I attended a lecture once where the speaker showed a video. It began with a man in an elevator. After a short bit, other people entered. They all faced the back of the elevator. The original man, obviously very confused, turned around and stood facing the back of the elevator also. This continued as the group of people changed directions or took off heir hats. Different people would be the 'odd man out'. It was curious to watch how some would nonchalantly clear their throats and inch into conformity, while others would immediately follow the crowd. Which type are you? None of those shown continued to do their 'own thing' without regard to the majority.
Sometimes it is essential to 'fit in'. Life would be chaotic if people were so obstinate that they refused to do anything that 'everyone else was doing' for instance, sitting quietly in a church, saluting the flag, following traffic signals as per the laws of the land. However, there is plenty of time in our lives where conformity is not only unnecessary, but damaging as well.
There is much said of late of being 'authentic'. How do I know if I am or not? How do you? Do we examine ourselves through the mirror of society? Our family? Our religious convictions? Is it even possible to ignore all of those, and be an 'individual'? So many of the (and I'll pick on teens for the purpose of their notoriety at trying to be different) groups that are known to be going against social 'norms', actually only succeed in being 'differently' the same. They dress alike, act similarly, patronize the same groups and even 'hang out' at the same places.
Where do you refuse to conform?
I have always thought of myself as a bit 'different'. But I was sorely disappointed to learn that in a national poll, 65% of the participants described themselves as 'unique'. Wouldn't that then make being 'unique' the 'norm'? Hummmm.
Perhaps the answer lies in our reasons for conformity and non-conformity. As long as we realize that we are acting in a certain way, making certain choices because those are the choice that WE wish to make, I believe we are being authentic and unique. When we examine our motives and find (embarrassingly so) that we are merely going along with the crowd because it is 1. easier, 2. expected but we don't want to really. 3. mindlessly or 4. As a victim; it may be time to reaccess our choices and consider what our gut truly urges us to change.
Healthy choices are made with thoughtful consideration as to motive, consequence and authenticity. SO go ahead, stand backwards in the elevator if you really want to. Listen to Frank Sinatra even if your friends think you are nuts. Take a rappelling class even if you are over 50. . .but for goodness sakes, please don't decide that red lights no longer apply to you.