Rejecting Conformity and Learning to Be Ourselves
We’ve all heard the advice thousands of times. “Be yourself.” Of course, I’m myself! Who else could I be? Flippant responses aside, we know what the person dispensing this advice means. And most of the time, we agree with it in principle if not in practice. People should be free to be themselves. If only it was that simple!
Many people have accused me of being rebellious, oppositional, and anti-authority. I’ve heard this as long as I can remember, and these accusations contain some truth. They are incomplete, though. The problem I have — the one I’ve always had — is with conformity. I detest it.
The people I’ve always admired the most have been free spirits. They examine the conventions, keep what works for them, and discard the rest. They don’t follow the trends like most others. Many of them stand out for their distinct look. Kind people describe them as unconventional, eccentric, or even troublemakers. People who are not as kind describe them as “freaks.”
Freaks are welcome here. The more, the merrier. They are my people, my tribe, and my role models. I’d prefer to surround myself with them. Since that isn’t a realistic option, I’ll celebrate them wherever I find them.
What’s So Bad About Conformity?
What’s so bad about conformity? Where do I start? It pushes people into uncomfortable boxes. It is oppressive, and it limits human flourishing. Cretins roam every community enforcing conformity through violence. We’d be better off without it.
Rejecting conformity does not mean we can’t have traditions. We can take whatever aspects of a tradition we like and carry them forward. But we don’t have to bring along the parts we don’t like with them. We are free to create something meaningful for us.
I recognize that freedom isn’t appealing to everyone. Some are quick to sing its praises but run from it whenever it approaches. They associate it with uncertainty, which they find scary. We hear them mourn the loss of “traditional values.” We see them lash out at those they consider freaks.