In this day and age, being different is a compliment as it is an admirable feat. Being referred to as different tends to evoke flattery in us, whereas sixty-years ago being different was a concern. It’s amazing how history can reconfigure itself within the course of half a century. Ever notice how things are speeding up faster than ever? (That’s a blog for another time.)
These days, in Western culture, following “the crowd” is akin to being a sheep amongst other sheep. It’s a saying now, and a concept. Follow the crowd and you find yourself stuck in the same mess they’re in. Be individualistic. Be yourself. Don’t follow anyone else. Don’t conform to rules. (Being rebellious has a tendency of appearing attractive.)
We’re brought up this way. We are raised with a mindset heavily carried over our head throughout our developmental stage that we need to be more independent. But in reality, we’re still conforming to trends and beliefs, just like the rest of the herd. Being “different” is more and more taking on a hue that inspires people to be this kind of “different”, which is really just like everyone else’s radically nonconformist trend.
So, then. Are we really just being inauthentic?
Define inauthentic. Being authentic is all about listening to yourself, setting sail to navigate who you really are, and then exposing this person that you’ve found that you know is very much you to the world. Not many people have enough confidence in themselves to be able to embark on such a self-discovery voyage. Or at other times, we are in such denial of who we really are that we’d rather see a one-sided view of ourselves rather than viewing the reality of who we are from all angles.
The process of understanding conformity versus non-conformity is complicated. Both sides are extremely polarized. While one aspect is conforming to everyone else and consequentially losing your self, the other “nonconforming” side is just a mirror. You’re still losing yourself as a result of appearing more unique and more distinctive. But sometimes, you’re actually not losing yourself or acting inauthentically.
It all boils down to the feeling
There’s nothing wrong with following the crowd. There’s strength in unity and collectivism. People naturally influence other people – that’s just how we’re wired as creatures of the animal kingdom. What we really need to put our focus on is the primary issue: how can you learn to follow what feels right and natural to you rather than following what others say should feel right and natural?
Alex and I have decided to venture out to a completely different realm of life. We’re going to immerse ourselves into the unknown, where we’ll be living in a van and travel to novel places, mainly for the experience. My intention is to give ourselves the opportunity to actually live, not labor and toil day by day without soul and purpose.
But our decision is not something that can be seen as grand to others. We’ve dedicated ourselves to living abnormally – atypical to the sweet norms of societal standards. It’s a big leap – but for me, I’ve committed to living by my own true values and principles. It’s a strange thing, to foster an idea and a desire in oneself that goes against other’s beliefs of what may seem right to them. As a society, we’re so obsessed by how we want people to see us that we will establish various projections of ourselves in order to appear a certain way. It’s one giant masquerade where nobody really knows the truth of anyone else. We want to be seen a certain way, even if that way does not align with our own emotions.
We all focus on how things should be done and put little emphasis on what works for us. Thus, we inadvertently follow the crowd, whichever direction that may be.
Nonconformity has become an infant trend in today’s world. It’s different from being different because you’re not following “alternative” methods and styles. Nonconformity is taking desperate measures to apply itself to an individual’s authentic self and not sell itself out to be another current trend that we all follow. Hence the term non-conformity.
And the solution.
I’d like to re-define this term as a lifestyle, an idea, a fashion, a way of being and living that aligns with you – something pliable only by your discretion and true values. If that means following a trend, so be it. If that means following a certain sequence of norms, so be it. If that means taking a stride out of your comfort zone, but with the gut feeling still pointing towards your true north, so be it. Anything that you try and feel a sense of contentment from is meant to be yours to uphold.
Make it all about you
We have to begin to see ourselves as a species of free-will. There will be barriers from every corner, yes, but there are even more avenues of freedom than we realize. We have choices in front of us at every moment of every day and we also have the freedom to choose according to our individual principles.
To not conform to a style, a practice, a method, a system, whatever else you can think of through pressure or societal expectation, is to be liberated to do what pleases you.
So liberate yourself. Follow your own trend.