People Fear Becoming Authentic and Independent Thinking Individuals-It Is Easier to Conform!
The CROWD Mentality
The Fear Factor
An overwhelming majority of people do live their lives to please other people. People always want to seek approval. They are afraid to be authentic persons for fear of being ostracized by the status quo. People have been inculcated to seek other's approval from the period of their early childhoods.
Parents educate their children as to the importance of seeking other's approval and being like everyone else. Children who strongly assert their individuality are strongly admonished to conform to other's expectation. Children who conform to other's expectation are strongly rewarded and are considered "good", "well behaved", and "nice". To the contrary, children who insist on asserting their individual uniqueness are considered "problems" who are recommended for "psychological counselling".
Teachers and parental figures are happy when children conform to societal expectations. These are the sweet children who are easily manageable. This applies especially for female children who are even under greater pressure to conform to the societal expectation to be good little girls. Children who refuse to follow this societal program are considered "disobedient" and "hardheaded". Strongly assertive and highly individualistic children are seen as threat and oddities by many authority figures who emphasize strict conformity of children as that they can be easily controlled and managed.
Educational systems, especially at the lower levels, stress conformity of its students. Students who usually think independently and unconventionally are not rewarded. Teachers usually have problems with such students. Students are usually rewarded for memorizing and regurgitating what they are taught. This emphasis on conformity not only occur in schools, it also occurs at home. Even though parents maintain that they teach their children to be individual beings who think independently, such is not the case. Parents covertly discourage their children from being individuals who think outside the box.
In many families, conformity is de rigueur. If a child possess beyond the family paradigm, parents admonish to conform to "societal norms" and if the children do not, they cry "what will my friends, associates, and neighborhood think. It is the parents' contention that if their children conform to the norms, they will never be alone and that they will be secure. It is these parents' greatest fear that if their children dare defy convention, they will be ostracized and alone thus having no security.
This emphasis on conformity continues through the junior high and high school level which approval seeking and conformity is de rigueur in the lives of tweens and teens. During this period of life, children desperately seek the approval of their peers. The most important thing during this period is to have the approval and love of your friends in addition to being popular. To many tweens and teens, there is nothing worse in the world than to be unpopular because this is equivalent to death. As a result of trying to conform, many tweens and teens often indulge in deleterious and other harmful behavior in order to be accepted by the crowd.
Many tweens and teens oftentimes sublimate their true identity to be part of the crowd. The reward for conformity for tweens and teens is the status of belonging to a crowd. Tweens and teens who refuse to conform to be part of a crowd are considered to be oddballs or worse. It takes a unique and rare tween and teen to be the odd person out and to be an individual in midst of the crowd.
The corporate world further rewards people who conform to the office politics of that particular corporate culture. People who conform to a particular corporate culture are amply rewarded regardless of their work performance and/or skill level. Conversely, a person who refuses to conform to the office politics of that particular corporate culture is often given the silent treatment or worse, constructive discharge. Let me define the latter, if a person elects not to conform to the corporate culture, the powers that be can make his/her work situation so intolerable that he/she is left with no other recourse but to resign his/her employment.
People who refuse to conform to their corporate culture are punished either overtly or covertly. They often do not receive promotions even though they have superb educational and skill qualifications. Sometimes, they are excluded from company events and happenings. Many times they are given the most onerous and degrading assignments.
On the other hand, people who conform to their corporate culture and play the corporate game are amply rewarded either by giving plum and exciting assignments or being placed on the fast track to promotion. Furthermore, people who conform to their corporate culture have a very easy time at work and receive more favorable treatment in terms of perks than a person who elect not to play the corporate game.
Organized religion uses the fear factor in order to get its congregants to conform. The ultimate reward in approval seeking and conformity is eternal bliss in Heaven while the ultimate in nonconformity is eternal punishment in Hell. Religions have used these ruses in order to get people to conform to religious dictates. Religion is another tool of approval seeking. Many people belong to religions not because of authentic or sincere belief, but for conformity and approval seeking purposes. People for the most part belong to a religion because of family, ethnic or an ingroup tradition and/or fear of being eternally punished.
Society has many ways of rewarding people who conform and seek approval and punishing people who are different. There are many instances of this. For example, the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. The Puritans were a religious sect that emphasized strict conformity. People who conformed to Puritan societal norms were rewarded; however, those who elected not to conform were ostracized. The latter were considered outsiders without the protection of the town are were likely to be judged for practicing witchcraft and subsequently punished. Many of the people who were hanged for witchcraft were those who refused to live their lives by societal dictates hence they are deemed "the other" and an ousider to be punished.
In the 1950s, American society was staunchly conservative and was quite fearful and apprehensive of the Communist scare because Russia was gaining predominance in Eastern Europe and some parts of Korea. Americans were afraid that there would be Communist dominion of the world so communism became an anathema to any "right thinking" American. People who dared to express liberal or other views that were in opposition to the average American views were suspect and deemed Communist.
As a result of this growing paranoia, there was a trial which was akin to the Salem Witch Trial which occurred two centuries and six decades earlier. Anyone who was deemed and/or classified an "outsider" i.e.suspected of unconventional and odd views was summoned and questioned. Many careers and lives were ruined. These two trials aptly illustrated the extent to which conformity was enforced. People were harshly ostracized for daring to openly expressed their views.
Society has a way of making it easier for people if they elect to conform and very difficult for people who have the so-called audacity to be different. When you conform to the expectations of other people, you are part of the crowd and not alone. You are protected and have the comfort and security that others are like you. You see nonconformists as strange oddities because they are often alone and "out there". Nonconformists have no protection and they are on a limb. People do not want to be alone- they would rather be part of a crowd even though they are miserable and live a mediocre life.
It takes a very strong and self-assured person to defy convention and to think outside the box. Unconventional people are not afraid to be alone. In fact, they welcome ostracism and derision from the masses. Their mantra is that it is better to be alone and live an authentic life than to part of the crowd and lead a nondescript and mundane life. New spiritualities, inventions, and new ways of thought were invented by people who clearly did not care about what other people thought. They followed their own drummers. Remember: conformists die and are forgotten while nonconformists are history makers and inventors who live posthumously.
In summation, people seek approval because of its intrinsic rewards. People live to seek approval because it is comfortable and there is always comfort in crowds. People dread to be individuals who think outside conventions or adapt a paradigm different from the crowd because they are fearful to be alone and to go on the road less travelled. It is easier to go an old well worn road than to venture out on a new road. Living by the dictates of others is comfortable and people want to be comfortable.
© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams