Why Do We Try So Hard to Conform?

Last week I finished reading an excellent book, ‘The Art of Non-Conformity‘ by Chris Guillebeau.

I have wanted to read this book for quite a while.  Once I discovered Kindle for PC, I downloaded it.  Look through my bookstore (you will find it in the wish list category) and pick up a copy of your own.

This book really got me thinking.

In particular, it has me asking why do we try so hard to conform?

Why do we try to be like everyone else? Why do we fall into line and do what everyone else is doing? Why do we do what we’re told is normal and acceptable, despite the fact it makes us miserable?

Why are we so damned afraid to be ourselves?

I understand the need to fit in as children and young adults. I understand the effect and consequences peer pressure can have on vulnerable young minds. It is a normal human emotion to want to be liked and accepted.

The problem is these urges to fit in and conform continue into adulthood sometimes causing us to be in unsuitable relationships and careers.

Here are some of my initial thoughts on how to stop conforming.

Be a leader

The word leader will no doubt mean different things to different people.

One thing I know for sure is you don’t have to be a Manager or CEO of a major company to lead people.

You can be a leader by inspiring people, by calling them to action. You can be a leader by adding value to people’s lives and showing them there is a different way of getting things done.

You become a leader by taking remarkable, innovative actions.

Don’t be a sheep

You don’t become a leader by being a sheep. You don’t become a leader by taking on a personality that isn’t true to yourself.

You become a sheep by falling into line, by not asking questions, when you really feel like screaming, “Is this all there is?’

If you have a niggling feeling life is not quite right or there is a better way of going about things and making yourself happy, then don’t be afraid to stand up and be heard.  Don’t be afraid to head off in a different direction.

Don’t blindly do what you are told

We should be questioning the status quo.  Sometimes we need to ask the tough questions, instead of simply doing what we are told by authorities or people in control.

Sadly we tend to question the people who are trying to make a difference. We question people when they step out of line, instead of questioning the people who are standing in line blindly following orders, fashions or trends.

The cynics are quick to tear into people trying to be different, particularly when they don’t have the courage to be different themselves.

Don’t blindly follow the trends

It seems we are a culture obsessed with following trends regardless of how trivial, meaningless or insignificant they are. What else could explain our obsession with celebrities who are unworthy of our attention?

Don’t get me wrong, I think we all require our harmless forms of escapism.  However if you are constantly surrounded by meaningless pursuits, don’t be surprised if you have a life of little substance.

The more fluff in your life, the more likely you won’t be standing out from the crowd and pursuing your passions.

Dispute the status quo

How often do we do something a certain way, simply because that is the way it’s always been done?

Someone tells us something can’t be done and we agree..

If you asked a lot of people about the prospect of travelling overseas for a long period of time they would tell you it can’t be done. It’s too expensive, it’s too hard to organise, your career will suffer etc.  The list of reasons not to take the plunge is usually quite long.

Spend ten minutes on the Internet and you will find a lot of blogs written by people who have been traveling for years on the road. Some of them are traveling with young children (another option people easily right off as not possible).

It can be done. There are people out there doing it as I write this.

I think one of the turning points for me was travelling overseas for 8 months in South East Asia and Eastern Europe.  I experienced for myself the amazing opportunities that exist once you step out of your comfort zone.  I wasn’t on a gap year either, so don’t use the excuse you have to be young to follow your travel dream (or any dream for that matter).  I was 37 when I set off on my big adventure.

This is one example.  There are countless ways you can challenge the status quo.

One point I would like to add here.  Ditching the status quo isn’t always easy.  Come to think of it – it can be downright difficult depending on what you are trying to achieve.  Trying to find your unique place in the world can be a hard but thoroughly worthwhile endeavour.

Find Your Tribe

Many times I think we hide who we really are because we are afraid to be standing alone. The perception of being alone in our pursuits and beliefs scares us.

The truth is that probably won’t be the case. With the Internet at our fingertips, it is easy to find like-minded people who share our beliefs, whatever they may be. Don’t think you are alone.

The more I try to ditch the status quo, the more I uncover all of the amazing people forging their own path.  There is a massive community of risk takers, innovators, leaders and people pursuing what is really important to them.

It is the great leaders and people who inspire us who are typically the ones that don’t conform.

Are you happy with the level of conformity in your life?  Maybe it’s time for you to discover your unique and powerful voice.

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