The forces of conformity have always been quite strong through history. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson who was an American essayist, lecturer and poet in the 18th century he says; ‘’for non-conformity the world whips you with its displeasure”. Before we go deeper into this, let’s by define conformity.
Conformity is the imitation of behaviors, beliefs and values which are considered socially acceptable. We should also note that non conformity is not merely the rejection of things socially accepted just out of the desire to be different, because like the normal conformist their mind is still shaped by external forces which is the crowd. The non-conformist can adopt socially accepted behaviors because he/she understands their benefits while the conformist adopts them merely because of acceptance.
True non-conformity is when one’s life path and character are shaped by behaviors, beliefs and values which are chosen for personal and authentic reasons. In today’s world, conformity has a strong hold on communities and I basically feel that culture also has a major part to play.
Culture is the ideas, customs and social behavior of a particular people or society, a lot of times this gets misrepresented because a lot of people fail to recognize that culture was made for man not man for culture. Using Africa (Because that’s where I’m from and live) as a case study, our so called culture in various forms has limited growth and diversity, because we have allowed ourselves to be held back by ideas that were created at a different reality.
Please note I’m not suggesting that culture itself is the problem because I believe that culture is meant to uplift man’s experience here on earth and give a sense of direction to him/her. The problem is the people who enforce the culture on the masses.
The question now is why do people conform? The obvious reason we can all agree to is “Fear Of Rejection”. People want to be accepted because it gives them a sense of validation, and sadly this is actually how a lot of us have been brought up. We are taught to shut down a passion or skill because it might not be generally accepted or understood by the public, forgetting that it is the non-conformist who brings forth new ideas, creations and ways of living which produce a vibrant society (Nikola Tesla).
Subconsciously we are taught to conform to societal standards with the hope of gaining some sort of security, neglecting purpose and true fulfillment for a life of mediocrity that is popularly accepted.
Social media has become the major medium for conformity in this age where we seek validation from likes, follows and comments.
As good as social media is, one has to be careful not to be distracted by the illusions it comes with. School also plays a part in programming our mindsets to conformity, and unconsciously we grow up not really living our lives, but existing in a monotonous society.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits, The rebels, The troublemakers, The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
― Rob Siltanen
I got some of the material for this write up from Academy Of Ideas on Youtube.