Are You Being Held Hostage By The Beige Army?

Today’s message is really important but it’s one a lot of people won’t want you to get. I want to chat with you about some people you and I know (but let’s do it quietly because they won’t like you reading this article :)).

These people, the ones we both know, are a type that you come across every day (shh, there’s one in the office with you now!). They prefer tradition and routine to innovation and enthusiasm, and think that your dream of a freer, more fulfilled life is a dangerous fantasy best quashed soon.

They are the Beige Army, and they have more of an impact on your life than you realise

The Beige Army are the managers in the office who can’t see the big picture – they prefer to nit pick on the 1% negative instead: “yes well done for launching that project that might change the world, but you didn’t fill in this line in form 30B. Yes, I know it’s a non-essential form, but protocol is important”.

The Beige Army are the people in The King’s Speech who wanted Geoffrey Rush banned from helping the king, because he wasn’t “qualified”. The letters were not there after his name and he was… unorthodox. And foreign. He had to go. No matter about the fact this outspoken incredible man was making more of a difference than anyone else.

The Beige Army are staid, repressed and terrified of change… but that’s not why I have a problem with them.

I have a problem with them because they want you to be that way too.

They wander around the corridors of your office block (and, perhaps, your extended family reunions) judging anyone who does anything outside of their comfort zone.

Should you be so audacious to consider an option (for yourself) that the Beige Army finds challenging to THEIR beliefs, they purse their lips and say: “are you sure that’s wise?”

They furrow their brows and ask: “Why would you want to do that? Why don’t you just get another job?”

It’s not a question – you know that – it’s a statement: what they really mean is:

“If you do that strange thing you will crash and burn and fail and you will be laughed at. People will laugh at you and no one will be on your side and you will end up in the gutter, miserable, hearkening back the golden days when you were safe here, safe with us in this beige existence where nothing changes, ever.”

That’s what the Beige Army wants you think whenever you consider making a change outside of THEIR comfort zone.

The Beige Army speaks loudly and clearly and they come across as unshakable.  They look solid and impenetrable. Very comfortable ruling out other opinions, the Beige folk are not troubled by difference of opinion because in their view, any opinion different to theirs is simply wrong. Venture to voice an alternative perspective and they’ll curl their lips with a little smug sneer and say ‘yes, alright Marianne, certainly’. And ignore you.

 

What is really going on (here’s where I unmask the Beige Army)

Lots of us get scared about our lives:

Are we the person we imagined we’d be? What if this is all there is to life after all?

What if we get it wrong? What if we get it right?

What if it turns out we are not good enough after all?

These are big scary questions.

If you’ve asked yourself any of them, and felt the fear, and admitted to yourself that you were scared…. then you are not a member of the Beige Army.

Lots of us get scared: what’s really evil is that the Beige Army won’t own up to their fear. They pretend that the status quo the right way to be rather than consider anything else, because anything else is too scary to contemplate.

The man in the beige army doesn’t look like a terrified animal but he is. His criticisms of others are his weapon against facing up to his life and his feelings.

He is living a lie: he pretends he is doing the ‘right’ thing; he pretends this so much that he no longer remembers he is pretending. All he knows is that if one of those ‘other’ people who are ‘different’ from him come on his turf, he gets het up and angry.  Righteously so, he thinks, because they are WRONG.

What matters to the Beige person is doing things in the way they have always been done, even if those things make no sense.

Whew! Do I sound angry right now? Heck yes I am. I’m freaking SEETHING here. The reason is, I have just got another email from one of my lovely, lovely fledglings who is brave and beautiful and right on the edge of making a change in her life… only to be brought back to average by the Beige Army. Today she hardly believes in herself, her possibilities, her strengths and she’s miserable and stuck because of someone else’s fears.

I am tired of seeing Free Range fledglings told they are wrong for being who they are. That their dreams are less worthy than ‘fitting in’ and living a crappy flatline life that makes you so unhappy you don’t know where to turn. I’m tired of seeing scared people rule your life.

