5 Signs That You Might Be Settling For A Hand-Me-Down Personality

The opposite for courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow.

– Jim Hightower

We are trained, from the very beginning of our lives, to fit in. Your parents teach you how you should speak, eat, dress in a socially acceptable manner.

Your school teaches you what you should study, how you should study it, and what grades define your level of intelligence. The peer pressure tells you what kind of backpack you should have, and what shoes you should wear.

Your job teaches you how you should behave, how you should measure your performance, what kind of files you can use, and how you should label everything and make it uniform like everyone else.

And as you go through all of these stages, you are also taught how you should speak to people, avoid conflict, try not to rock the boat. So essentially, you are taught to be in the average stream where most people are floating like the dead fish mentioned in the above quote.

Most people don’t even acknowledge that they are accepting status-quo. They actually do believe that fitting in is the right thing to do. But then there are others, who simply don’t have the awareness yet. They need a trigger or a catalyst to begin their journey towards who they really are, and who they are meant to be.


The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you, but yourself.

– Rita Mae Brown



5 Signs That You Might Be Settling For A Hand-Me-Down Personality

Your entire life revolves around fitting in and not rocking the boat

Have you spent your life trying to fit in? Did you try so hard to be one of the crowds that you learned to dress like others, speak like others, and laugh at the right jokes?

Fitting in is the most common form of conformity. It starts early for most people, while they are in school. You try to fit in so you wouldn’t be the oddball on the sidelines. You try to fit in so you could be friends with the popular people, or at least so you wouldn’t be sitting alone at the cafeteria table.

You try to fit in at your job, do what everyone else is doing, sucking up to whoever everyone else is sucking up, and slowly and steadily climbing the corporate ladder.

You fit in so you could accompany your husband or wife at their office party. You fit in to be like parents of your kids’ friends so you wouldn’t embarrass them.

You go through life, trying to squeeze yourself into gaps that were not made for you.

Your first thought, when making any decision, is if someone else will approve

What is your thought process while making any important decision? Perhaps you weigh pro and cons. Perhaps you make a decision based on gut reaction. But once you have focused on your individual style, how often do you change your decision because you think someone else won’t like it?

Or perhaps you never actually make the decision because you are worried that other people won’t like it. You keep going in circles, trying to make up your mind, trying to please everyone and please yourself, and so you stay where you are. No decision. No progress.

You measure yourself against other people

How do you define your successes and failures? Is your B not good enough because your best friend or a sibling got an A? Is your salary insufficient because someone else you know makes more money? Or maybe you compare your negative situation to others. You think your job or a relationship – the one that doesn’t make you happy, and keeps you constantly dissatisfied – is good enough, because other people you know are in much worse situation.

You are unable to truly celebrate your successes, because you are always comparing yourself to how much more someone else has achieved. You sweep your failures under the carpet, because you tell yourself that other people have done much worse.

You are easily daunted when someone shots down your idea

Finally, you gather the courage to speak up. You had an idea. Something different. A solution to a problem, or simply a new way to do something. You share it with others. Then someone pipes up and says things like:

“That’s so unrealistic”

“Don’t be ridiculous. We don’t do things like that.”

“We always do it the other way.”

“It will never work.”

So you press your lips together, sink back in your seat, and try to disappear in the corner, wishing you’d never spoken up in the first place.

You rarely feel comfortable in your own skin

Every morning you wake up, wishing something was different. You go to school, and wish you were as cool as the other kids. You go to work, and wish you were as confident as the other people. You go to a party, and wish you were as sexy as someone else. You go to a place of worship and wish you had the inner tranquillity other people seem to have. You wish you had a better accept, better nose, better dress-sense. You wish your kids achieved more, or spouse earned more.

You wish you could be someone else.


Does any of the above sound like you? Be honest. Acknowledgement is the first step to advancement. Unless you acknowledge that you are in a situation you don’t want to be in, you can’t make a conscious change.  Until you acknowledge, how much the conventions of conformity have trapped you, you can’t break free.


Write in your journal about how the above five apply to you. How much of these 5 things are regular occurrence in your life? Be brutally honest, and don’t hold back. It’s time to face the truth, and then you can decide what changes you want to make.



