Conformity v. Non-conformity

Quartrail - Spartanburg, South Carolina
Entered on March 14, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

The dictionary defines the act of conformity as an accordance of the established practice. In other words to conform simply means to change one’s thoughts in order to comply with rules or general customs. People tend to conform for various reasons. They may want to belong to a particular group or they may feel the need to conform because of a lack of self-reliance or belief in their own views. In my opinion I do not believe that conformity for these reasons are necessary. The only time in which a person should conform is when strong evidence backs up the opposing view. By conforming one may tend to lose their self in others views, beliefs, opinions, etc. Knowing all of this why would a person choose to conform? Why would they choose to disregard their beliefs in order to fit the mold of others?

What makes a person radically change from who they are to what others want or see them as? The answer lies in people’s innate sense of survival. In order to survive in this society that we live in people often feel the need to conform to be able to belong and take part in a world that is often cruel to the outsider (the non-conformist at times). An example of conformity at its worst can be seen when a youth first enters the realm of middle school and it is seen at its peak once that child reaches high school. Every school has its cliques and various groups. For example you have your Goths, Nerds, Jocks, Skaters, and “Others” (those who simply don’t fit in anywhere).

In order to survive in the middle/high school world of bullying, teasing, etc. a teenager has to find some balance where they can strive and succeed among their peers. Unfortunately while they are attempting to gain popularity or entrance into a particular group they tend to lost sight of what is really important. It is a possibility that while on this endeavor to achieve what they seek for they might happen to lose themselves in others. Meaning they might lose sight of their values, morals, opinions, and own personal beliefs in order to conform to what others think. For instance a girl or boy who doesn’t drink or do drugs may fall prey to the lure of illegal substances in order to fit in just because “everybody else is doing it.” Another dangerous thing that appears out of this type of conformity is in-group/ out-group bias or prejudice. In David G. Meyers essay, “Ingroup and Outgroup”, he states that:

“If prejudice is a social norm-if it is expected- then many people will follow the path of least social resistance. They will conform to the social fashion. They will act not so much out of a need to hate as from a need to be liked and accepted. “(Myers 62)

In high school I was never one to conform simply because others around me wanted me to. However, during my participation in student council I saw several people who conformed to what others believed who the leader should be and what we (Student Council) should be doing for the school. They changed their views and opinions if they saw that the majority of the group did not believe in what they thought was true/right. I believe that the people that changed their views and opinions over the course of our weekly meetings often had a lack of self-reliance in their beliefs. I feel as if they felt like that in order to belong to this “in-group” crowd that Student Council created, they must not dissent from the popular views. As I stated earlier the only reason why I feel like one should conform is because of a solid reason that is supported by irrefutable evidence that would make conforming actually for the betterment of the group. What I witnessed often brought the group down because only a few opinions were recognized and acknowledged. Several people who held positions and actually had a say in what took place often said nothing when they actually had good ideas that would help better our organization.

This example of conformity that I have laid out in the previous paragraph really has made an impact on my beliefs that I hold today. Often conforming to what others belief in can cause very negative effects towards the group that you belong to as well as for yourself. To prevent from following the path already set before you one should instead tread their own path creating a new trail for others to follow. In more literal terms, I simply mean that instead of changing what you believe in to fit in you should try to break the circle of conformity that exists in our society. Conformity is never ending and will always go around until that one person stops, glances in the mirror, and decides to break free form the chains that bound his inner creativity. Until this person can break free from the box that others place him in then the cycle will continue. In order to prevent this (conformity) from occurring I believe that each and every person needs to take a stand and strive to develop their own thoughts and consciousness that will create them into a person able to thrive on what they believe to be true for themselves.