Be Yourself: Everybody Else is Taken
Be proud of what makes you, you.
Over the course of my existence, one topic that I’ve spoken about passionately and thought about very frequently is the importance of maintaining individuality.
I’ve always asked countless people about their thoughts about the topic of being yourself and true to who you are, and I find that an astonishing number of people forsook their individuality just to receive that precious luxury of acceptance by others.
And to be quite frank, a little saddening.
Readers may find my tone in this post to be a lot stronger than in my other previous writings. Part of me will apologize in advance to any who may be offended, but part of me knows that being real with others, even if it means sounding passionate at times, is of paramount importance. A topic like this knows no silence from me. In this story, I speak and write on behalf of all who experience and have experienced unjustified mistreatment as a result of their differences.
So without further ado, let’s dissect what it means to be yourself and why it’s so important.
What a sad phenomenon; not in the sense of compliance with the rules or laws, but rather in the human nature sense. You see it in the audiences when that one person doesn’t want to be the only one left with their hand down, or up, whether the terms apply to them or not. You see it at parties when the one innocent person begins to binge-drink because of the “peer pressure” of those around them. You may even see it when a group of people wearing white socks starts to make fun of a person wearing yellow socks with purple polka dots.
Let’s think about this for a moment: Is lacking a spine a desirable trait?
History isn’t my forte, so my best guess is that similarity amongst humans was desirable to ensure longevity of the species. Any form of dissent in a tribe would’ve hurt chances of survival, so it was best that everyone work together towards one common interest to promote survival.
And I guess ever since then, people kept on mushing together to fit into one common crowd like a school of fish, swimming in the same direction even if it led them into the jaws of a predator. You can’t say you haven’t seen people do the silliest of things just to fit in with the rest of the crowd, so… What is so bad about standing out?
Let’s just use the previous examples to emphasize my point.
Whether the truth applies to them or not, some people will simply categorize themselves in certain ways just so that they can appear to be a part of something larger than themselves. One example is if a teacher asks her students to raise their hands if they have ever personally owned a phone, computer, or any kind of electronic device. For most students, yes they have owned a device, but there are a few, for whatever reason, who haven’t. However, they too slowly put their hands up. Some may do it so they don’t be judged as “poor” or unsophisticated with modern technology (which is insecurity in its own right and thus its own issue) but I know some people do it just for the sake of fitting in.
I have personally seen countless cases of people being asked some sort of question, knowing that some audience members do not qualify in some area and yet they say they do by raising their hands. As I do when I don’t understand, I ask them why and I often hear them sheepishly say “well I didn’t want to be the only one with his/her hand down.”
Or what about the party example, where the student drinks way too much for their own good just so they can be “cool” and fit in with all the other heavy drinkers? Sure, it’s perfectly okay to risk your health for some temporary acceptance in an immature crowd that defines you based off of the actions you take.
The same goes for the poor chap with his own taste in socks being harassed by those who all wear white socks. I’ve seen it happen. Somebody has decided not to fit in with those around him, so he is somehow deserving of isolation, disrespect, and mockery, even though he has committed no wrongdoing.
In fact, I myself have never bothered to fit in with humanity and I naturally do not for my own reasons. I have needlessly faced mistreatment as a consequence, solely because I am different.
You can’t tell me that this is justified, because it’s not.
With all this in mind, I can reasonably conclude that conformity derives from a number of things:
- The primitive desire to just blend in. Sometimes, there is no reason for conforming to the crowd. Some people do it without any thought just to fit in and not be by themselves.
- Not wanting to face isolation, disrespect, and/or mockery. The guy with his unique socks may end up wearing white socks because the stress of being harassed is too much for him to take.
- Wanting to be accepted. Many times, people consciously conform to the behaviors and actions of others because they want to be accepted and acknowledged. Such is the case for the student who goes on a drinking bout even though it’s their first time drinking just so they can seem cool and not like a “loser” who doesn’t know how to have fun at a party.
Honestly, doing something simply because others are doing it without any reason of your own is a spineless action on your part. Changing your socks to fit in is more forgivable, but you have other ways of dealing with harassment that doesn’t involve conformity. Wanting to be accepted even if it means doing unnecessary, stupid actions is completely reckless and ill-thought.
On the other hand, if you are one of those people who isolate, disrespect, mock, degrade, and harass others because of their differences and outstanding qualities that don’t fit into the “norm,” you should take some time to seriously reconsider your thought processes, mentality, and reasoning behind your actions. Your bullying is not helping.
So now we’ve taken a closer look at conformity and why the phenomenon takes place. Now we’ll go into why it’s harmful and unhelpful.
I didn’t create this story to throw a rant at my readers; the phenomenon of conformity itself isn’t a beneficial one, and I want to highlight that. It tears away at individuality, it creates isolation/bullying behaviors, and it pressures people to take actions that they may regret later and/or become that which they are not.
Let’s examine the reasons more closely:
- It tears away at individuality. Too many times have I facepalmed upon hearing someone say that they did something just because other people did. What kind of conclusion is that? With that logic, you might as well jump off a cliff because everyone else is doing so. There is no sign of an independently acting individual if all they do is do what others are doing. If anyone wants to enlighten me and tell me why some people conform for the sake of conforming, please do in a reply below, because I don’t have much of an explanation myself.