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15 thoughts on “5 Signs That You Might Be Settling For A Hand-Me-Down Personality

  1. This post reminded me of a great one by Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist. It’s called “Stop Comparing Your Life. Start Living It.” and the part you wrote about not comparing yourself to others is wonderful.

    Although I’m not writing in a journal right now (heck, I might if you keep delivering the goods here and keep making a great argument for journaling) I am being brutally honest and trying to take action on limiting comparison.

    Kudos Dolly!

  2. I have definitely struggled with “You are easily daunted when someone shots down your idea” especially when that someone is your partner or family. that is a tough one to over come…. but you are right it can be done!

  3. Like Joel, this post made me think of comparison, and what an awful exercise it is! Comparing myself to others is something I used to do constantly, and I suffered from many (if not all) of the points you made. I had so little self confidence, and when I finally spoke up and was shot down, what little amount I had was shattered.

    Things really change when you stop the comparing game and start getting comfy in your own skin.

  4. Joel,

    If this blog turns you into a journal keeper, you let me know :-) Because I would want to count that as a success story!! I am always encouraging journaling, because I do honestly believe that no matter what your purpose, it will be immensely helpful.

    And kudos to you for having the courage to be brutally honest, and taking action.

  5. Lori,

    You are absolutely right. It is so much harder when it’s people closest to you, and yet it happens. It’s not even intentional most of the time, which I think only makes it worse because it makes you feel guilty for then arguing about it. However, we just need to get to a place where our conviction of our ideas is strong enough that we can stand up for it.

  6. Kaylee,

    Comparison to others is probably one of the worst things that hinders personal development. We are so hard wired to measure ourselves against everyone else that for most people it requires a conscious effort and mental training to let go of it.

    But congratulations on getting to the place where you are confident in yourself, and overcoming hand-me-down personality! That is a big achievement.

  7. I’ve never been able to fit in with the crowd and for years that worried me greatly. It is so freeing to realize how empowering it is to be different, to “dance to your own music.” However, I think only the most enlightened of us don’t sometimes get thrown by the disapproval of others – especially when it’s our loved ones. I agree that journaling is a wonderful tool for dealing with those upsets.

    I think it’s a constantly evolving process to get comfortable with who we truly are. Because who wants a “second hand personality?!”

  8. Sarah,

    You are right, both about the fact that it is not easy, and also about the fact that it is empowering to embrace our differences. As someone said to me the other day, “Not that I’m accusing you of normalcy” and he meant it as a compliment. For years, I have embraced who I am. If anyone calls it weird, I immediately correct them, and say unique ;) That’s empowering.

  9. Hi Dolly, I would never have thought that I am a conformist but whilst reading I realized I do more of these things than I would like. I will take out my journal and have a think about this. Awareness precedes Mastery!

  10. Ciara,

    Kudos to you for admitting that. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with conforming as long as you do it THROUGH CHOICE. As long as it makes you happy. If everyone was meant to be non-conformist, we would have a pretty chaotic world. Some people actually do enjoy just fitting in, bringing the harmony, and keeping the rest of us rebel under control. But as you said, it’s a matter of awareness. Once we have that awareness, we can decide what we want to do with it.

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and I have had my own thoughts on this very subject for years. Every one has to conform to a certain extent but I am one of these people who will, if I feel it needs to be rocked, rock the boat. I am not very well liked, purely because I tell people the truth, not what they want to hear and this does not settle with many…no matter how I word it. I don’t attend functions where I can not be myself, and I don’t follow modern trends but live the way I want to and with what I like in my home. Yes, some may say I am missing out on a lot but I would rather be happy than fit in.

  12. Jane,

    I understand exactly where you are coming. Most people avoid directness, because it makes them face truths that they would rather avoid. The best solution I have found is to associate with the just the right kind of people, because they are out there.

    It is better to be happy than fit-in, otherwise what’s the point?

  13. Man this describes me so accurately. Every one of the 5- you hit the nail on the head. And while I find it sad that these do apply to me, I find it even sadder that it seems so unrealistic that I could ever change them. I hope I learn how to do so as I start this journey.

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