Something that I’ve always been extremely passionate about is the idea of conformity. In psychology, conformity is the term coined to describe our behavior in which we agree, or we follow certain standards based on society, social peers, religion, etc. I really have no huge problem with conformity, because it is a part of human nature. When I see a crowd of people looking up at the sky, I look up at the sky. When your classmates immediately flip to the front of the test booklet, I do the same, even though I’m too afraid to look and see what I have to answer first.
However, there are times when conforming to certain ideals can be disastrous. For example, think of the Holocaust, which is considered to be one of history’s most devastating, violent and unethical events of all time. Was it a genocide, or was it just a bunch of men conforming to orders conducted by a single leader? The truth of the matter is that it was both. Nazis simply followed what they were commanded to do. Were they against their commands? It’s possible, but many of them killed the Jewish people anyways because of the social conformity. It wasn’t their fault. The atrocities they were committing were posed as justifiable, honorable deeds for a country. Nazism was all they knew. Whoever resisted orders was severely punished, even killed.
Not everyone who refuses to conform is necessarily a good person. Rosa Parks was an amazing non-conformist who disagreed with the injustices of society and stood bravely for her beliefs; now, we look to her as one of the world’s greatest altruists. Steve Jobs was one of the most famous entrepreneurial leaders who helped advance one of the biggest companies in the world, never conformed to one single iPhone, yet was despised by his coworkers and those who loved him the most. Vani Hari of the Food Babe refuses to conform to the American diet and now exposes the dark secrets of most fast food chains. Does everyone like her? Search up the Sci Babe to see for yourself. But what I admire about non-conformists overall is their bravery and their confidence in their intuition. They generally don’t care about what other people think of them.
Most people are afraid to not conform. That is why it is so daunting to quit a job that pays fairly, but involves tedious work that you’re not passionate about, to quit university where you listen to lecture after lecture, feeling obligated to conform to whatever you’re taught, even if it goes against your ethics, or even the simplest things such as coming out or changing your own lifestyle. There are two problems that you don’t want to face: one is that you eliminate your only source of income/education, or two, you fear the reactions of those around you. Either way, it is the fear of the unknown. I was so scared to share my story, my love for health and fitness, because I was scared of what people would think of me. But at the same time, I was conforming to a life under a label as the “shy girl”–I may be shy, but I didn’t want to conform to that ideal anymore. I wanted to be different, and I wanted people to see me with a whole new perspective. I realized that once I did, I touched so many more hearts than I thought. It was and is still a blessing to hear from them every day.
I don’t blame people who conform–I’m guilty of it too. Some are afraid of being different, not being accepted or not having a set path. Some even agree with what they are conforming to. All of these reasons are absolutely fine! Conformity only becomes a problem when you are against the ethics behind this conformity, but yet you still follow it. It’s basically one of those elements that can either be used to your own advantage or to your disadvantage. You can be the non-conformist who corrects the teacher when he or she makes a mistake on the board, or you can conform to silence and pretend as if everything’s okay. What path do you usually choose?
Everyone is a leader in their own way, and everyone is a conformist in their own way. What’s important is that you always do you. Don’t conform to a cause that goes against your beliefs and lead what you believe is right, but you need to educate yourself and see both sides of the story first. Weigh the pros and cons of not conforming or choosing to conform, and accept what you get afterwards.
Do you know any other amazing non-conformists? What are your thoughts on conformity?