diversity - self


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There is a definite need for conformity in any society.  I conform to social norms every time that I get in my car and drive on the correct side of the road, obeying the speed limits and using my turn signals.  I conform when I pay the taxes that our government uses to provide services that benefit me and other members of my community, be it on the city, state, or national level.  I conform when I wear clothing outside, when I pay my utility bill, when I keep my yard neat, when I say "Excuse me" when I pass in front of another person.

But there are also many ways in which I don't conform.  My shoelaces never match, and they're never the same ones that came in the box with the shoes.  I don't wear suits and ties, for I find them constricting and uncomfortable.  I don't buy the latest fashions, and I don't buy books or see movies or watch television shows just because they're popular.  I don't adopt patterns of speech just because everyone around me talks a certain way, and I have a car that's functional and comfortable and inexpensive, not impressive.

Conformity at its root is not a negative thing.  Our conformity helps others to be able to depend upon us, which is a great gift to give them.  When our actions are somewhat predictable, others can feel more at ease around us.  This type of conformity is the result of conscious decisions on our part, decisions that we will be helpful, contributing members of our communities.

On the other hand, there is what I call "blind conformity," and that's the type of conforming that is not the result of any thought or desire for the greater good.  This is the type of conformity that causes us to make decisions based on what we think other people will think of us.  We buy certain brand names because the people we want to impress will be impressed with our taste if we do.  We do certain things because we believe that we're doing what we're "supposed" to do based on the ideas and reactions of other people.  We engage in a great deal of destructive behavior, be it smoking, drinking, casual sex, drug use, vandalism, or any of a number of such behaviors because we want others to approve of us.

The simple fact is, though, that if others approve of us only because of our willingness to conform to what they think is right or proper, then those people very obviously aren't worth it.  Their approval should mean nothing to us if it's conditional, based upon only our conformity.

Conformity is strongest when we're in our teens and trying to fit into our own place in the world.  But it's not limited to the teen years, and almost all of us continue to make blind decisions based upon what we believe others will think of us.  The man in debt who pays $40,000 for a new car or the woman who has a closet full of expensive dresses or shoes that she almost never wears, but which she bought because she knows that her friends or associates approve of the brand names are deciding to buy not based upon realistic criteria, but upon a need to conform.

They need to be seen being "right."  Doing the "right" thing, buying the "right" car or clothes.

But we don't need to be right.  There are tons of people out there who will accept us just as we are in just what we're wearing.

When we conform blindly, we sacrifice our individual authenticity, our unique personalities.  We don't allow people to know us as we are, but as we think they want us to be.  We'll never be doing more than playing a role, though, as if we were actors in a play or a movie.

Breaking away from conformity takes courage, and it takes complete honesty at the moment of making a decision.  We must be honest with ourselves and ask "Am I doing or buying this because I want to, or because I think others will approve of me if I do?"  And then we must be brutally honest with the answer, for only then can we start to make decisions based upon who we truly are and what we truly want and like.

Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Superficial people are those who simply go along without a question in
the world--asking nothing, troubled by nothing, examining nothing.
Whatever people around them do, they do, too.  That's a sad and
plastic life--routine and comfortable, maybe, but still sad.

Joan Chittister
Seeing with Our Souls



Each one of us, as long as life stirs is us, may play a part in extricating ourselves
from the power system by asserting our primacy as people in quiet acts of mental
or physical withdrawal—in gestures of non-conformity, in abstentions, restrictions,
inhibitions, which will liberate us from the domination of the pentagon of power.

Lewis Mumford


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Patterning your life around others' opinions is nothing more than slavery.

Lawana Blackwell


When I was four years old they tried to test my IQ;
they showed me this picture of three oranges and
a pear.  They asked me which one is different and
does not belong; they taught me different was wrong.

Ani DiFranco


You don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note.

Doug Floyd


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Success, recognition, and conformity are the bywords
of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the
anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority.

Martin Luther King, Jr.


If I try to be like him, who will try to be like me?



If you stand up and are counted, you may get yourself knocked down.
But remember this:  A person flattened by an opponent can get up again.
A person flattened by conformity stays down for good.

Thomas J. Watson, Jr.


Nature made us individuals,
as she did the flowers and the
pebbles; but we are afraid to
be peculiar, and so our society
resembles a bag of marbles, or
a string of mold candles.  Why
should we all dress after the
same fashion?  The frost never
paints my windows twice alike.

Lydia Maria Child



We are half ruined by conformity;
but we should be wholly ruined without it.

Charles Dudley Warner

We will discover the nature of our particular genius
when we stop trying to conform to our own or to other
people’s models, learn to be ourselves,
and allow our natural channel to open.

Shakti Gawain

I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending
their lives doing things they detest to make money they don't want
to buy things they don't need to impress people they dislike.

