Being the Black Sheep

I was at the Sherborne Castle Country Fair this week. It’s an event consisting of local crafts, local food, a few fairground rides – mostly old fashioned ones like helter skelters – classic cars and farm machinery and various farm animals. There are competitions for the best looking animals such as horses of various sizes and breeds, goats, cows and sheep.

I wandered around the various stalls and pens and watched a few of the competitions. I noticed how proud each of the owners were of their beautifully turned out animals no matter the breed.

There were even a few black sheep breeds waiting for their beauty parade each languishing in the sunshine enjoying their beds of fresh hay with plenty of feed and water.

This care for every one of the animals was good to see.

It brought to mind the phrase, I’m sure you’ve heard of, “she is the black sheep of the family”. This is an expression used to describe an odd, disreputable or troublesome member of a group or family.

I know I’ve been called that and I’ve felt that, not so much within my family, but in groups or organisations I’ve worked in.

Sometimes being different and having a different perspective and being willing to express it can be seen as you being awkward, challenging, provocative or even difficult; I’ve struggled with this on many occasions and honestly I still do.

I’m learning that being the black sheep occasionally has downsides

  • Sometimes it’s how I say things as much as what I say that influences how people think and feel and therefore how they react to me, which is sometimes not how I’d anticipated or wanted
  • Sometimes it’s a timing thing – what I’ve said could have waited until a more suitable time for the other person/people or they just weren’t in the right frame of mind to process what I said in the way I’d intended.
  • Sometimes I’ve just got it plain wrong and been too vocal about my perspective which has caused another person to take offence or react in a less than positive way.
  • Sometimes what I say challenges the beliefs or comfort level of others.
  • Sometimes how I show up is too forthright and honest and other people are not able to deal with my being a certain way.

I’m also learning that being the black sheep is OK

  • I’m starting to feel more comfortable with the times I’m seen as being different and having a different perspective.
  • I’m starting to be more conscious about what, when and how I say things resulting in a different reaction from others.
  • I often consider adopting the mindset of – I’m not responsible for what you think or feel.
  • I check in with my true intent and whether I really want to say or do something and if I’m OK with both I say or do it.

I also believe that being the black sheep is a good thing.

  • Those that think differently are the often innovators
  • Those that think differently are often the problem solvers
  • Those that think contrary to the masses offer a spark for others to consider different perspectives
  • Those that act differently give “permission” for others to follow
  • Those that act differently are often courageous in stepping into the unknown

In reality, I strongly believe difference is neither good nor bad, it’s just different. If we could learn to be curious about our differences we all might learn something.

“All people worry about being different. But I’ve learned that the traits we’d rush to get rid of are the very ones that others desire. People always covet what they don’t have. That’s why we should look at ourselves every now and then and say, ‘I’m proud of myself. I like the way I’m made.” Freida Pinto, Indian Actress

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