When making decisions, most often we conform to what we think we “should” do. We conform because of the want and need to belong, to be accepted. To have affirmation and acceptance from others is innate in us all. However, we also the need to be our intrinsic selves.
Also there is an unwritten belief that by creating external happiness it will create internal happiness. This belief is damaging to our spirits, to our core, to our future. True joy and peace of mind comes from living and experiencing life through our intrinsic self.
We are constantly being bombarded by social media, marketing and institutions which condition us to conform, and strengthen the belief that happiness comes from the external, not the internal.
We are taught that if we do not conform that we will be left out, or that something is wrong with us. Those are difficult feelings when we innately need to belong.
Remember in school how badly we wanted to be picked first or to win, to belong to the popular kids and if not, we might have had feelings of not being good enough, inadequate or feeling less than, because we did not conform.
Frequently people have this feeling of needing to be normal. But what is normal? Look at a dictionary’s description of the word normal: usual, standard, ordinary, customary, expected, typical, common, regular, set, fixed, a dime a dozen.
That is not how I want to live my life. I want to be anything but normal. Normal is not who any of us are.
There is a strong pull in us to conform due to this need to belong. A study was done where 10 people were put in a room. Nine of them were “plants” as part of the experiment. The other individual was the person being tested. A simple question was asked that had a very obvious answer. The nine “plants” gave the wrong answer just to conform. The tenth person gave the incorrect answer intentionally just to confirm even though they knew the answer was wrong. That is a strong confirmation of how much of a need we have to belong and conform.
What do you imagine the cost is to ourselves for conforming? It’s enormous: low self-esteem, poor sense of self, addiction, overworking, cluttering our time with unimportant things, depression, and anxiety, just to name a few ways inauthenticity manifests.
Considering all of this, how do we hold relationships and the need to belong and yet hold our true selves?
Not an easy question to answer, and one I do not have the perfect answer to. What I do know is when we are true to who we are, we have more to offer others, to our community and our world.
That is a very broad answer, but it makes a lot of sense. I encourage you to ponder what this would look like for yourself.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“It’s easy to stand with the crowd. It takes courage to stand alone,” said Mahatma Gandhi.
Or, as musician John Lennon once said, “It’s weird not to be weird.”
So true. Be adventurous, live who you truly are. It is what life is about. That is when we have the most to give.
Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at [email protected] or DrZavala.com.