In today’s society, the topic of conformity alongwith its principles has become a controversial subject throughout the world.Conformity is a tendency to align ones’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviors inhopes to fit in a group. It is a major aspect of life that can be considered asa form of social pressure or even a subtle unconscious influence. Mostindividuals can relate to conformity one way or another. I can strongly relateto the concept of conformity due to various cultural and social dynamics whichhave greatly affected my life.
The Transcendentalist movement has played asignificant role in the commencing of this controversial matter. TheTranscendentalist movement was an American literal, political and philosophicalmovement which was established during the nineteenth century. This movement wasled by essayist, lecturer and poet; Ralph Waldo Emerson. The era was full ofcritical judgements of individuals of their own society due to careless conformity.However, it intended to encourage people to find their unique relation to theworld. This ambition inspired people to object and protest against the common stateof mentality and perspective that was present during the time.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a major icon of theTranscendentalist movement. This was partially due to his inspirational andmoving essay “Self-Reliance” which was written in 1841. This well-known essayconsists of Emerson’s advice for individuals to scrutinize their connectionwith Nature and God. He stresses the importance for every individual to avoidconformity at all costs and most of all to trust his or her own judgement and instincts.In Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” essay he states multiple phrases that can beinterpreted in various ways. Two statements that are vital to his essay are”envy is ignorance” and “imitation is suicide.” In terms of my owninterpretation, I believe that Emerson is attempting to display how beingjealous of someone is the same as being ignorant due to the lack of ability tounderstand the potential in one’s self and all of the positive aspects in theindividual’s life. In addition, I think Emerson is trying to express theconcept that if you imitate someone else in any way, shape, or form, then youare disregarding your own individuality that God has given you.
In other words,he means that you are killing yourself by destroying your true identity.Oneprobable reason as to why individuals conform is due to cultural dynamics. Mostpeople are affiliated with some sort of culture of which they are expected tofollow the traditions and norms of. As a result, if they do not accept andfollow certain traditions and standards of their culture then they will befrowned upon by others who are affiliated with the same culture.
With acomplete Pakistani background, there are various behaviors that I conform to ona daily basis. For example, a norm has developed within our culture to weartraditional, ethnic clothing whenever we are gathered together with family andrelatives. During these gatherings, I feel highly obligated to conform by wearingethnic clothing because I believe that if I do not conform, then I will be lookedupon in a strange way and will be judged by others around me. Another probable reason as to why individualsconform is due to social dynamics.
As a teenager myself, I think it is safe tosay that most teenagers conform in some way, shape, or form; especially when itcomes to fitting in with a group of people. We attempt to alter ourselves inorder to be entirely accepted by a group of our liking or choice. For example,when it comes to the holiday season in December, I conform by participating insecret Santa exchanges with my friends even though I do not celebrate Christmas.With the fact that I do not celebrate Christmas yet I still participate inChristmas based activities, displays an example of social dynamic conformity. Iam afraid that if I do not participate, I will not be able to fully be a partof the group I want to be in. With these everyday conformities that exist tilltoday; the fact is that humans naturally strive to fit in wherever our heartsdesire regardless of how much we think of ourselves as individual people.With several personal experiences regardingconformity, I agree with Emerson’s viewpoints on conformity to a certainextent.
I do agree with his idea that people should refrain from conforming tothe best of their ability and that they should follow their own desires andways of life. I also appreciate his encouragement for people to find their ownunique relation to the world. However, I believe that Emerson took this matterway too far. He believed that factors such as religion and society should nothave any effect in terms of how people behave. However, with influences of religionand society, there are various regular and ordinary principles that I feel areneeded in order to have a successful and developed society.
For example, Ibelieve that a desire to be like your own father or mother should not bediscouraged. Many children look up to their parents as role models and shouldbe able to without being criticized for it. I also believe that if individuals chooseto criticize others for these ordinary principles, then it could lead to aserious damage in society.
In other terms, I believe that conforming one’spersonality, character or identity is wrong but I believe that upholdingcivility in society is imperative.Overall, the topic of conformity along with itsprincipals has become and will remain a controversial subject throughout theworld. Conformity, as is a tendency to align one’s attitudes, beliefs andbehaviors in hopes to fit in a group or croup is a major aspect of life thathas the power to destroy one’s identity. This matter can be related by mostindividuals including myself. As the Transcendentalist movement urged people ofsociety to prevent themselves from conforming, it encouraged them to find theirown unique relation to the world.
This movement has played a major role in thecontroversial matter of conformity. Ralph Waldo Emerson, leader of theTranscendentalist movement inspired people to go against the common state ofmentality and perspective. This touching message from Emerson continues toremind people today to embrace their individuality that God has given them andthat they should focus more on the positive aspects of life rather than the negativeones.