While conformity can offer us appealing benefits like large social circles and a superficial feeling of security, it takes away from us the power of choice and the power of honest living. Living authentically takes courage, but it provides both beauty and fulfillment that can lead to dramatic and world-altering transformations. If you feel lost, or as though you don’t know who you are anymore — the answer might lie in the way you conform to expectations. Are you living authentically? The answer might surprise you.
The 5 warning signs you're not being authentic.
Though the slide into conformity can be both subtle and slow, there are always unmistakable signs that you’re living someone else’s truth and not your own. From increased judgements to a completely confused sense of who you are — these are the most common signs that you’re not living within your truth.
Inability to express yourself
Conforming means resigning yourself to someone else’s way of doing things, and that leaves very little room for self-expression. Burying yourself in the image of someone else makes it difficult to express the things you need and the things you’re feeling. In order to successfully navigate the difficult emotions and experiences we face in this life, we have to express ourselves and ask for both the things we need and want. When you’re too busy obeying, there’s very little time left to open up for yourself.
Zero original thought
Relying on conformity is a dangerous path to take in life, and one that strips you of your ability to make thoughtful, beneficial decisions. Conformity does not allow for individual thought, so if you realize that you can’t make a choice without consulting your friends, your family, your coworkers or even a magazine…it might be time to make some changes. Realizing the full power of our strength requires us to think independently and strike out on our own. Things which can only occur when we’re brave enough to follow our own unique patterns of thinking and belief.
Having a high-level need to please isn’t uncommon, and it’s one of the most frequent reasons we find ourselves giving in to the conformity peer-pressure. Because we’re such social creatures, we can often cater desperately to others in order to get that social gratification that we seek. The. problem, however, is that this need to please is superficial — along with any perceived validation that comes from it. If we truly want to connect with others on a meaningful level, we have to do so from an authentic place of being.
Failing to be consistent
It’s hard to stay consistent when you’re constantly chasing the fit of someone else’s gib. Spending your life in the pursuit of other people’s ideas of happiness will leave you constantly changing streams, and running after ideas, plans and goals that add little value or fulfillment to your life. True consistency and stability comes when we learn to steady our hands by taking our own path. When you know who you really are and what you really want, you are no longer stressed by the desires of others.
Losing sight of self
Perhaps the biggest sign that you are conforming (when you should be living out loud) is a complete detachment or loss of self. This occurs when you don’t know who you are or what you want, and it happens because you spend all your time defining yourself by other people’s standards. We gain clarity in this life only through turning our vision inward, to get a clear picture of the person who’s dwelling within. If you’re confused on your sense of self, it’s happening because you’re too focused on conforming to someone else.
The best ways to stop conforming and start living more authentically.
Stop listening only to the opinions of others, and start listening to yourself. You, more than anyone else on this planet, know what you’re good at and know what you want. Pursue those things, and through that pursuit discover who you are again with these techniques.
1. Get to know the real you
Stop chasing the dreams of other people and spend some time getting to know who you are from the inside out. Humans are astounding creatures, with a vast array of unique characteristics and skills that make us vastly different yet intricately interconnected. You will be able to stop folding yourself down into tinier and tinier boxes when you learn to recognize those powers and skills for what they are and use them to the make the most out of your life.
Take a step back from everything you have going on and start building in some one-on-one time for yourself. Use this time to take a deeper look at who you are and the things you want. Start by embracing your emotions and then move outward. Who do you want to be in 10 years’ time? How about 15?
Don’t expect the answers to come to you overnight and don’t expect the revelations to instantly overpower your desire to fit in. Lean into the process slowly and allow it to be a gradual wooing. Fall in love with yourself, and start embracing your strengths and your flaws as unique pieces of your one-of-a-kind machinery. No one is made like you, and no one wants a future precisely like yours. Overcome your need to conform by figuring out who you are on the inside.
2. Lose the need to judge yourself
Often, it is our low self-esteem that leads us down the path to personal conformity. When we’re down on ourselves, or feel like we aren’t good enough, we often look to the examples of others as lifesavers we can cling to. Our inner-critics come in, and wreck our confidence with their endless judgements — which makes us scared and unsure of ourselves. While looking to those we admire is helpful, conforming ourselves to mismatched ideals will do little to provide us with the things we need in order to truly thrive in this world.
