“perhaps, if one wishes to remain an individual in the midst of the teeming multitudes, one must make oneself grotesque.”
― Salman Rushdie
I grew up in an environment of conformity. There was little room for free thinking in an all-girls Catholic school. Uniformity was the order of the day. Faith was always measured in morality and morality by the length of your hemline. Individuality was considered to be a form of rebellion and rebellion was frowned upon. As a shy introvert, comfortable in the shadows, the easiest way to fit in — was to be like everyone else. To be just another face in the crowd…
“It’s weird not to be weird.”
― John Lennon
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
And it would have worked for the rest of my life had I not have rebels for role models in my own family. Dinner table talks started as intellectual conversations and always ended in a heated debate. My dad, older siblings, and I are were all science geeks. Mum was obviously outnumbered on account of her degree in History. But she managed to hold her own despite being the odd one out. It wasn’t easy to be the youngest and be heard over the cacophony of diverse opinions. But that’s how I learned the importance of having an opinion — however different it may be. It was just a matter of finding my voice from thereon.
“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”
― Maya Angelou
“As much as I live I shall not imitate them or hate myself for being different to them”
― Orhan Pamuk
Surprisingly, conformity is not a by-product of organised faith only. I saw it when I attended college and then university. I saw it when I made a switch to advertising. I saw it where I worked. I saw it on our travels. I saw it as an expat. I saw it everywhere actually. Being a face in the crowd was accepted without question. I wonder if that’s how we must function as a society. Is there a hidden reason why most of us fall for that trap? And where does that leave people like me who feel alone in a crowd and free — alone?
“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
It’s been a long struggle to find my voice. On some days, it still is. Sadly, voices that stand out are also the ones that can be easily crushed. These days, we’re constantly judged by how likeable we are. The rules in the game of likes are simple. Conforming to what works is the path of least resistance.
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
― Coco Chanel
I’ve always wanted to be different and never be a part of the herd. However, it’s not easy to be true to that ideal. Sometimes it’s just easier to stop resisting and conform, especially, when you’re different — on account of how you appear — rather than how you think. It’s also been my biggest concern as an expat. Trying to fit in can dwarf individualism. The longer I stay, the more I’ll feel the pressure to adapt. And soon I’ll probably be just another face in the crowd…