Conform or Die

I would say we live in a society of conformity but it may go deeper than that. Perhaps, we as human beings have always been this way. After all, we are social animals. We work and gather in groups, for safety, for economy, for interactions.

As humans formed these groups that became villages and cities, they had to get people to work together, to agree to the same rules and beliefs.We can see in the world today probably moreso even than the world of five thousand years ago, or maybe not, what happens when someone doesn’t agree with the status quo.

It can be as mild as “I don’t agree with you,” to as severe as being put to death or incarcerated for going against the norm. The Taleban kills people for not following their way. The Canadian government sways from Conservative to Liberal if people don’t think their leaders are representing their views. It’s a broad spectrum.

On a purely social level you have the cool kids, those with natural charisma (before they learn to bribe their way to the top) who attract others to them. It is often ephemeral what gives a person this elusive charisma. Sometimes it is physical looks. Who can deny the power of stars and their amazing good looks that give them millions of bucks, not always correlating with their acting ability?

Often charisma rests on personality, which can be a greater tour de force than beauty. Coupled, they can be unstoppable.  The third area that attracts cronies is that of beliefs. Political parties and religions work on this but they often team up with personality. In essence, those are the three bases of charisma: physical beauty, personality, beliefs. You can gain popularity through riches but charisma is slightly different and really the realm of beliefs fall more to popularity but can gain heights with a charismatic leader.

It’s a well-known fact that good looking people get farther and get away with more in the world. As a child I was pudgy and shy, not good combos for charisma. You don’t get shy, charismatic people. I was never one of the cool kids. No one ever flocked to me because of my beliefs, nor my riches. The cruelty of children is untempered by the later skills that we learn of double speak, backstabbing and passive aggressive tolerance. Luckily children are also more resilient to the taunts and ostracization, sort of. Sometimes we bear the scars for life.

I was picked on some, because I was easy pickings. I didn’t fight back. I was vulnerable and like sharks in bloodied waters, everyone knew. So I changed. I grew a tough shell, I made myself more outward going. It wasn’t easy, still isn’t easy. Being one of the cool kids matters less as an adult unless you’re trying to win in politics or take over the world.

We all have our social groups, and probably have some charisma. We are blends or normal people. But we can still suffer the fear of being nonconformist. I never mastered conformity and it’s caused me much grief. Try and act normal, think like everyone else, dress like them. Fit into the crowd and you won’t be singled out. Stand out too much, in the wrong, unpopular way and people won’t talk to you or associate with you. We may not be shot in our social groups for not fitting in but we may die nonetheless.

Today I don’t feel that humans are so great at being civilized. We suck at communication, yet use a variety of forms. Unfortunately, one person’s body language means something different to someone else. The same words can mean many things and silence can mean many more. If you conform, you’ll have less to worry about, until someone decides you offended them or that they dislike you for some other reason. Then you may not even know you should apologize or that you have to watch your back.


1 Comment

Filed under Culture, family, fashion, life, people, relationships

One response to “Conform or Die

  1. Recent research also suggests a little known fact about charisma. Contrary to popular belief, insecurity can serve as a backdrop for charismatic personalities and their accomplishments. It may seem that charisma and insecurity are antithetical, but there are many instances where charisma is not founded purely on confidence, but to some degree–insecurity. Take for example, the charisma of John F. Kennedy. While Kennedy’s charm and charisma is legendary, the history that lies behind JFK’s charisma is often overshadowed by the mythology that surrounds him. Suffice to say that JFK was not initially the “go to” person within the Kennedy Clan. As a matter of fact, Kennedy was seen as a wayward and unfocused youth. It wasn’t until his brother’s death, Joseph Kennedy, Jr., in World War II that John F. Kennedy began taking a more serious and disciplined approach to life. JFK began developing the character that immortalized him once he was handed the baton by his father, Joseph Kennedy, Sr. The same is true with Basketball Great, Michael Jordan, whose being dismissed from his high school basketball team has become basketball history. There are countless examples of charismatic men and women who early on did not show overt signs of charisma and its accompanied achievement. In fact, evidence suggests that it was these early experiences with disappointment that fed their insecurity, which sparked their reinventing themselves.

    Like the allegorical race between the tortoise and the hare, it’s not always the “cool” kids who grow up to astound the world. It’s often the child who started slow, but finished fast and first who blossoms. Greatness often emerges from pain and degradation.

    Edward Brown
    Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute

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