony, stability and uniformity
The core of the Law of Jante is a communal desire to preserve harmony, social stability and uniformity. And I’m all about community, harmony and stability. Uniformity not so much. But the rest of it? There’s actually something there.
What would it be like to live in culture where you were never expected to be anything more than exactly who you were? Nothing more, nothing less. Where the pressure was off to live up to someone else’s idea of what are supposed to be? And what would it be to live in harmony, recognizing that we all have value?
My positive psychology background couldn’t help it - I rewrote the Law of Jante from a different slant. Same concept - different language. Because words create worlds and this is the world I want to live in. I’m calling it the Law of the SheHive.
The Law of the SheHive
What if I don't do ALL the things?
Since my early days, I have always been an overachiever and have always carried a deep desire to stand out - to make my mark. The older, and wiser, I get - the more comfortable I am in my contributions to this world - I realize that I don’t have to stand out to make a difference. The biggest difference I can make is by being me… a woman who wants to create safe spaces where everyone has equal value and a seat at the table. Where our differences are not seen as hinderances, but complimentary preferences that, together, make a more whole world.
It’s hard to overcome nearly five decades’ desire to achieve ALL the things and ALL the status - it’s not going to happen overnight. I struggle with letting go of those dreams of seeing my name in lights or being the next Oprah or doing the book tour I always thought I was destined to do or opening a SheHive in every state. Is it really okay to just be this woman who created a small community in a small suburb of Detroit that gave a group of kick-ass women a place to flourish, laugh and love? I won’t be famous to the masses, but I’ll be famous to the family - the few that truly matter.
Will it be enough?
Will it really be enough? I can’t answer that, truthfully, until the end of days. But the sense of peace I have now that I’ve let go of that need to over perform and outperform seems to be a hella-good reward all of it’s own.
Do you struggle with a need to be known for more than you are? What do you think would happen if you let go and settled in to exactly who you are here and now? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or, better yet, drop a line in the comments below.