Conforming to Conformity?

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    Dear all,

    I hope you are well. πŸ™‚ I am good, though have a few issues here and there that I will soon be seeking help on. The current issue I’m dealing with is lifelong, but NOT debilitating… still, I feel that it needs to be somehow “voiced”, so here we go.

    For nearly all my life, I have been afraid of conforming. Now at first glance this seems like a GOOD thing, right? πŸ™‚ It promotes individuality, embraces variety, and allows me to be my own person and find “myself” (whoever I am…it’s a lifelong journey, as we all know). However, when taken to an extreme (like anything), this creates some problems.

    Starting in grade school (or perhaps even younger!), I came to HATE being like everybody else. I was most likely constantly crying out for attention, trying to do anything to stand out or be weird/noticeable. This is also probably the ironic reason I had little trouble with being homosexual, even when I was aware of it (I just saw it as another awesome weird thing that would make me special).

    Being witness to our little school presentations against peer pressure and jumping on the bandwagon (e.g., smoking, sex, drugs) just furthered my distaste of being like everybody else. I even came to dislike my own generation, mostly because almost all of them seemed rather shallow or bad-mannered, while older people were far more likeable and interesting…with some exceptions, of course. πŸ˜‰

    But this aversion to “popularity” continued. I came to fear anything over-hyped or well-loved, and realized that I was hating things merely because they were over-popular. If everyone reads a famous book, I’ll want to avoid the book (e.g., Da Vinci Code). If everyone goes to see the latest hyped movie, I will steer clear from it (e.g., “The Avengers”). I’ll get a sick pleasure out of being “the only one” who didn’t read the book or see the movie, and often like being “late to the party.”

    Throughout my life, I’ve seen enough movies and read enough books to feel that “those who stand out are better”. I don’t think this is actually true, but we’re exposed to it too often (look at Cinderella, Harry Potter, Hugo, almost every famous person’s biopic). The common, “average Joe” people are not interesting. Those who are outcasts, disabled, in the minority, or suffering are “more important” somehow. So I wanted to be like those people (which is also probably why I take pleasure whenever I suffer).

    Not good, I realize that. It’s what I do and what I become that is more important…I think. (I’m starting to trip over my words now, I’m sorry.) What I’m trying to get to is that I still have this issue where I flinch at anything over-popular, because I fear becoming a “zombie” if I enjoy it or get into contact with it. Imagine being in a movie theater, then turning around to look at the audience. It’s a FRIGHTENING image: everyone glowing a sort of light blue color, not blinking, and staring at the screen, some with open mouths (the movie Amelie showed this). I don’t want to be like that (and get VERY upset when I realize I AM…it has happened several times). I don’t want to be a zombie, or jaded, or “like everybody else.”

    But the flipside of all this is that being “unique” and “different” also makes me feel rather lonely, especially in terms of opinion. Many of my opinions are sincerely opposite of the majority (and NOT because everybody else thinks the opposite…though I realize I have to concentrate real hard to make sure why I am aversed in the first place). For example, I don’t like Stanley Kubrick movies. I hate Quentin Tarantino. I didn’t even like The Lego Movie. And almost all people I know love all three and look at me strangely when I vocalize these opinions. Please don’t get me wrong, though. I’ve been VERY LUCKY to find people who have embraced me for what I love AND don’t love, and it’s taught me to do the same. πŸ˜€ So yay for good things!

    The biggest problem about all this is that I find myself unable to enjoy things that I SHOULD enjoy, but I don’t, merely because EVERYONE ELSE ENJOYS THEM. I feel this tangible, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I realize “Oh God, I’ve become like EVERYBODY ELSE,” and I don’t want that. A big example is Guardians of the Galaxy. I still have not seen that movie, MAINLY BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE HAS. I’m sure I’d love it and I don’t deny it’s probably an awesome film. πŸ™‚ But I can’t stand the idea that I’d just be like everybody else in that little “box”… I get too much pleasure out of seeing weird unknown films that nobody else knows about (remember the TV show “The Critic”? The eponymous character had the exact same issue!).

    Yes, yes, I realize I’m mainly talking about FILMS here, and though there is FAR more to life than media, I find that too many people I know are media-centric, and a lot depends on what films/TV shows you like or don’t like (yes, I’m seeking people with wider interests, and that helps a LOT).

