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Conformity



"When we choose to run with the pack and cleave to the herd we may feel secure and safe, but by doing this we may be giving up or suppressing some important part of ourselves which is vital to our existence."





"At some point we must find a way to honor that part of us we hide from the world. It is not a demon we struggle with but actually the very essence of our own lives."





"We must be willing to stand naked before the world and learn through this experience that the withering gaze of even our harshest critics cannot undermine the strength of our resolve and the persistence of the human spirit."







Human beings have been from the beginning very social and extremely dependent on the support and aid of each other for survival. Throughout our long childhood during which we gradually learn to integrate ourselves into society we are always taking stock of our place in the scheme of things. We measure our self-worth against standards others set for us, we test our abilities against the achievements of others and the very language we use amongst ourselves and within the privacy of our own minds is the construct of hundreds of generations of minds that went before us. We are in essence made up of the bits and pieces of lives that have gone before us which makes it very difficult for us to find anything about us that is unique and original.

And yet we are truly more than the sum of our parts. Despite the fact that we are made up of borrowed dreams and ideas, the way in which those elements combine is unique. There are so many different influences that impact on us -- so many that are contrary and pulling us in different directions -- that at many times in our lives we must make difficult choices as to which paths we must follow. When we choose to run with the pack and cleave to the herd we may feel secure and safe, but by doing this we may be giving up or suppressing some important part of ourselves which is vital to our existence. It's necessary for us to recognize the rare and precious aspects of ourselves to truly derive the most satisfaction and fulfillment from life.

The tug of war between our "urge to merge" with the mainstream and our need to express our individuality can take its toll. Generally we are more prone, due to conditioning and even instinct, to go along with what others want. We often conceal our true wishes and desires just to avoid making waves. We fear that others may think we are odd and/or unworthy of friendship or trust if we reveal some part of ourselves which may seem eccentric or out of step with the majority view of what is proper. This can manifest itself in many different forms. Perhaps there is a certain body type that is considered attractive or fit, and to not fall within the parameters of that type is to display a lack of self-discipline or dedication to a particular objective. Or maybe we may find pleasure in certain activities that, while not outright immoral or threatening, still carry some taint of outlandishness that would estrange us from others -- or at least would hold the potential to do so.

It is for this reason that we hesitate to unmask ourselves and go naked into the world -- literally and figuratively. We cower behind the walls of propriety and hope that no one will discover our "dirty" secrets. We trim our behavior to fit the blueprint which all decent people use to construct their lives. And in some ways we grow to loathe the inner man or woman who wants to break free -- who torments the obedient boy or girl face we present to the world -- and put an end to the charade. Within so many of us this battle rages over the course of a lifetime, compelling us to remain quiet but often emerging in ways that would imperil our good standing in the community. What we gain through this struggle is so meager compared to what we lose in the long run. We are half-people -- really less than half -- and the dull ache of such a life causes many of us to question whether such a life is worth living at all.

At some point we must find a way to honor that part of us we hide from the world. It is not a demon we struggle with but actually the very essence of our own lives. It becomes demonic through contention, however, and it's destructive power ought not be underestimated. If we allow our uniqueness to shine through -- and by this I don't mean the urges which ferment in the darkness of our souls, but the tender and warm feelings which we bury beneath a harsh, supposedly strong exterior -- the darker forces will not prevail. They will, instead, lose their power and even be absorbed into the whole of ourselves, no longer frightened and dangerous beasts but allies and helpmates.

But to let this happen we must take certain risks. We must get past the fears of being ridiculed and shunned for being what we are. We must remove the barriers and trust our own judgment and the judgment and compassion of others. We must be willing to stand naked before the world and learn through this experience that the withering gaze of even our harshest critics cannot undermine the strength of our resolve and the persistence of the human spirit. It is a difficult undertaking for a member of a species which is in many ways herdlike and concerned about his place in the pecking order. But to do so is to appreciate the nature of freedom and the ultimate value of the human soul.

Once we do take this great leap and proclaim to the world what we are without shame or hesitation, we do more than simply help to quell the battle that goes on within us. We set a standard for others who will gain confidence in the sight of someone who is willing to endure potential scorn and ostracism to speak and live the truth. In the process we both embolden those around us and bring about a climate of greater openness and tolerance. We can push fear aside and demonstrate that being forthright and confident is not only viable but the only way to really bring about a better way of life. It then becomes easier for all of us to make peace with ourselves and each other and to bask in the fresh air and sunshine that is our birthright.