image by qu1j0t3
We live in a society that encourages fitting in. Conformity is not only encouraged but insisted upon in most major institutions of life. This starts at childhood. Most people want to fit in school, and there are very few students, who come out of schools with a positive experience, without fitting in. It continues as you grow up, go to higher education, and then enter the working life. Companies advertise that they want people who are creative, people who think outside the box, people who look at things with new perspective. But stray too far away from the box, or even worse, try to ignore the box given to you and attempt to create your own box, and you will be quickly reigned in.
Conformity is a requirement to succeed. As long as you want success that is commonly defined by majority of people.
What this does is that you end up saying things you know people want to hear. You talk about football, because you know your boss is a big fan. You talk about politics, because your father-in-law is into it, and you’re trying to impress him. You talk about theatre, because your friends are all culture buffs and you don’t want to appear any less cosmopolitan. Whereas the truth is, if it was entirely up to you, you would have talked about knitting and dogs and the latest episodes of Game of Thrones. So why don’t you?
Why do you spend time pretending to like things you don’t?
Why do you spend time attempting to care one bit about things you really care nothing about?
Why do you attempt to impress people by being something you are not? This is the paradox. Everyone wants to be liked and even loved for themselves. They want people – family, friends, lovers – to accept them just as they are, and yet they spend majority of time showing these people they care about, a side of them that is completely fake.
This behaviour has more to do with you, than with other people. By forcing yourself to conform, you are telling yourself that what you are isn’t good enough. You are telling yourself that your interests and hobbies aren’t interesting enough, and so you must borrow theirs to sound more interesting. You are telling yourself that you need to pretend to be better than you are for people to be impressed by you, or like you, or even love you.
This isn’t about your interests. It’s about your self-esteem.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t need to improve. Every one does. And you should always try to improve yourself, and be on a perpetual journey to become the best person you can be. But that need, desire and motivation for improvement should come from within, not because you want to impress someone.
Conformity is not all bad. For a society to survive as a whole, for families and friendships and relationships to function, you have to conform to a certain extent and consider needs of the others. I’m not advocating selfishness. I’m however advocating individuality. Conformity should never become perpetual sacrifice. It should never feel like that you are going against your conscious or covering up the essence of who you are, just to fit in.
If you have healthy self-esteem, if you believe you are worthy of love and affection just as you are, then you won’t settle for relationships that require conformity to succeed.
If you have healthy self-esteem, you will have the confidence to know that you can voice your opinions, you can talk about your interests, be honest about who you are, and still make friends, or succeed at work, or make your family proud of you.
Think about this. Journal about how much you conform, for whom, and how much it costs your individuality.
Think about how your self-esteem relates to your willingness to conform.
Think about whether you think you are worthy of love and affection, just as you are.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY
Ponder the ideas mentioned above in your journal. This isn’t a quick exercise. Figuring out connections between your self-esteem and conformity, figuring out how much importance you place on fitting in, and figuring out how much of your self-improvement is intrinsically motivated and how much is externally motivated is a tricky thing. It can take years in most cases, but all it requires is the first step to get started. So start today.