Of belonging and conformity

Everyone has a need to belong, to have connection with other people, to be part of a community. Most people belong to several different communities: ethnic, linguistic, sports, religious, etc.

However, I find that most people give in and conform to mode of speech, style of dress, or some other conformant behaviour or mode. I do not. Adapting to a group is alien to my way of thinking. I like to be with people, I like belonging, but I do not feel the need to dress the same way, to talk the same way, to think the same way. I seek people similar to me, but I do not seek to adapt to them. Of course, in some case you have to learn some of the basic rules; if you are going to play soccer, then you need to know the rules of the game (which I suppose could be argued is a form of conformity).

I have a strong distaste for wearing branded clothes and avoid it if I can. I remember, in high school, my mother asking me if I wanted clothes like the other kids were wearing -- my answer was no. She did buy me some Polo shirts and I was uncomfortable wearing them -- despite their having only a small, discrete logo on the pocket.

From my point of view, while people may claim individuality and brush of suggestions of conformity with comments such as, "I like to look nice", I can't help but see them as conformists. Of course, the worst are the guardians, who feel it is their responsibility to pursue non-conformers; whether the differences are in dress, manner, speech, gastronomic, etc -- they point fingers, harass, or worse. Even if someone is not one of the outspoken guardians, they may still do it subtly, by shunning or indiscrete remarks. Granted, we cannot be friends with everyone because we simply don't get along with everyone -- but we must be cautious at looking beyond the surface at the individual inside.

I am an individual and my loyalty is to the individual, not to any group and I refuse to be branded, labeled or owned.

Do not sacrifice truth for belonging.

If it is not right, don't do it; if it is not true, don't say it.


b said…
I too find myself irritated with conformity, yet I understand how it exists and is accepted so readily. Considering your last post's mention of ideology and how relatively easy it is to shape people's perception of things...conformity abounds.

People, in general, don't really want to think so much for themselves. Introspection and individuality are often regarded as utterly isolating. These people don't realize how truly liberating it is to experience such.
freckled-one said…
I tend to not conform with the group either. I wear what I like, label or not, I do what I want, like it or not. Last time I check we only have one life and if we do what makes everyone else happy than where does that leave us? I applaud you for standing on your own.
ghee said…
its so strange that you blog about yourself,Richard...

Nobody wants to be alone..,but the inner self counts a lot rather than the showmanship.

I love mingling with people but I dont have any plans to imitate them just to welcome me.

I find myself the most boring people on earth if I`ll let myself be one of them,the Japanese people around me.I dont care what the people will say according to my own trend,they teach in ther suits,I am in my Jeans and my own type of clothes :)

Well,being our own self is the real meaning of honesty,and the best way to interact with people.
Barbara said…
O that everyone could know himself and trust in himself the way you do! Being an individual in today's world is not an easy task. Bravo!
I'm not surprised that you say this about yourself. This come out in your writing, (both your own blog and comments you make on others') quite clearly and it is so refreshing and honest. You are being true to a self you obviously know very well. So many of us are unclear about who we are. I tend to want to see many sides of something so I can appreciate where everyone else is at and then where I may fit in. I consider others' and then I may adjust my thinking if someone adds a new dimension I hadn't considered, but I don't change to fit in or be liked per se. I'm an even mix with things like clothes. Some styles I like that everyone wears, and others are my own, I tend to wear what I truly feel good in and am comfortable in. This can change with mood...I am tuned in to moods and emotions and I'm not always thinking or feeling the same as others.
But if others who appear to be conforming, really are being true to themselves with whatever action it is, are they still to be considered pure conformists? Are they not doing it for their own reasons? May be hard to tell because the influence other people and the media have over us is sometimes subtle or even subliminal, and therefore can't be measured in a quantitative way. It may not be black and white...it just may be in different degrees. Maybe conforming is not something we do consciously. I'm somewhere in that gray area I think. I a;ways allow room for change and dynamics that alter things a little! People would say I have my own ecclectic style and can get away with most anything because I'm a bit funny and creative.
Richard said…
Thank you all for your comments. Most people reject any sort of enforced conformity, however, they seem to willingly go along as long as they believe they are acting out of free choice.

One of the downsides of having an Polish heritage (actually any East European background) is the tendency to seeing conspiracies everywhere. Fortunately, I do not see conspiracies, only conformity ;-)

In my mind they are quite similar. Conspiracy simply means with common breath, conformity means with common form.

If people conform because they feel it is natural and to their liking, then are they really conspiring (breathing with the same breath)?

When I was younger (up until aout a year and a half ago), I always believed I acted out of my own free will and differed because I actively chose not to participate. However, a thought grew in my mind that suggests that perhaps my difference is not one of free will, but simply different (or faulty) wiring - I do not conform because I am incapable of doing so, not because I choose not to do so.

The jury is still out on the nature of free will (but it does encourage some interesting debate among friends - one of whom commented, "With you, it is all or nothing. Isn't it?"
Guess that makes me pretty well shades of gray! I'm a bit of everything! Ah, but that makes me a rather dull colour! Darn! Well, perhaps I mix my own tints and tones on my own palate! here,that's better!

I'm wired differently, as we all are, and who's to say whether this wiring is a form of choice or not? The Big Electrician in the Sky??!!!..the old nature vs nurture thing, which is totally gray for me! (my own gray, don't ya know!)

Jury'd be out on a permanent recess on this one!!

Thanks, Richard!
RennyBA said…
What an interesting post and great read. That goes for the comments here too!
I do like your saying written in blue text. It's all about confidence, isn't it - and how could you feel confidence if your not yourself.
Have a lovely week ahead Richard:-)
Richard said…
MOI: Nature vs nurture is an interesting topic. Nurture (or, more generally, the environment) definitely plays a big role as well. In cloned animals, they rarely look identical to their parent because nurture (environment) has a role in defining their appearance as well (temperature affects the colour of many animals fur).

rennyba: glad you found it interesting.
Guess that wouldn't be the same sort of thing to any extent with human identical twins. My mother is a mirror image identical twin and at age 85, they still look very much alike. There have been differences though, due to sun exposure, health (skin cancer removed, scars). The diference in personality, moods etc. are far more changed by life events and all that entails Nurture. My mom has had an easy life...wonderful husband and 3 children, financuially secure, and my aunt has had one tough time with all of that plus way worse health. She is tough and resilient, whereas my mom is a bit timid, soft, and sheltered.

Very interesting..when they were very young, they were so much alike, I thought I had 2 moms!!
Richard said…
That is interesting, most studies of identical twins always emphasize how similar they are despite different environmental conditions (twins separated at birth).

I always suspect (ha! the cynic in me) that scientists never report facts objectively. While they may use objective language, it gets filtered through their personal biases - consequently, I expect Hindus and Seventh Day Adventist scientists to publish papers showing the health benefits of vegetarianism.

A lot is often made about where funding for research comes from, but I never hear anything about where the scientist is coming from. A great read on this topic is Richard C. Lewontin's 'Biology as Ideology' - it was part of the Massey Lectures broadcast on the CBC about 15-20 years ago.
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