Conformity – Just Another Way to Spell Belonging

It gets a bad rap, doesn’t it. Ooooh – be an individual! Flout the rules and show that nobody pushes YOU around. But I have another thought – perhaps a complimentary thought. Let’s call conformity what it really is – cultural glue.

What could possibly be better than to show your friends or community that it isn’t all about ‘me.’ That there’s so much to celebrate about the ‘we’ in our lives. Going to a friend’s wedding? Of course you wouldn’t show up in torn jeans and flip flops. You happily comply with expectations because you know that all those sometimes silly rules actually mean something. They give people chances to express appreciation for the rituals, the moments. They help us all melt into a bigger whole.

Lucky for us our biology makes it almost irresistible to align ourselves with those around us. All those mirror cells automatically prepare us to connect and belong. And cultures everywhere build supportive webs of traditions and social standards to ensure that we don’t have to go it alone. To help us communicate agreement, loyalty and maybe even conformity.

Back in the 60’s, Sammy Davis Jr sang the anti-conformity anthem, “I gotta be me!” That same decade gave us Frank Sinatra with “I did it my way!” Perhaps its time for a little taste of “I gotta be we!” and “I did it our way!”

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