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  • Bob Ginsberg

Why Do We Feel The Need To Conform?

We spend a good part of our lives trying to change people into what we perceive they should be, as opposed to recognizing and appreciating who they are. Ad agencies recognized this long ago, and they do their best to reinforce the notion that our lives are lacking in one way or another. Most commercials today say very little about the actual product they are selling, but instead send the messages that our lives will be better, we will be more respected, and feel better about ourselves if we buy into the image. Escape from the mundane is the key to our happiness.

Our parents spent the better part of our childhoods devoted to making sure we conform to societal, educational, or religious norms, rarely recognizing the essence of our very being. There is something wrong with this model, as conformity stifles creativity, can manifest in emotional instability, and fosters conflict.

There are very few respites from the constant judging that dominates our lives. Our everyday interactions with friends are often a continuous flow of ego clashes, judgement, coercion, and superfluous chatter. Even science, whose very purpose is to implement independent examination of data, is not immune to the perils of conformity. Sometimes conclusive data is dismissed or ignored because it does not fit into the accepted principles inherent to known physical laws. Academia often wears similar blinders as it teaches us to take logical and proper positions consistent with precedent. Although not its original purpose, organized religions can be the biggest proponents of conformity, threatening dire consequences for disobeying their rules.

I am not suggesting that we all try to live in a world devoid of rules, as that surely would result in chaos. What I am suggesting is that perhaps we would be better off shedding some of the presumptions and simply experiencing more. It is easy to see how the judgment from others can be harmful, but perhaps self-judgment can be even more debilitating. We are filled with false expectations that have been instilled in us from birth. Getting in touch with our feelings and emotions is more than new age fluff. It is essential to our well being and growth.

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