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  • Writer's pictureDora Nudelman

The Pressure to Conform

There are times in our lives when we will be faced with a choice to either follow the beaten path or to forge a path of our own. Unfortunately, the bulk of society will often want us to beat the same drum but, what’s worse, too often we will feel the pull to do so, even if it goes against our very best judgment.

No one wants to feel like the pariah of society, ostracized and unaccepted. But sometimes we need to ask ourselves what’s more important, fitting in, or acting on our personal truth?

At the end of the day, regret does not come from living by our own terms but, rather, following a path that is not truly authentic to who we are or what we truly believe. Living is more than just checking off boxes and gaining approval. Life is about exploration and outside-the-box thinking. So when the call comes to forge a new or different path from the mainstream, let’s choose wisely because our decision will shape the type of person we will be and paint the type of life we are going to have.

And so, if you aren’t sure of what’s true, if you have questions, or if you feel there might be another way, do not ignore that spark in favor of conformity. Instead, explore that path further and see where it might lead you, for a life lived with curiosity, is a life lived fully.

Making choices that go against the grain is often not the easiest path to take, for people tend to get very attached to what they believe, and will defend those beliefs tooth and nail. As such, you will likely receive pushback if you dare go against the norm. But when you look into the mirror you will be able to say with total confidence that you are living an authentic life, and that makes up for all those challenges you will likely come across.

In reality, conformity only makes sense when we do it because it makes sense. But when we conform out of fear of otherwise not fitting in, or we conform because we are afraid of what we might find, we are not doing ourselves any service. The point is, we do not have to know all of the answers ahead of time in order to forge our own path. All we need to do is trust our instincts and follow the first step that presents in front of us. We must have faith and have confidence that as we live our truth, the world around us will open up to support our endeavors, even if at first it takes the shape of resistance. But this just tests our resolve. And once we get to the other side of that, we will feel more alive than ever before.

Moreover, the more we are willing to stand up for what is true, the more we will realize that we are not alone in doing so. We will inevitably meet people who share our same passions. And we will be able to lead by example, showing others that they need not fear standing in their own truth as well.

People are creatures of habit and, because of that, change can seem very threatening indeed. But security that is built upon sugar blocks is not built on a strong foundation. And so, while it might seem safer to conform to the status quo, when the truth is revealed, the fall will, unfortunately, be that much harder. Contrarily, being open to other possibilities leaves us with a foundation of freedom, flexibility, and opportunity, which is where real security resides.

The world ebbs and flows, like a palm tree swaying in the breeze. As such, flexibility is our friend, for bending in the wind is what keeps us from breaking. Being apprehensive about questioning the norms we have been taught to believe all of our lives is natural. But nothing ever evolves without evolution. Sometimes narratives need to adapt and change in order for new possibilities to arise. And sometimes we need to switch gears if we are going to find a better way forward. But the way to do that is not by ignoring new information or choosing to close our eyes for fear of what we might see. Rather, it is by asking the questions and being open to the answers we may not expect.

We need to ask ourselves, why do we get so defensive and aggressive when our beliefs are challenged anyway? Well, it’s because those beliefs make up the basis of our sense of security, even if that security is built on quicksand. But, still, it is what keeps us feeling sane. That element of certainty that we get from trusting the tried and true is what makes us feel stable. But false security does not create ultimate stability; it only deludes us into believing something until something else comes along to replace it. That is why the mainstream narrative is so hard to change at the start of any revolutionary movement; because the revolution brings a different set of eyes, and that new perspective feels threatening to the status quo. But eventually what is revolutionary becomes the mainstream, only to be challenged again by future generations that might, once again, see things differently as new information comes to light.

So why do so many of us prefer to conform? Because it feels less risky. You see, when there is a large consensus of which we are a part, we feel like we belong, we feel like we are part of the larger and stronger group, and that gives us a feeling of great security and satisfaction…strength in numbers, right? But, unfortunately, the consensus is not always right, which is a principle that has been proven time and time again throughout history.

But often in order for us to feel comfortable with change, we need there to be a large consensus, and that’s totally natural. The fact is, many of us think that the more people believe in something, the truer it must be. And while that is sometimes the case, like with the world being round, for example, other times it only prevents us from learning the truth, like when most first believed the world was actually flat.

So instead of choosing conformity over education, why not listen and learn? For if we want to be understood, we need to be willing to understand. And if we want to be authentic, we need to start trusting in ourselves. Opening our minds does not need to threaten our beliefs. In fact, if we were so certain of those beliefs in the first place, we wouldn’t feel such a strong need to defend them.

So, then, when we are conforming, let’s ask ourselves this simple question first: Why? For in that we will recognize what is truly motivating us. And when we know what is motivating us, we can start to make decisions that align us with our personal truth rather than the need to simply be accepted.

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