- It creates isolation/bullying behaviors. When people conform together, it develops an “us vs. them” mentality. Everyone within the category of “us” is on our side because we all think the same, act the same, and do the same. Everyone within the category of “them” is strange, weird, ugly, dumb, or (insert negative adjective here) because they are not like us. Yeah, they may not recite the past two sentences out loud but it seems to represent their mentality because that’s how conformists often act around those who are different; with air of supremacy, rudeness, isolation, disrespect, and/or mockery. This behavior seems to share the same origins as the innate human fear of that which is different, but that makes sense since conformity is the opposite of difference. This unfair mistreatment towards those who are different is cruel and unreasonable and should not exist, but it does because of the sad phenomenon known as conformity.
- It pressures people to take actions that they may regret later and/or become that which they are not. Some people have a gut feeling about not doing something but do it anyway to be accepted into the crowd. The drinking example I used earlier is very common amongst the immature youth. The rage among teens tends to be alcohol or drug-related, and that if you didn’t participate in either activity, you were a loser and a “no-life.” Interesting how people who promote such ideas end up turning into aimless drunkards and druggies, failing with academics and making no use of their life whatsoever. What a wonderful choice of their time. Are those the people you really want to be around? For many of you, the answer seems to be “yes” to a lot of you teens and young adults out there, because I know not all of you want to engage in drinking or taking drugs but you do so anyway because participating in either is “necessary” to enjoy your youth, even if it means getting into unnecessary trouble, health problems, and addictions.
Now if you have the maturity to detect and admit to any of these traits within yourself, I would strongly recommend forsaking conformity in exchange for individuality. Yes, these are mutually exclusive.
- When you do something simply because other people are, you aren’t acting off of individual reasoning or basis.
- When you create an “us” group to begin with, you aren’t thinking from your own individual perspective. You’ve molded with others and without you knowing, became just like them in a number of ways, and you begin thinking from the whole “us” perspective.
- When you do something just to be accepted, especially if you have a gut feeling or inside feeling that it’s wrong and/or you don’t want to, you aren’t acting truly of your own individual will.
Let me be clear, though. Maintaining individuality and being yourself doesn’t mean forsaking those who share the same beliefs or those with whom you genuinely share the pleasure of doing certain activities together. It’s when you change your true self and your dear beliefs to match others’ beliefs and force yourself to indulge in the same things as others that it turns into conformity. Changing any part of yourself to take part in behaviors or activities that are deemed “cool” or “superior” in any way is conformity. Anything you do involving others that is out of the picture of the real you is conformity.
Spend a lot of time away from your “usual crowd” and really think about the whole picture of you and them. Evaluate your actions and your behavior around them, and take notice of any changes that take place between whenever you’re around them or by yourself. If you’ve been conforming for a while, you may not even know who you truly were before, which is a whole different problem in and of itself, and you’ll need to do a lot of deep inner searching to overcome that hurdle. However, if you have even the slightest grasp of who you truly are, how you act, and what you like to do, focus on those traits of yourself and practice exhibiting them once again.
As long as who you originally were doesn’t involve the harming of others, stand by your individuality and be proud of who you are, for there is no one in the world who is truly like you. Express your uniqueness through your quirks. Have your own fashion style, your own form of speech, or your own kind of music. If someone disagrees with your taste, who cares? You’re not for everybody, and not everybody is for you. If they don’t like you, they can walk away. They can take it or leave it, but don’t let them change you.
As I wrap up this post, you may be wondering to yourself, “Why the spite? Why does Lucas seem so ticked off towards the ‘conformists?’”
And you aren’t wrong. I generally am ticked off towards these people, because it just so happens that people who conform tend to conform to doing and believing in ill-thought, pathetic, immoral things and exhibiting primitive and extremely immature behaviors, both of which can bring harm and trouble to those not seeking it.
So not only do you get a bunch of followers with no sense of independence but a special bonus of a troop of monkeys that make fools of themselves because somehow, it’s perceived as “cool” among their kind. And then people look at them and think they’re cool or they have FOMO (fear of missing out) or fear of looking like a loser (ironic, huh?) so they join the crowd. Soon enough, the crowd gets so big that it seems to involve just about everyone around you in some way, with the exception of the actual adults and elderly. And when you see people conforming to the silliest of things on a daily basis, then yeah, you can get pretty annoyed.
The kind of conformist behavior that I see and look upon with disdain includes:
- Kids partying so hard that they end up damaging public property. I mean, you’re not actually cool until you knock over and break things with zero self-control thanks to alcohol and drugs.
- People becoming bullies, even knowing that it’s wrong, because they want to be a part of the cool crowd and don’t want to be perceived as loser if they choose not to beat up the “nerd” and steal his lunch.
- People becoming obsessed with popularity and in the process become fake, disrespectful, rude, immature, and (personally) unbearable. It’s kind of like the previous point, only not tied to bullying, but rather to that precious social status in junior high that people care so much about that they go about building themselves up on the social ladder at other peoples’ expense.
As an observer of conformist behavior and never a partaker, I disagree with it and any form of it due to the damage it causes on both an individual and group level.