I Don’t Conform — And I Don’t Want To

iStock_000018014053_SmallConformity: an action in accordance with the prevailing social standards, attitudes, and practices. Compliance, acquiescence, obedience.

Reading that definition makes me want to barf. I’ve been a non-conformist all of my life. I’m not afraid, I’m extremely outspoken, I’m outgoing and social, and I haven’t cared if I’m perceived as weird. But there came a time, at work, when the need to conform out ruled my need to be different. So I started to hide, I became the opposite of what I was and I didn’t stand out. I was looking for acceptance. This is familiar right?

The truth of the matter is that we will never live in a society where there is a shortage of people working to maintain the status quo. Why do so many of us fall into the trap of conformity? So often we’re asked to “groupthink”—foregoing the opportunity to think as individuals. We’ve been paralyzed by the ideas of fear and failure. And the notion that we won’t be accepted.

Deloitte conducted a study and found that 61% of employees reported that they either changed their appearance or modified their behavior just to fit in at work. I find that disgusting—but I’ve done it too.

We’ve all gone into hiding. Hiding who we are in preference of conformity, which becomes an ongoing and progressive cycle. And the silence that comes from hiding our true selves has social consequences. We’ve become trapped in a social stigma that can be deadly, stressful, and detrimental to all parts of our lives.

It’s time to stop. We’re not doing anyone any favors by hiding ourselves from the truth. We can no longer wait to be defined by something, or someone. Today is the time to be defined by yourself. We’re actually wasting energy that could benefit the social and professional structure at work.

Let’s try to return to our non-obedient selves. To a place where we can make a difference, where we can connect, and encourage our peers. We have the chance to foster diversity in the workforce.

There is something in this that is similar to discrimination. You have the responsibility to yourself, and your peers to overcome it. You have something to do – a mission, if you will. There are more scary things inside ourselves than what is real, and what’s on the outside.

Explore and embrace yourself. Our biggest obstacle is our own fears.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment,” –Ralph Waldo Emerson.