In his book, The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis writes: “Amos’s three children have vivid memories of watching their parents drive off to see some movie picked by their mother, only to have their father turn up back at their couch twenty minutes later. Amos would have decided, in the first five minutes, whether the movie was worth seeing — and if it wasn’t he’d just come home. He’d then go back and fetch his wife after her movie ended. “They’ve already taken my money,” he’d explain. “Should I give them my time, too?”
What is conforming?
Conforming is a problem that we have faced since the beginning of time and still, do. I don’t believe many people thought idolatry had any merit, however, we value our belonging to the tribe over rationality.
In societies, due to peer pressure, we usually don’t think much about what we're doing if we can blend in like everyone else and feel a sense of belonging. Perhaps that’s one reason immigrants are particularly good at sports. They’re searching for belonging.
I was having lunch with my team in the cafeteria. When I finished my food, my mind was wandering off and I wasn’t engaged in the conversation. I remembered Amos’s example and then excused myself and left. I didn’t conform; I surprised myself.
A former self would have felt socially awkward to just leave a gathering without many excuses and a few platitudes. Honestly, it felt good. The freedom to do what pleases you and to not adhere to social norms was refreshing.
I wondered about all the pointless conversations and needless relationships that I didn’t exit in the past just out of politeness. Had I been true to myself, I would have followed my intuition and left early if I didn’t feel any chemistry.
Now, I became aware -and mostly opposed to- conforming with the zeitgeist or the social norms. I don’t conform to my friends or my acquaintances anymore if I don’t have a strong reason too. If I only have one life, why would I spend it trying to please everyone around?
So, how do you stop conforming?
Controlling conformity can come in two simple steps. The first is the realization of the situations in which we conform, the second is taking steps to oppose the conformity if you don’t have a strong feeling about following the herd.
In the past, my conformity was highly dependable on the friend group that I was with. My general observation is that I used to yield to avoid contention and to come off as friendly. Whenever I was meeting someone for the first time, I implicitly conformed and laughed at what they were saying regardless of what they were saying. As first impressions are life-lasting, I wanted to come off as amicable as I could.
After establishing a pattern of conformity, next time you conform, ask yourself if you really need to? What is the downside of not conforming? Would your life satisfaction go up if you don’t conform?
My Life After
My life is much more enjoyable that I’m now more like myself. I still have to be befitting whenever the situation requires like when I’m at work, or when I’m giving a talk. However, I should be the way I want when I’m amongst my family and my closest friends!
The older I become, the more genuine I become to myself, the clearer I understand my capabilities and limitation and the more I accept myself the way I am. Why wait until I become old to just be myself?
Remember that conformity isn’t a prerequisite for acceptance. People should accept you regardless. So, do what pleases you and leave others to do what pleases them.