You do you

Image via Jerry Kiesewetter

A person can still retain their individuality within a group.

If there are only two parties, two teams, etc., you have to choose the one that comes closest to your beliefs. Choosing sides does not necessitate absolute obedience, nor concede your uniqueness.

When it comes to conformity, there will always be different levels of intensity. People are too complex.

There is little reward for doing what you're told. And there's more to gain from riding the sides.

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Thinking hard about culture


Culture is a broad term used to describe the habits and practices of society. Cultures differ because people differ–in looks, tastes, and religion–and when there's a hodgepodge of cultures, they mix to create something novel, i.e. America, which then becomes its own cultural pillar.

As broad as culture is, in say music with its infinite number of genres and subgenres, it can also be limiting. For instance, the three most popular operating systems smartphones run on are iOS, Android, and Microsoft. Given the scarcity of choice, people choose sides, resulting in Apple fans, Google geeks, and Microsoft traditionalists.

But even when there's a variety of choice, a favorite always wins out. Whether it's a preferred operating system, musician, film, or shoe style, some cultures become mainstream. If you copy such trends, you are the benefactor of the wisdom of crowds. If you're an early adopter or renegade, you look for things on the edges which are a plausible reaction to the herd mentality.

Given culture’s categorizations, people always conform to a certain type regardless of how big or small a niche. Culture's resistance to sameness guarantees the durability of uniqueness, and there may be no better modern-day American dissenter than Mark Grief who appears to be against everything.

Read Louis Menand's Cultural Criticism and the Way We Live Now

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There is little reward for conformity


Conformity is a personal crisis. You're not going to die, but you're certainly not going to stand out. Uniqueness is the seed of self-expression. Taylor Swift started writing music because her school made her feel like an outcast. But rejection is the cue, a signal to create your own style.

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

N0w I don't want to go so far as to compare the accomplishments of Taylor Swift to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s but the idea is similar — when you're trying something different you're unpopular by default.

You can either cop-out and follow the herd or decide to be your own person, make your own decisions, and convince others to come along with you. Leadership is often the hardest to skill to develop and maintain. Once you reach a level of success, you'll need to find your way back to solitude to maintain your original thinking.

You can either tell your story or live the life of someone else's. Society needs difference makers, not people that all think and act the same. It takes courage to be yourself, but you’ll be happier if you craft the life you want rather than racing on the same racetrack as everybody else.

More fuel.

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Scary to be ordinary

  • Show your quirks
  • Embrace individuality
  • Practice creativity

It’s not you’re fault you are who you are and everybody else feigns to be the same. But being different has its own costs: loneliness, misinterpretation, and ridicule. You can’t be like other people because you’re too damn honest.

The easiest people to please will always be others. The hardest person to please will always be yourself. You just have to choose if you want to be ordinary and mediocre or different and significant.

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People on the move

Following others is risky. Just yesterday I saw a man nearly get hit because he decided to follow the woman in front of him who was dashing across the street. At the next light, I saw the same situation, except this time the person following had their head down looking at their phone.

Following others can be both a conscious and automatic decision. You assume that the path in front of you is safe because it’s already been paved by someone else. But the reason God gave us our own set of eyes and brains is to release us from the prison of conformity.

You make your own decisions, what you eat, what you read, what you share online, and where you want to travel. Everything you do is mostly up to you.

Indeed, your individuality can explained in the way you behave at a crosswalk. Will you follow others like a lemming or dictate your own style and pace? When you follow because other people are also going in that direction, you may pose a risk to yourself.

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Peer Pressure

First you reject it and then you get ridiculed. Your status as outcast becomes a stigma for all future requests at conformity. Until you stop getting asked to join altogether.

Joining the herd sounds like a wiser idea, a temporary investment to get in the pack while maintaining your individuality, at least in your head.

It takes time to influence other people. Your style is easy to express but hard to duplicate.

The trick to blending in is to stand out even more. If you want that investment you’ll need to play by the rules to get it.

Conformity is a myth. Suck it up at first and then lead by example. The goal isn’t necessary to develop a following; the goal is to be yourself and be appreciated for being different while avoiding full exclusion. The misfits still need to sell themselves.

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