We humans tend to be like pack animals—safe in our herds. We don’t like to stand out too much; at a primal level it feels unsafe.
So the question is…do you conform or think?
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 tribe 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; 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—a conscious life.
When conforming deletes your passions…
When I started my coaching business I was given a book by a good friend called, This Time I Dance by Tama Kieves. It is the story of a woman who did what her family expected and became a lawyer. Deep down however, she always wanted to be a writer.
Writing was not an acceptable career choice in her family because it could not guarantee a consistent and solid income. So she conformed and became a lawyer. By doing this, she discovered she was miserable. Ultimately she found the courage to follow her passion.
Today she gives workshops on this subject. By doing this she makes a lot more money than she did as a lawyer. If you want an example of finding the courage to follow your passion her book is worth the read!
Remember, if everyone in your family goes to college and becomes doctors, lawyers or other professionals, and you want to go to cooking school and become a baker, it will take courage to follow that dream. But before you just enroll in college and conform to what is expected, take the time to consciously think about what you really want to do with your future.
When conforming negates your healthy instincts…
Have you ever had that gut feeling that you should do something different but you don’t because you’re not sure how it would be perceived by others?
As a first year teacher many years ago I was confronted with a situation that college never prepared me for in the area of classroom management. That year a child was placed in my classroom that had severe behavior problems. I frequently had to make split second decisions on how to handle this child. This happened often in front of other teachers that had many years of experience over me. Those teachers thoughtfully shared their ideas, which I gladly listened to. However, in the end, I went with what my gut told me to do in managing this child. And what my gut told me did not follow conveniently thinking. I’m glad I listened to my gut. I made great strides with this child and earned a reputation among my peers of being highly skilled in classroom management.
We have often learned to override our instincts. However, instincts are there for a reason and often containing great insight. Once again finding the courage to listen to those instincts is the hardest part.
When conforming squelches your truth…
Living a lie is exhausting. When we are not true to who and what we really are life becomes burdensome. Finding the courage to tell your truth can be difficult because it often results in being alienated from the very tribe in which you belong.
Years ago a friend shared with me that he was gay but could not tell his family because he knew they would reject him. This person struggled thru much of his life. Ultimately, it became so hard to live a lie, that telling the truth was less painful. When he finally did share with his family it was tough. Ultimately it all worked out and the family accepted his choice.
Maybe you were raised to be Catholic but don’t feel connected there.
Maybe you are drawn to date people from a different culture but don’t because of what others might think.
Have a conscious conversation with yourself about what your truths are and see if you are acting in accordance with those truths.
When conforming harms others…
In elementary school a boy in my class had purposely torn up a project of another student. When the teacher asked the class who did it, I told who had done it. I immediately received dirty looks from all the other students in the class. That was my first experience in what happens when you don’t go along with the rule of ‘not telling on others’.
Today we have a big problem with bullying and abusive behavior towards others. But conforming so we do not get the dirty looks or experience the rejection of others doesn’t solve our problem. When our conforming behavior allows physical and psychological pain to continue for others it is time to reexamine our truths.
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 we consciously choose to access our courage so we can live a life in accordance to whom and what we really are!
Dedicated to creating greater consciousness!
Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications
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