So this me declaring war on the Beige Army

These people hide right now because they don’t have a name. They mask themselves as ‘normal’. And you know what? It’s hard to do something against what ‘most people do’ and how’ normal people act’ . Most of us don’t want to be ‘odd’ or ‘not quite normal’, do we?

But the Beige Army are not the normal ones. They are the sad, sad repressed folk who live their lives barely feeling anything anymore. They’ve turned off their emotions inside and they want you to do that too. They are not the majority, they are just influential and loud.

So let’s call them out for what they are: the people who say “it’s not possible”, “that’s a bit weird” or “why don’t you just get a job” do not speak for society and they do not speak for you.

They are not the normal people. They are just a group: the Beige Army, and they’re dead scared of getting any bright, lively paints on their bland beige uniform.

How to overcome the Beige Army (your battle plan)

Once you’ve named them for what they are (the ‘Beige Army’, not ‘the normal people’), there are three more things you can do to stop them from stopping you moving forward:

1. KNOW YOU ARE NOT ONE OF THEM

The Beige Army is a big group: mostly because they are so good at influencing others by making you feel small if you act differently. It’s easy to be influenced by that lot and adopt their characteristics (trust me, I’ve been there!).

Here’s the difference between you and them – if you act like a Beige solider you’ll hate yourself a little for it (oh my god I’ve become a bureaucrat!) whereas they pride themselves on being mundane.

Whenever you recognize that in yourself, a moment of difference in attitude, hold on to it, because daring to be different is your shield from their attacks.

2. BE HUMAN

Be enthusiastic and surround yourself with ‘free range’ thinking folk who are too. Displays of passion – be it talking enthusiastically about any topic, or showing emotion – are terrifying to the beige army. They will laugh at it and belittle it “alright, tone it down there darling”, “hmm, getting a bit carried away?”. Passion and authenticity are threats to their bland shell.

So find your true tribe and spend time with them: immerse yourself in their books, their writing, their events, hang out with them and soon you’ll stop seeing the Beige Army as the ‘normal’ ones but as strange creatures to be pitied.

3. THE SECRET WEAPON

Here’s the biggest thing you can do fight them: don’t. The Beige Army are made up of impenetrable people who – in the name of avoiding discomfort – have numbed themselves from feeling.

A Beige person is like a rock: nothing moves them so don’t bother trying.

There is no point trying to convert them, don’t try to push them out of the way or break them down.

Just walk around them.

I’m taking on the Beige Army, but I’m not interested in beating them.

This isn’t about winning an ideological argument with a group of terrified people. It’s about getting around the big, critical, scared blob of a barrier in your way so you can live your own life.

Once you’re on the other side you’ll look back and wonder why they ever had any power over you. And you’ll smile, turn your back on their fear, and walk on forward into your real life.

Photo by miskan
  • Jenny

    Love it! I had one of them breate me for not completing a one line report correctly precisely 5 mins before I walked out of my job for good. They do so like to make a fuss about what's unimportant.

  • Scott blackshaw

    BEIGE ARMY, BEIGE ARMY!! I BELONG

  • Andy

    Your posts are very refreshing, Marianne.  Keep up the fantastic work.  

  • http://www.free-range-humans.com/ Marianne Cantwell

    Thanks Andy

  • http://twitter.com/thinkglobally Scott Albritton

    This was a great read for me today after having a short conversation with a colonel.

    Thank you.

  • http://www.rashabellydance.co.uk/ Rasha Nour Bellydance

    I love this post – I will, and must, fight the beige army.

    Sadly a couple of members of my own family are footsoldiers of Beige though… It has taken me years of living away from home to get the little beige voices out of my head, and sometimes they still come back.

  • http://chetanbsingh.com/ Chetan B. Singh

    Hi Marianne,

    Great post! These points are on the money. In the past, I tried to convert some of my friends from the beige army to see the light & ended up getting burnt myself. Learnt the lesson the hard way & now I just focus on #2, much happier & care free for it. Greetings from India :)

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