We tend to be like pack animals- we feel safe in our herds. We don’t like to stand out too much; at a primal level, it feels unsafe.
So we conform to generally accepted standards of behaviors, attitudes and beliefs within our herds, and we mostly expect others to as well.
A 75-year-old woman is not likely to dress like a 15-year-old, for example. She doesn’t belong to that tribe and may be alienated by her own if she were to dress like that.
Most of the time, we don’t even realize we are conforming. We do what others do because others do it, not because we have consciously and thoughtfully chosen it. It’s just “what is done.” Or we conform because of pressure and expectations.
Is conformity all bad? No, of course not. It’s not a bad thing to stop at red traffic lights or drive on the correct side of the road.
So when does conformity become dangerous? Below is a look at four ways conformity could be detrimental to living a full and meaningful life-your life.
When conforming deletes your passions…
Everyone in your family goes to college and becomes doctors or lawyers or other professionals. You want to go to cooking school and become a baker, but you go to college instead and get on the “right track,” majoring in finance.
When conforming negates your healthy instincts…
As a brand new mother, your instincts scream that your baby should sleep in bed with you, or at least in a crib right next to it. Yet night after night, you close the door to your baby’s room and endure 20 minutes of his crying because letting him “cry it out” is what you’re “supposed” to do.
When conforming squelches your truth…
You’ve known you were gay since childhood, but to acknowledge it would crush your family and your career. So you don’t. Your entire life feels like a lie.
When conforming harms others…
You’ve always gone along with your friends who like to harass ethnic minorities. Now they’re planning a hate crime.
Bullying, abusing, acting on dangerous ideologies and much more can bring harm to others, physically or psychologically.
What’s missing from the equation in dangerous conformity is critical, free thinking. We so cling to our groups that we miss discovering what we, ourselves, truly think and truly want.
The good news is that our true selves never really go away. They lie in wait for the day they can be set free to live the passionate, authentic, inspired life for which they were created.