Conforming to the ways of society is difficult for many people.
My wife and I went to see the movie “Imitation Game” a while ago which tells the story of Alan Turing who invented the digital computer. Like many geniuses, he lived in a world of his own and had great difficulty communicating and relating with others. Because of his manner, he was generally disliked and disregarded by those he came in contact with. We thoroughly enjoyed the movie and took particular note of a comment directed at this unusual man stating something to the effect that the world was a better place because he was different.
People have a need to find acceptance. No one likes to be disliked and disregarded. When I was a boy, I used to get upset when the teacher wrote “satisfactory” on my report card. Is that all I was? That didn’t seem like very much.
I wore a uniform when I was in the army and they expected uniform responses to their commands. It was all about conforming, about submission. Individuality was definitely forbidden. Under those circumstances, their expectations were appropriate, but what about for life in general?
For those with low self-esteem, conforming to the ways of others presents two choices – giving in or resisting. Either way restricts you to living in a very small world.
Continually giving in lowers your self-esteem even further. It weakens you. You build a repertoire of excuses, build long lists of resentments and wind up feeling depressed. Never having your voice heard or your needs met makes you a victim.
Continually resisting all the demands and restrictions placed upon you also has its challenges. Many people enjoy the notoriety of being labelled “a rebel” and may even find a following of others with low self-esteem who wish they had the courage to resist as well. This adds a burden to “The Rebel” as they now have to live up to their expectations. To maintain their position, they must give in to their followers while resisting the status quo of society. This is a very stressful way to live.
Continually falling into one camp or the other brings us back once more to conformity. High school and college students frequently conform to non-conformity.
There is a better way. When we can get over being like, being better than and all the other comparisons that shape our point of view, we are left with something truly marvellous – our selves. This is a scary prospect for many who have tried to hide it away somewhere where others can’t see it and judge it to be wanting, or for those who are satisfied with being “satisfactory.”
All of us have within us something unique, something that makes us special. Have a good look at yourself. We can’t have it all our way if we hope to live in a civilized manner. If we devote all our time and efforts to condemning the ways of others, we have no time to discover our own path. Where attention goes, energy flows.
To find the answers, you must set aside all thoughts and excuses about why you cannot achieve these things. Even after you think you have the answers, affirm them and then keep asking the questions again. You will find that your understanding of them will continue to grow as well as the methods by which you can apply them.
I left being “satisfactory” behind me a long time ago and you can too. We owe it to ourselves to be special and leave our mark in some way.
“You are too important to the bigger picture to just fall off the canvas.”
― Johnnie Dent Jr.
This was originally posted on Feb 1, 2015