    So…how do I get rid of this feeling? Or SHOULD I get rid of it? I’m wondering if this is just something about me I should accept and move on with my life the way I am. It hurts only when I feel “alone” in my interests and unable to identify with others (especially in a group) when they’re excitedly talking about something that I can’t contribute to or know nothing about, knowing at the same time that anything -I- bring up will not be as exciting or interesting. It feels like this is the punishment I’m receiving for not conforming (if you know about Eugene Ionesco’s play “Rhinoceros,” consider the ending, which is EXACTLY the thing I’m dealing with).

    Suggestions and advice are more than welcome, and I’ll be sure to bring this up with my psychiatrist when I see him. And to anyone who is dealing with similar issues, I more than understand. The bright side of this whole thing is that it taught me to embrace others who feel differently (or ARE different), rather than look down on them for not keeping up with the Joneses or push them to do something just because “everyone else has done it.”

    All my love and light to all of you. πŸ™‚ Thank you for reading this blather, and I hope you will be well!!! <3

    — Marc


    I will think as I write to you: fearing to be like others, needing to stand out- is that a deep longing to be noticed, to be seen? Is that a compulsion to get noticed? A fear to disappear in the sameness around you? A fear to disappear…? To be or not to be may be, for you, to be different or not to be…?


    Thinking while writing is a great idea, even if it seems like stream of consciousness or even word association. πŸ™‚ I do that often.

    To be different or not to be…. That sounds pretty close to what I’m thinking, but I’m not even sure if it’s a cry for attention, as I DON’T like having all eyes on me (moreso if someone else deserves the attention FAR more than I do!)… I guess it’s just personal need for reminding myself that “I am different and separate from these people, and yet, they are connected to me.” I am a man who believes STRONGLY in the interconnectedness of all things (I believe in ambiogenesis, that we all were born from the same primordial cell billions of years ago), so I do not deny that, but I guess I feel ugly and sick when I realize I belong to the same set of BAD people or bad qualities (look at the beginning of the silent film “Modern Times”, where a herd of cattle slowly fades into a group of people). I want to rise above that somehow, but at the same time, I don’t want to be “noticed”, either.

    Yes, I know it’s VERY contradictory, and when I explain the situation to others, that’s the first thing they say: “It sounds like you want two different things at the same time, Marc.” So…that’s why I feel kind of depressed, as there doesn’t seem to be a solution for any of this, and why I feel I should just live with it.

    Thank you for your wisdom and thoughts. πŸ™‚ All enrich me, even in small ways. *BIG HUG*

    — Marc


    Continuing with my stream of consciousness: first i need to remind myself that all my views are projections of my thoughts, experiences- sometimes my projections are way off, at other times they are more accurate than not. It sounds to me like you came to the conclusion that you should just live with it- peace to you.


    I have no idea if my projections are way off or not… it’s like asking if what I’m thinking is “right or wrong” (and I still believe there is such a thing, though people would disagree). I would gladly live with it, but it only hurts when I’m with a crowd of people and realize that I’m the only one with a certain opinion, while everybody else is in the “norm”, and it makes me feel lonely and wondering if something’s wrong with me.

    I’m sorry, I really shouldn’t be complaining about it when there are so many more GOOD things in my life, such as wonderful souls as you! πŸ™‚ *hugs* Thank you very much and I will do my best to live life as best as I can with who I am. πŸ˜‰

    — Marc



    I think we can all identify with what you’re going through. I sympathize and commend you for even making the time to think of it… a lot of people are just on auto-pilot and do not even consider some of the most important questions to ask oneself — such as “why am I doing this? Why am I avoiding that? How do reconcile the viewpoints of others with my own personal integrity…

    In response, I offer a few simple idea that changed my life for the better.
    (1) Be wary of your own ego — the ego thrives on separation of some sort. Whether it be seeing oneself richer, more spiritual, more intellectual, less mainstream, or less materialistic. Some monks can have bigger egos than those of millionaires. The ego always wants to see itself as “different”. Give things that genuinely interest you in popular culture a chance — if you hate it, then dismiss it but there will be some things you enjoy. For example, I enjoy a Guniness Beer which is extremely popular as well as music from U2. I also love Starbucks espresso.

    (2) Having compassion on other people will help you relate to them more — realize that most people are overwhelmed, stressed, and busy fretting over all of their problems. We as humans invariably all suffer from many of the same ills — such as feelings of inadequacy, never being satisfied, and looking in all the wrong places for fulfillment. We all share a common fate as well – being humbled, growing sick, and dying.

