“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…







Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

25 replies on “Just Another Face in the Crowd

  1. I don’t know where to begin but I absolutely love your article. I have always said normal =boring now I have more quotes to use. And I have realised as long as you fight for conformity you may never achieve your full potential

  2. So loved this post, Cheryl. As an introvert, it resonated strongly with it. Like you, I like being different. I was the one in the family that preferred arts over science and numbers, and was more ‘punk and edgy’ compared to a lot of people around me growing up…and still to this day. But as you said, sometimes it is easier to conform. Given that I don’t like attention on me, sometimes I do feel why not just go along with what others say and not truly voice my opinion. That is sometimes I rather agree with what others do and say…but knowing that it is not the true me. Being different can be a very private thing for some individuals and you might only meet one or two people who totally understands you.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Mabel. I think you totally get my ambiguity. When we can’t be put in a box, we become misfits of sorts. Or maybe that’s just how I feel. I too don’t like being conspicuous and I stay quiet — till I can. 🙂 “Being different can be a very private thing for some individuals and you might only meet one or two people who totally understands you.” I appreciate this line so much. There are only few friends you understand me. It’s the flip side of being who I am. 😦

      1. I do wish more people understand me, but at the end of the day too many people wear my down lol. Misfits we may be and it can be a good thing – we truly know ourselves and recognise that 🙂

  3. You may be just another face in the crowd but there’ll never be another you. Love your post Cheryl, all your quotes, beautiful pictures and emotive words paint a picture of perfect individualism. You don’t need to change for anyone. Big hugs xo 🙂

    1. You know how to make my day, Miriam. 🙂 Winter’s not been the best this year. I guess all those emotions are flowing into my posts making them gloomy and despondent. Well, the sun’s out today and temperatures are slowly rising. I heard few birds chirp and I think life is going to be OK. Sending you a big hug! ❤

      1. Life’s going to be better than okay Cheryl, it’s going to be awesome. Stay warm and well my friend. Big hugs back x ❤️🙂

  4. While we may be another face in the crowd, but our individuality and uniqueness cannot be ignored. I don’t think we should confirm with popular opinions. Why should we change our own identity?

  5. But Cheryl, why don’t you want to part of the sheeple? 😉 I’m of two minds on this – in a spiritual sense, I def agree that you need to speak your own voice, no matter what, because nothing is more painful than not being true to yourself – but in a physical sense, I rather enjoy just being a face in the crowd… there’s a freedom to the physical anonymity I’ve enjoyed in Korea…

  6. There does seem to be a trade-off between the benefits of conformity (fitting in, playing the political game – including in the work environment, being a loyal member of the “tribe”) and in finding your individuality (to the extent of tattoos, purple or orange hair, etc). Some folks seem to overcompensate in both extremes, but I think it’s possible to straddle those boundaries and still keep your individuality. It takes some confidence…

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