“We are fighting now to save that endangered species-The Individual!” Marty Rubin aptly quoted to express his concern over how people are beginning to lose on individuality. The herd mentality is so deep rooted, that everyone seems in a hurry to conform to the crowd he most identifies with. The remarkable thing to observe is that conformists don’t necessarily love the guidelines as much, as they ‘Love’ following them. Besides, it is relatively easier to blend in by following the communal norms since social acceptance is a powerful tool to boost confidence. But if conformists are labeled guilty of conforming to a particular (read boring) lifestyle, what does the non-conformists actually do differently. Well, simply put they would go against the norms set by conformists and lead an unconventional life.

Now, being a non-conformist sounds exciting, owing to the perceived coolness quotient attached to being a rebel. Let’s face it, whilst mere mortals toil their lives away in the social whirlpool of study, job, marriage, house, kids, retirement and then finally spending the last few years of their lives wondering if that is what they actually wanted at all; non-conformists bask in the glory of dodging the social gravity and living a life full of adventure. Nonetheless, it is a dangerous path to tread with obstacles like being ridiculed, called a freak or social ostracism. There is always a pledge of camaraderie between people following the same set of norms. So like conformists, rebels or non-conformists also tend to hold a belief that their way is the right way and that they are better than the masses. They would hate any non-conformist not conforming to the standards of rebels, which again beats the idea of individual choices.

 Interestingly, non-conformity at large seems like a fallacy only. Conformism is actually relative and which is thought to be a conventional way of living at one place, might seem like a rebellious act in some other part of the world. Moreover, almost everyone in his entire life strays many times to act in a way not considered socially accepted in general. But does that make them any less conformist or a bit of non-conformist really? As a matter of fact, act of non-conforming in itself is a form of conformity. By choosing to go against what a majority seem to think befitting, you are conforming to some other lifestyle advocated by rebels; and hence, in reality, you are actually a follower and not an individual.

Defying rules for the sake of being different beats the very idea of individuality, which is the true form of liberation. Individuality is not challenging the social norms, but to follow your heart without any inhibition while let others follow theirs without any judgment. Whether someone is merely a non-conformist or an individual, depends on the approach. And even though this may seem like the same thing, the big difference lies in focus. While one focuses outwards and against the community, the other is an inward act towards the self. Non-conformity leans towards contrarianism by just going against communal beliefs, but individualism is much more than that. It can be conforming and non-conforming both with the ability to be the best version of yourself, which is the key to self-discovery.  If you only choose to be a non-conformist just to be different, you are actually letting others dictate your values. As quoted by Paul A. Vixie, “Be neither a conformist nor a rebel, for they are really the same thing. Find your own path, and stay on it”

9 March 2015

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