    (3) As much as we need to develop individually through self reliance, meditation, contemplation, etc — there is the ever present need within our souls to relate and bond with others. Moreover, I believe that we can find out a lot about ourselves through other people. For example, my friend introduced me to mountain climbing — something that I would never have pursued on my own. My wife introduced me to a variety of movies that I would have never watched had she never met me. Hence, the infamous and powerful quote “no man is an island”.

    I hope this helps. You seem like a good man!



    Hey Chris,

    Thank you very much for your wise words and compliment. I will try to work on some of those things. My biggest worry for trying new things is the long-lasting effects they have on me, for the worse. I regret ever watching certain films like Brokeback Mountain, which caused me to be depressed for YEARS, especially when everybody else talks about how much they loved it and describes moments in it that I don’t need to be reminded about. As an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), I need to know my boundaries, which, when crossed, hurt me more than broaden my horizons. It’s an extremely fine line between broadening my horizons and overstepping my boundaries, and I don’t know where the line is. There are new things I’ll try (especially non-media), but media-related things I usually avoid now, because every time I’ve been pushed to see something, the outcome has been altogether worse, and for too long. πŸ™

    Having compassion on others is very important…but again, thanks to media and news, I’m too often given an ugly image of humanity as a generalized “basely evil” creature that has evolved too much, become hyper-civilized, and now gets too much pleasure out of hurting his own kind, entertainment from pain and abuse, and chaotic minds (re: the Baltimore riots). I know there are good things in the world, but the bad things just shine more brightly to me and have a stronger effect… πŸ™ So my persistent shame of being human (from childhood–it doesn’t help to watch children’s movies that show how humans are evil and animals are better) is still there. It doesn’t stop me from loving others, though (and I have a LOT of love to give). But that love is tested too often, and when the logic points to us humans being unworthy of love (myself included), it’s just…difficult, and I often long to be something better than human.

    And I definitely want to bond with others, but over GOOD things…things that I don’t have to be ashamed about or feel bad about. I know that I love my furry friends SO MUCH, and we love to go out and entertain others in our silly costumes (a lot of Patch Adams in us, yes), so I wholeheartedly bond in that. Also love just finding unique, interesting things to bond with others over, like my tap lessons. I can do without the media stuff (unless it’s something I happen to really love).

    Maybe I’m not as bad as I’m making myself out to be, but I feel like I’ve hit a very low point right now, and it’s hard to get out of (depression is easy to fall into, since it’s so familiar and comfortable to those who have been suffering from it). I know I have so many loved ones who care about me and want me to be happy…I’ll try to take solace in them and their positive energy. Thank you so much for your own, and forgive my long blathersome responses…this is definitely my innermost thoughts being voiced, and simply writing them out feels great (I should do that privately, I know, but this time I definitely wanted some advice and thoughts).

    Lots of love to you and yours, ALWAYS,



    The biggest problem about all this is that I find myself unable to enjoy things that I SHOULD enjoy, but I don’t, merely because EVERYONE ELSE ENJOYS THEM. I feel this tangible, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I realize β€œOh God, I’ve become like EVERYBODY ELSE,” and I don’t want that.

    I think, as Christopher says, Ego is an issue, and a set of assumptions about the value of a mass experience versus a more exclusive experience. Marc, you do mention that you can share the things that you do enjoy with a smaller group of friends, but the people in the movie theater enjoying Avengers (or whatever the popular thing might be) are having a shared experience, too. That doesn’t make it a less valuable experience, since there are so many points of similarity and connection between people generally — many of us experience various lifetime milestones, for example — that shared experiences do have value and aren’t necessarily pedestrian.

    So it seems like you’re feeling the pull of a sort of elitism but recognize that it isn’t really a healthy thing, perhaps?


    May I put in something? You can ignore this if it doesn’t make sense to you.

    I understand that the thought of conforming merely for the sake of conforming gives you a bad taste, but does interests in movies, novels, hobbies, etc have to be about conforming/adhering to one opinion? People have their likes and dislikes. Two people might have the same hobby, but different reasons for keeping up with it, or they may just like it. A group of people might have the same opinion on a subject, but different viewpoints as to why. And it’s fine because people will have their opinions regardless. They are not conforming to one thing, but voicing their interests/connection to a subject with similar likes. It’s also fine to be speculative about someone’s else opinion (you just have to find a person’s whose opinion you trust to tell you the why to their like). Or if that didn’t make sense.