Emile Henry Gauvreau


Isn't it ironic that in places where individualism and uniqueness are celebrated and considered to be of primary importance, we tend to lead our lives looking for conformity and "fitting in"?  I can't tell you how many times I hear students tell me "I can't do that because society says I can't."  And not once has any of these people been able to tell me just who "society" is, and just who says they can't.  The truth is, we're much more afraid of what we think "society" will say than what other people actually will say.  We tend to repress our own wants and needs because we fear that others will see us as selfish or self-absorbed.  But when am I more effective in helping other people?  It's when my needs are being met, and I'm taking care of myself.  It's when I listen to my inner self and actually heed its message, taking time for myself or reading what I need to read or not overwhelming myself with obligations.  We're taught to listen to our parents, to our elders, to our teachers, to our bosses, to our leaders, but we're rarely taught to listen to ourselves.  It's time that we learn that lesson ourselves, for it's a very important one whether it's taught widely or not.

tom walsh



We get trapped and configured in patterns of consumption, patterns
of social organization, of education and value systems that don't seem
to be feeding that sense of our original being.  We fight ourselves, repeating
other people's games and being fed their appetites and their amusements.

James O'Dea


If one does not keep pace with one's companions, perhaps it is because
he or she hears a different drummer.  Let that person step to the music
which he or she hears, however measured or far away.  It is not important
that we should mature as soon as an apple-tree or an oak.
Shall we turn our spring into summer?

Henry David Thoreau


We laugh at sheep because sheep just follow the one in front.  We humans
have out-sheeped the sheep, because at least the sheep need a sheep dog
to keep them in line.  Humans keep each other in line.  And they do it by
ridiculing or condemning anyone who commits the crime--and
that’s what it’s become--of being different.

David Icke

As for conforming outwardly, and living your own life inwardly,
I do not think much of that.

Henry David Thoreau

What would people think about if they were not taught what to think about?

Arthur Morgan


How far should one accept the rules of the society in which one lives?
To put it another way:  at what point does conformity become corruption?
Only by answering such questions does the conscience truly define itself.

Kenneth Tynan

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you
something else is the greatest accomplishment.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.

Rita Mae Brown


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

Jiddu Krishnamurti


diversity - self

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.

John F. Kennedy

But human beings are not machines, and however powerful the pressure
to conform, they sometimes are so moved by what they see as injustice
that they dare to declare their independence.  In that
historical possibility lies hope.

Howard Zinn
You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train


The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of people;
and so with the paths which the mind travels.  How worn and dusty,
then, must be the highways of the world, how deep
the ruts of tradition and conformity!

Henry David Thoreau


When you're a child, to stop you from following the crowd you're
assaulted with the line, "If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?"
But when you're an adult and to be different is suddenly a crime,
people seem to be saying,  "Hey.  Everyone else is
jumping off a bridge.  Why aren't you?"

Steve Toltz
A Fraction of the Whole


Be neither a conformist nor a rebel, for they are really the same thing.
Find your own path, and stay on it.

Paul Vixie


Conform and be dull.

J. Frank Dobie


Each of our voices has something unique to say.  Not only should I
not mold my life to the demands of external conformity; I can't even
find the model by which to live outside myself.  I can only find it within.

Charles Taylor

We must beware of yielding to the pressure of a spirit of cowardly
conformity which proclaims itself everybody's friend in the hope
that everybody will obligingly return the compliment.

Antonin Sertillanges
The Intellectual Life


The great safeguard of society and of domestic life was, that opinions
were not acted on.  Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that
if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.

George Eliot


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If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.

Maya Angelou

The plague of humankind is the fear and rejection of diversity:  monotheism,
monarchy, monogamy and, in our age, monomedicine.  The belief that there is
only one right way to live, only one right way to regulate religious, political,
sexual, medical affairs is the root cause of the greatest threat to people:  members
of our own species, bent on ensuring our salvation, security, and sanity.

Thomas Stephen Szasz


We lie if we say we do not see color and culture and difference.  We fool
ourselves and cheat ourselves when we say that all of us are the same.  We
should not want to be the same as others and we should not want others to
be the same as us.  Rather, we ought to glory and shine in all of our differences,
flaunting them fabulously for all to see!  It is never a conformity that we need!
We need not to conform!  What we need is to burst out into all these beautiful colors!

C. JoyBell C.

I'm very aware that I'm different.  I'm very aware that I don't fit in
and that I'm not going along with the rules. . . I understand that I'm
being truthful to who I am, and not too many people can say that.

Ellen DeGeneres


Alone in his car heading west, it's easy for Jason
to feel sorry for himself and mad at the world.  But
then he gives a ride to Hector and learns that life
isn't nearly as negative as we sometimes see it,
and that the prejudice and discrimination that
he's experiencing aren't unique to him--and aren't
impossible to overcome.  The friendship between
this young man and his 70-year-old passenger is
an inspiring story of love and dealing with
obstacles in our lives.    
Book - Kindle



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