Remember back in the late 80’s when everyone had tight-rolled pant cuffs? If you don’t, then below is a picture of how it looks.
Looks pretty ridiculous right? Well…everyone was doing it. And if you didn’t tight-roll you’re the bottom of your pants, then you weren’t cool. So, to be cool, at the age of 11 or 12, I tight-rolled my pants. i.e. I conformed.
I knew it looked stupid. I thought it was far from cool. And at that time, I was a Metallica fan, not a New Kids on the Block fan. So what was I trying to prove anyway? Well, I wasn’t trying to prove anything. I just wanted to belong and I was too afraid to stand out.
And so it goes. You conform because you’re too afraid not too.
Simple Definition of Conformity
First of all, the prefix- “con” means “with” or “together”. So basically, the word conform means to adopt the form of those around you. Or as Merriam-Webster Dictionary puts it: “to act in accordance with prevailing standards or customs.”
Other definitions of conform and conformity includes:
*To behave according to socially acceptable conventions or standards
*Compliance with standards, rules, or laws
*Correspondence or likeness in form or appearance
You may have heard those definitions before. But have you ever wondered why you conform so readily? This answer, in my opinion, just may shock you.
The Main Reason You Conform To Social Norms
You may argue and say that YOU don’t conform. And while that may be true, since you and I have probably never met, odds are you have. I’ll ask you three questions to prove my point.
Do you dress similar to your three closest friends? Do you believe the government should do something about our healthcare issue? Do you believe you need a higher education to get a good paying job in America? If you answered yes to any of the aforementioned questions, then YOU my friend have conformed.
Don’t beat yourself up over it though. We’ve all conformed (remember the tight-roll paints?) You see, I believe there are multiple reasons why we conform to social norms; the biggest reason being fear.
One Simple Trick To Conquering Your Fear
There is one simple trick I learned over 20 years ago about conquering fear. You see the Law of Polarity states that everything has an equal opposite. So if you have fear about something, look at the opposite of fear and you’ll get your answer.
Knowledge is one of the opposites of fear. I’ll explain what I mean in a story. When I was in the United States Coast Guard, I was out to sea quite often. And being a kid from Ohio, the ocean was so…BIG. And scary at times.
During one patrol the ship I was on (the Coast Guard Cutter Bear) went through a pretty hefty storm. The waves must have been 15 feet high or greater. The ship was getting beat up like a rag doll.
I stood in the helicopter hanger looking at the stern of the ship and I could see drums of fuel being tossed into the ocean from the waves. The ocean was literally crashing over the ship and carrying anything it wanted to in its wake.
To say I was scared would be an understatement. Being a kid from Ohio, I’ve never been through a storm like that. However, as I looked to my left, my Lieutenant was just as calm as could be. He was smoking a cigarette and seemed as cool as a cucumber.
I looked at him and asked: “sir, this storm is pretty big. Aren’t you scared?”
He replied: “Boyd, when I was in officer school I learned about this ship. This ship can take 90 degree rolls and not capsize. At 45 degree rolls the helicopter hanger will break off, but the ship will be safe. I know this ship and I know what it can handle. So there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Whoa! Lesson learned. And I have remembered and APPLIED that lesson ever since. Whatever it is you’re afraid of, gain knowledge about it. Because once you know and understand what it is you fear— the fear goes away.
So the moment you find yourself conforming to something, ask yourself WHY you’re conforming. Question everything. Are you conforming because you’re afraid of being judged? Failure? The unknown?
In my case with the tight-rolled pants cuffs, I was afraid of being judged and not accepted by a group of people that I really didn’t enjoy being around anyway. Silly, as are most fears.
You were not created to conform. You were created to be you. So go out there and be the best YOU that only YOU can be.