Conformity: The Allure of Fitting In


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Next time you’re out with your friends at some exclusive restaurant or bar (exclusivity comes with the pricing), take a look around the room and watch people for a minute. Don’t make it weird; just look and let your mind wander. Most of the people you see are there in the same place for a reason; they don’t know where else to go. They don’t know what to do with their free time and their money, so they flock to the same places, listen to the same music and engage in the same superficial conversations as they do every weekend.

Now, think about the trajectory of your life. You were placed in a school, then you made a ‘choice’ as to what it is you want to study and do for the rest of your life. Let’s say you have a generic degree in business, but after graduating realized that you aren’t passionate about anything in particular, or that you are passionate but you’re going to keep it as a hobby and not a job. So you get a generic job in marketing with your generic business degree and then you meet a partner and decide to disappear into each other. Three years later, you’re both on your way home from a 14-hour work day; the dust has settled and people aren’t visiting to congratulate you on your marriage anymore. You suddenly realize that you don’t really have anything to say to the person across the table because, guess what? They don’t understand you and you don’t understand them. Don’t get me wrong; he knows what habits irritate you, and she knows your routine from the moment you get out of bed in the morning. If that was your goal to begin with, then I congratulate you for arriving to the rest of your days on this planet.

Fridays at her parents, Saturdays at yours, summers at the North Coast and winters in Sokhna; you know the drill. Suddenly there are children and they become the focus, and now you have to go to your mundane job to support the beings that you intentionally or inadvertently created (I’m not judging). It has gotten to the point that the only time you feel at peace, the only time you have for yourself, is when you’re on your way to work and no one has any questions for you. No one has any requests or things to share with you; it’s only you and the thousands of other people stuck in their cars, trying to get to work but secretly hoping that it stays congested just a bit longer.

Image from CairoScene

What if I told you that things didn’t need to be this way? I know what you’re thinking: I’m an out of touch kid who doesn’t understand the responsibilities of adulthood, I don’t know the pressures of parents wanting you to get married or make a ton of money so they don’t need to worry about you. To be honest, you’re right: I really don’t. My parents haphazardly let me do whatever I want and while I know they will probably get some sort of psychological ailment from worrying about me, they still allow me to pretty much figure things out on my own.

Do you know what I figured out? I know a lot of you don’t care at this point, but I’m going to say it anyway: it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t need to please all these people. You don’t need to go out and have meaningless conversations. You don’t need to get married if you’re not ready, and you certainly don’t need to bring in new life to the world if you’re not ready.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

We’re scared that, if one day we snap and decide to go the other way, we will lose everything. There is a comfort in being around people like yourself and I understand that, but what’s the point in living a life tiptoeing around people and doing things you don’t want just to please other people and in the process (if I may quote the philosopher Eminem) lose yourself?

I do not presume to know the pressures you face; we lead different lives. I do, however, know from talking to people who are older that the way you measure success at a young age is very important. Often we view success as what is measurable, whether it is money or assets (both are very important by the way, not disputing that). But you can hate what you do; you can even fail at it. So shouldn’t you at least find out what you do want to do and fail at that? It’ll probably be more exhilarating.

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