Stop judging yourself and take back your power from your inner critic. Shut down those voices that tell you that you aren’t good enough and dismiss (out of hand) any inner dialogue that forces you to believe you can’t lead or do something different from the crowd.
We all have unique skills, perspectives and values to add to the world around us, but we have to embrace those things even when they make us uncomfortable. Drop the comparisons and stop making your journey the sum of someone else’s experience. No one will know your pain, suffering, or joy like you will. No one will ever know the depth of your ability like you will. Stop judging yourself and give yourself the freedom to simply be who you are.
3. Rid yourself of a need for validation
Perhaps one of the more common reasons we fold and conform to society is our desperate need for approval. The approval of others can feel nice, and it can feel as though it’s validation. Basing our happiness on the opinions of others is foolhardy, however, and will lead to disappointment every single time. The only approval that can sustain us is our own, because we are the only person who we truly have to live with until the end of our days.
If you’re chasing the approval of other people, rather than seeking your own approval foremost — ask yourself why the opinions of people who don’t pay your bills matters so much? Even if they do contribute to your lifestyle, where is it written that you have to sacrifice yourself for their liking?
Drop your need for the approval of others by getting focused on your own approval. Before you commit to any major change of life, before you get a haircut, or buy a new wardrobe, or exclude someone from the table that other people don’t like…question yourself. Are you doing what you want to do? Or are you doing what someone else expects of you? There is no joy in meeting other people’s expectations. Only your own. Impress yourself and let the others fall in line.
4. Be more present in your life
There is so much power in being present in the right now, but we can lose sight of that when we’re off chasing the Jones’ and fitting our round lifestyles into square holes. Living authentically means being in our bodies, being present with our emotions, and being engaged even when things get hard. Stop checking out and letting the whims of others dictate where you go. Get present in the here and now so you can live your own authentic experience.
Be more present. Life is entirely too short to spend in pursuit of other people’s desires and needs. When you get more focused on being in your body and in your own experience, you’ll learn how to lose your attachment to other people’s opinions. Let them lead their experience, and you find your own.
Presence is powerful, and it can empower you to live courageously in a time which is otherwise uncertain and filled with fear. Start small, and build up your presence by increasing the increments of time you spend engaged and in the moment — removed from thoughts of the past, or worry over the future. Mindful meditations can assist you on this journey, and journalling too is good way to process your thoughts presently and at the moment, without getting close enough to get burned.
5. Embrace your inherent value
No matter how confident you are, or how free of the influence of others you might be, you’ll flounder under the pressure of conformity if you don’t recognize the value of your own dreams. The dreams we create are goals, and guideposts for our lives that allow us to test where we’re at and where we want to go. No matter how silly — no matter how small — embrace the things you want from your future and honor their value as you would honor it in anyone else.
Don’t be afraid to make big plans for your future and don’t be afraid to make even bigger plans for action. The things we want from our lives are not an accident. These dreams are the culmination of our passions and our potential. Make the most of that potential by understanding that you may create any future that you want.
Stop putting yourself down and stop putting the things you want in the backseat. There is nothing wrong with wanting a cottage by the sea, or a mansion in the mountains. This life was meant to be pursued, proactively, by each of us with all the fervor of ambition and enjoyment. Value yourself and things you want from this life just as much as you would value them in those you want to impress or connect with. It will make a world of difference for your self-esteem.
Putting it all together…
As humans, we are social creatures, and that can lead to a big need to conform. Conformity occurs when we fold down parts of ourselves in order to fit the standards of another person. It’s burying your authentic desires, needs and dreams; it’s giving up and giving in to other people. When you live constantly in a state of conformity, you lose sight of who you are and what you want truly want. Start living authentically if you want to live happily.
Figure out who you are on the inside and spend some time getting brutally honest on how you’re feeling and what you want from your life. Don’t shy away from the truth just because you think it might conflict with the desires of someone else. Stop judging yourself, and stop punishing yourself for perceived mistakes. We are all beautifully unique in our own ways, with several skills that make us valuable players in our environments. Embrace your emotions and embrace your interests and your passions too. Drop your need for the approval for others and lean instead into being present in your body right here and right now. There is value in your dreams, so chase them with the full fervor of your heart. We are the only ones with the power to define our own lives and our happiness. Celebrate the steps you take, both big and small, and start going after the life that is authentically yours.
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