    From your example of The Lego Movie: I didn’t watch it until a few years after it was made into disc form since it didn’t look interesting to me, but I did and I also didn’t like it. It didn’t really strike me as a good movie in my own opinion, though there were some lessons that I did agree with that was presented in the movie. I didn’t like the movie as a whole (subject), but I did like some of the amusing scenes. Some people might agree with me or disagree with me and that’s fine because it’s their opinion, which is something to be respected. So it’s not really about conforming or not conforming, it’s just people liking or disliking what they will. Of course, there are ‘zombies’, as you put it, that conform because they feel that they have to. But I believe that being aware of yourself and treating yourself with respect will prevent that from happening, which sounds like you already are so that’s no problem.

    And I agree, it’s lonely that there might not be a lot of people that share your interests or opinion, but it never hurts to ask them about the why. They may not like something as a whole, but they may still like some of the details associated with it. It can bring about a good conversation and you might learn a little more about the person. Though I do encourage you to try the things that are the in at the moment, if it looks interesting to you, since you never know if you’ll like it or not unless you try it out for yourself. But it’s also fine if you don’t, it’s just a suggestion of mine.

    I hope this helps you in some way. Best of luck to you.


    Hello there. πŸ™‚ I feel like I’m getting a bit lost in word salad now….but I’m trying to pull out the great wisdom I know both of you are trying to impart. πŸ™‚

    To valerista: Hmmm…elitism. That does make sense, as I grew up in a family that often tried to rise above others, recognizing everybody else’s faults and a generalized bleakness of humanity that I should rise above. I ended up rebelling (as kids always do) and interacting with those who were under that limit, but unfortunately, it did more harm than good. I think I just gained a subtle feeling that “If I give in to the hype and become part of the collective, I become a ‘bad person'”.

    Your words make sense, as my lover and numerous close friends have mine HAVE given into the hype, but are still themselves as individuals and people who love me (and whom I love deeply). It’s always just a personal “twitch” of discomfort I get, and I kind of need someone there to bring me out of it (then again, that’s codependency…so that’s not good either). But it DOES help to have someone who understands how I feel and can ask questions that help me come to terms with this pain, too. It’s such a weird pain and shouldn’t exist in the first place…but it just does. :-/

    To Reine: I like what you said about Lego Movie. Of course I love the lesson and a few scenes in it, but the movie just gave me a general headache (too much stuff going on at once), and the live-action stuff at the end was majorly creepy and made me extremely uncomfortable. I guess what upset me was that I was forced to watch it, and two guys said “You’re gonna love it,” which kind of says to me, “If you don’t love it, something’s wrong with you.” And sure enough, when I told them my opinion, they became VERY moody. πŸ™ It’s hard to find people that will simply accept a differentiating opinion with open arms. But it’s taught ME to be more open-minded, which is definitely a happy result.

    But your overall message made me feel good, because it reminded me that I can like DETAILS or ASPECTS about something, without liking it completely. I may love eating an orange, but does that mean that I like eating the peel, too? There are things about the Lord of the Rings movies I’m sure I’d love, but I’m totally turned off by all the war scenes (and yes, I’ve seen them). And being an HSP, things like that can affect me VERY negatively, so that’s why I avoid them in the first place (I tried watching Kingsman, and had to turn away for half of the movie, and still felt VERY sick afterwards).

    It’s a long journey, and one I hope I’m making some advances in, bit by bit. Thank you all for your advice, and I’m sorry if I made this more confusing than it needs to be. Occam’s Razor. <3

    All my love to you,




    Its not that complicated – ironically all of us want to be different but we fail to realize how innately similiar we are. Interests and thinking may vary but there is a basic humanity and decency that binds us all. The more we focus on our differances, the more alienated we become. Be yourself but dont hate or dislike others if they are different from you. So what if their interests are more in the majority route? Would you like it if they judged your basic goodness and decency as a human being based on what books you read or movies you watched or what clothes you wore? People are very complex creatures who appear deceptively easy to typecast. Just like you, they are evolving every second. Learn to love and accept despite the differences. Your insecurities create this desire to stand out and conform at the same time. Hence the contradiction. The only way to find peace – just let go and learn to be happy with yourself despite it all. The day you love yourself unconditionally and start looking at the world from a more impartial eye, it wont be that bad, you say the news bothers you- well does the news cover the small wonderful things that happen too? Sacrifices, acts of kindess and selflessness happen everyday alongside brutality. You cant let the negativity cloud it all. Leave your mind and relly get involved in somethong that will shift your view from being different to being of service to others. The ego is a great servant but not a very good master.

