“One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself.” ― Shannon L. Alder
Why do You have this Urge to Conform?
To be what others think you should be, to do what society dictates that you should do.
This is part of the human condition. To belong. But in that process you lose yourself. You forget who you are, who you want to be, what you want to do. If you have low self-esteem you want to conform, if you are fearful of what the world holds, you conform, if you suffer from a lack of motivation, you conform.
Conforming is doing what is expected, whether by others or by family or by your community. You fulfil other’s expectations rather than your own. You lose your individuality. You put on a mask which drains your energy.
Sometimes it is necessary to conform, for example, in times of restrictions. Currently you have health issues all over the world so it is necessary to conform to health guidelines to stop this pandemic, to stop the sickness and deaths. You need to conform to road rules or there would be chaos on the roads.
Society does need to have social norms, security and certainty so you don’t live in a negative or unsafe place. You need to be able to function as a community so there is some need for conformity.
However, most of the time you have conformed in your own life areas that you now don’t know what you want out of life. You don’t know what’s important to you. You aren’t happy. You don’t live a fulfilling life. You lose who you truly are.
Why You Need Courage
To look at how you can see who the real you is you need to have courage. Courage to stand out and stand up for what you believe, to live your values (what’s important to you). This is why courage is the opposite to conformity.
Being brave is not condoned in this world of ours. To be able to say I can live how I want, to do what I believe. You hear it, the people that do this are shunned or looked upon differently for not being ‘normal’.
What is normal though? We have been conditioned to believe that we should be selfless and not selfish, to care for others over the care of ourselves, to live to work rather than work to live.
You stop living and wait for someday, you wait for retirement, you wait for more money or time. You are always waiting to live your life and then that day of waiting never stops.
You start off conforming, adhering to the social norms, being who your family expects you to be, prioritising everyone else. You want safety and certainty, forgoing adventure and variety. Life is often mediocre and passive. You neglect yourself.
Now some of you then get this little niggle. A little niggle that says there’s got to be more to life, surely there is happiness out there, why am I here, when is life going to get better?
So, you start looking around, looking for an answer to these questions or niggles. You search through social media; you look it up on the web. There is limited direction, but you are a seeker of ‘more’. You get encouraged when you see what is out there and you start to dream.
You dream of another life. You dream of all the things you can do. You dream of designing your own life instead of living other people’s lives and you get excited, there is anticipation. Then you get scared and overwhelmed about it all and the enormity of change.
Unfortunately, then you let ‘reality’ set in. A reality where you go back to telling yourself that it would be selfish for you to do that course, to go out and live this way, to behave a certain way. You become disappointed and life looks gloomy again.
You go back to be the conformist. You go back to groundhog day. Everyday looking the same. Everyday being an imposter, wearing a mask, not being who you really want to be. It's a life without passion.
Getting Out of the Cycle
Getting out of the cycle doesn’t mean you become insensitive to others or disregard the needs of others. It means you know who you are, what you stand for, what your boundaries are and design your own life.
So how can you get out of the cycle?
There are 4 ways you can do this:
1. Make a decision and start doing what you dream of doing
2. Get support from a family member or friend who would champion you
3. Find a tribe of people who match your spirit, your dreams
4. Get support from a mentor or coach to help identify where you are, where you want to be and what is actually missing in your life. Then take action.
The biggest thing is to be brave, take an initial step, once you start courage will come. You will find you gather momentum; you will feel freer, you will feel more alive.
Here are some small ways to stop being the conformist.
Don’t drink with your friends if you don’t want to
Don’t go out just because your family say it’s important to
Stop distracting yourself with unimportant tasks and take the time to listen to what you truly want
Stop worrying about what other people think of you
Know your values so you can live what’s important to you
Create a Bucket List so you have something to work towards
Speak up if something is said that doesn’t align with your values
Don’t judge others on how they live their lives concentrate on yours
Assess the groups you belong to and see if they still match what you value
Don’t compare yourself to people on social media
Limit time watching TV especially the news
Keep track of what triggers you and why
Take some personal development courses to start uncovering who you are
Actively look at your personal growth
Experiment with your likes and dislikes
Persevere if you get negativity coming into your life from those around you
Don’t get defensive if others question what you are doing
Wear what makes you happy
Set some boundaries and communicate them
Don’t try to change others
Ask yourself the question “Why am I doing this”? Is it because you want to or because you are expected to?
Understand though that when you start taking action, having the courage to speak up and not to conform to what you have been doing for years there can be repercussions. Family may not appreciate why you are now acting differently or suddenly doing things for yourself. Friends may not understand why you don’t want to go our drinking or sit around gossiping if this is not aligned with who you are.
Tension may arise with those around you. Be okay with that. Communicate what is going on with you and why you are now changing how your behaviour or speaking out against what you may have previously let slide.
People will get used to it or they may move out of your life. This is the choice you have. Stay conforming and living an unhappy life or become alive by being who you are and be alright with the consequences.
You will find a new tribe.
You will get clarity on why you are here.