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Zebras Don't Have It Easy

Last post, I wrote about a concept called “zebritude”, hyper-everything.

Gifted individuals (over-efficient) are called “zebras” because like zebras, they are untamed, different, unique, but very much try their hardest to blend in the crowd by striping a style or an attitude, and also, like the stripes of zebras, these hyper-sensitive individuals are often stricken by life.

I talked a bit about Christel Petitcollin‘s main observations: super senses and hypersensitivity, strong values and principles, complex thinking and hyperactivity. I started to introduce the lack of self-esteem. Let me break down the +s and -s of being a zebra.

Photo by Stephane YAICH on Unsplash

Alienation vs. creativity

With a set of super senses, over-efficient people are often alienated because they’re considered a pain in the a** — and sure, they are, but it is SUCH a pain for them too! Zebras are easily distracted and concerned by a strong smell, a sound. Their environment is filled with information coming at them with no filter. So they complain about the car smell, about the person smoking at the next table, about the brightness of a room, and the humidity in the air.

Unfortunately, this can be mistaken for a tantrum but it’s not — it’s literally a living hell.

On the other hand, with super senses like these, zebras are amazing creatives. Creativity in all forms, but synesthesia especially can give birth to absolute art wonders. So, when there is nothing left to do, after the cleaning is done, and the groceries are bought, and this and that, it’s time to create!

#Tip : what I do to foster creativity.

I intentionally leave blank spaces in my agenda, long enough so that I get bored and short enough so I still feel I’ve done something with my day. This need for productivity is so intense that having time to do nothing is VERY challenging. Do you also feel tired when you do nothing? Seriously, what’s up with that? Well, I get you! Let it be intentional. Yes, you’re bored, but it’s meant to be. Integrate that, and letting it happen will give birth to amazing ideas, projects and other things!

Anxiety vs. self-improvement

Complex thinking certainly can lead to anxiety. Thinking, doubting and questioning everything all the time is exhausting. Human beings are very uncomfortable with uncertainty to start with — that’s just the way we’re wired. Zebras are lucid and are capable of synthesizing information to obtain a global picture, quickly grasping what works and what doesn’t. However, because of arborescent thinking, their learning journeys never end, and they re-question everything all the time. It takes a lot of reassurance for them to be confident.

On the other hand, this drive to analyze, understand, synthesize, and continuously improve is a trait that makes up good people, and excellent leaders. A hyperactive brain needs to feel productive all the time, and challenged enough to want to move forward and self-improve. This way, zebras are always improving their skill sets, their understanding of themselves, others and the world in general.

#Tip : what I do to continuously improve without doubting myself too much.

I have to be honest, it’s a work in progress. I am anxious almost all the time, and do suffer from an anxiety disorder. However, what I do is sit in front of an A3 page and write down words that represent what is truly important to me, like “integrity”, in little bubbles. Then, I try to think in which ways I address that, or if there’s anything I can do to address it. I break it down into actions like “always ask for the other versions of a story before making an opinion, and speak up if someone is making a premature judgment”. In a way, this A3 page allows for focused and prioritized thinking on self-improvement. And, it prevents me from going into too many things, and negative thoughts about how I’m not good enough and there is no way for me to be better.

Authority resistance vs. deep connections

With a strong set of values and principles, it’s not easy following a leader that goes against them. Zebras will often think something is wrong with them, because they cannot be “corporate” enough to ignore aspects of the work that truly require attention according to them, or celebrate successes that don’t benefit the world or humanity, but only their boss or the company.

On the other hand, if an over-efficient individual meets someone with similar values and principles, they’re in for a lifetime friendship. Zebras are capable of very strong bonds, and seek deep connections that nourish their soul.

#Tip : what happened to me.

After college, I thought I could work under anyone’s authority. My first employer, a large company, said I was not “corporate friendly” — which I believe was: asking “why” too much, and not celebrating money-making victories enough. My second employer said “you want too much vision, and you can’t have it from where you’re sitting.’’ Fine. I probably needed a Master’s degree and a few more years of experience, which was fair. But it made me unhappy, I was contributing time and energy to something that I couldn’t really understand and therefore, couldn’t properly value. I ended up quitting and taking some time to accept that I don’t work well under just anyone’s authority, and not in any industry. Now, I manage a foundation, with people who appreciate connection and value human capital, making a difference for the better to the best of our abilities. Nobody’s really the boss, we’re a team of equals and we all know who makes decisions for what, always considering everybody’s input — dynamics I couldn’t do without. Of course, we’re a small team which makes it all possible.

Making peace & best practices

As a means of closure, here are a few tips.

Don’t take it personally when someone doesn’t understand you. Not everybody has a mental structure like yours. Try to surround yourself with other zebras sometimes, but beware of their hyper-sensitivity too!

You have very strong values and principles, but don’t impose them on others. Others may have different views, and that’s okay. Beware of people with bad intentions, notice how some people are never going to care for the world and humanity the way you do. Make peace with that and run away from them!

Don’t do too much. This sense of “never good enough” could mean you’re doing too much and taking on other people’s responsibilities on your shoulders! How tiring!! Stopping that means others will have to fill in the gaps, and you may be able to do just what needs to be done for you.

Take care of yourself first, and leave in blanks to practice your creativity! Let others deal with their own lives (unless it’s your children and they’re underage, haha). Remember to have space for yourself. Respect and love yourself before you share your Self with others. Collective thinking is great if you’re able to bring in a healthy “self” in the “collective”.

Make peace with the fact that everybody needs to travel his or her own learning journey, at their pace and feel valued for their learnings. Not everybody likes to learn from others. Have patience. You will meet people who will need your advice, and value your lucidity and incredible mind. You’re often right, and frustrated when others come to the conclusion you found a while back, but don’t hurt yourself by tricking your thoughts into feeling unheard, misunderstood, disrespected or ignored.

Practice small talk and become good at it. Don’t underestimate the power of small talk. You seek authentic and real human connections, so in social situations, it’s hard to small talk, but it’s the start of most relationships.

Speak to enlighten, inspire and bring together. Be yourself. Don’t play dumb to fit in. Don’t speak to show off. Don’t put yourself in a climate of competition. Playing dumb can be hurtful to others (you’re dumbing down everybody) and can be hurtful to you. Showing off can be harmful too, and can lead to a climate of competition where being right becomes more important than creating deep and meaningful bonds.

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