    – Moon


    Hey Moon,

    I’ve definitely been judged based on my interests (and even non-interests), and it REALLY hurt. It came to the point that I started providing long, verbose disclaimers on why I liked or didn’t like something, to make sure no one would judge me. On the bright side (as I mentioned in an earlier post), it taught me to embrace others and not judge THEM on their likes, at least in the individual sense. I think I still judge on a generalized level (“the whole of humanity” vs. “one special person”). I think a lot of this comes not just from my ego, but from my learned negative perception of the human race, which I have to “unlearn” somehow. Taking part in something charitable and active is a GREAT idea, in terms of surrounding myself with positive people who are making a difference. I will definitely remember this (and hopefully act on it; been far too lazy recently). I worry, though, about the “evolution” of humanity…tons of documentaries, studies, films, and fiction seem to point out that humanity is hurtling towards disaster, extinction, or degradation, rather than rising to become something better (but don’t get me wrong–sites like TinyBuddha are definitely sparkles of hope).

    Looking at the world from an impartial eye–that’s really tough, given that which influences me far too much (e.g. media, news, friends with strong biased opinions). But “leaving my mind” is definitely familiar. When I’m alone or idle, I tend to think and “go back” to unhappier times that just pull me into a strong depression. But when I’m busy, distracted, or enjoying things with others, all those thoughts go away. I acknowledge that I have my anxieties, but I still take too much pleasure in letting them take control of me (another common habit of my life, the love of being “controlled”).

    It shames me that I have such a huge ego, and everyone who has posted here is correct about that. I want to be humble and lowly so I can be a good person, but it never occurred to me that I keep bringing everything back to myself. And even when I try not to do that, it keeps coming back to me. I can help someone who’s dying, but all that’s going through my mind is the pain of his/her loved ones and the negative repercussions it will have on everything else, and so the service becomes a negative source of energy rather than a positive one. πŸ™ I listened to someone last night tell me the most depressing story of watching his partner wither and die over eight years, and by the time he was done talking, I was miserable and depressed, and unable to think of anything positive to say.

    Not sure when I’ll get over this…I’ve got so much advice from so many good people, but I don’t think I’ve done anything with it (and I keep promising myself over and over again…and keep betraying myself over and over). Hopefully I will soon.

    Much love to you and yours, always,




    Apologies in advance if this stings. Consider that perhaps you’ve made a web in your brain of what the world should be, and become agitated when the world doesn’t live up to your expectations. This habitual judgment sits you like a spider in the center of the web, waiting for another experience to fly in and wiggle the web so you can jump on it and suck the blood. Without metaphor, perhaps your ego has a rigid view of what is supposed to be, and when something arises that conflicts with that, you begin tearing it apart to feed your sense of what should be.

    The problem with approaching life in this way is there is very little space for you to relax. Always a new experience that needs your attention, another moment that requires you to slam your gavel down and decide what it all means. So busy, so full, sorting out endless stacks of proof, who has the space or time to enjoy?

    To deconstruct this habit, consider two activities. One, contemplate warm humility. All of us are foolish, stumbling around looking for happiness and contentment, learning as we try and try. Sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding. For me, this is best illustrated by kids learning their ABC’s. Their mind starts completely ignorant of what letter is what. And each one learns at their own pace. The first kid to memorize the letters isn’t better or worse than the last. Many factors play into the speed of learning, and none of those factors make one kid more or less acceptable or lovable than any other. For us to stand over the kids telling them they are smart or stupid is a waste of effort.

    The second is to cultivate warm feelings for those that are learning, such as sitting and wishing the people in our life find happiness, wisdom, and peace (including ourselves). May we learn without unnecessary struggle, may we find our authentic smile, and so forth. Consider “Sharon salzberg guided metta meditation” on YouTube, if interested.

    These practices together can help you unweave that web, open up the narrow minded quality of “only X is good”, and more easily let go of all that proof you’ve been seeking. Said differently, as an HSP, there is a lot of data coming in, so it helps to make space for it to flow in and flow out without jumping on it, grabbing for proof.

    With warmth,

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