It bothers me to no end to hear things like:
“That is the way it’s always been done”
“That is what everybody does”
“That’s not normal”
“People will think you’re weird”
“You just can’t do things like that”
These are just some of the terms that people hear when they think differently than the crowd. In social psychology I learned that basically we all want to fit in with the group we identify with. We think and act as they do so that we feel part of the group. It dawned on me that this is herd mentality. We act like sheep. We follow the sheep in front of us without knowing or caring where the sheep is going. Sheep have been known to follow each other of cliffs!
Why do we feel the need to act, talk, dress and be like others? Why do we have such a need to fit in? It is because we have been conditioned to think that way. Conditioning is the process by which we learn thoughts and behaviors through negative or positive consequences. Growing up, if you did not wear the same type of clothes in school as the other kids, you were teased and made fun of. Our parents didn’t like it if we were too different from the other kids. They would tell us “no one is going to want to play with you.” I can go on and on, but the point is we were conditioned negatively that going against the norm is bad. On the other hand, when we did conform, then we were accepted into the group we wanted to be a part of. That positively conditioned us that in order to be accepted, we had to be like the other people in the group.
The problem is that we lose our individuality. We become stagnant in our thinking. We let the group think for us. We feel we have to “keep up with the Jones.” We stop trying new things for fear of the group’s judgment. In my opinion, it keeps us from truly living. It keeps us from following dreams. It makes us do things we don’t enjoy and keeps us from doing the things we do enjoy. We become actors hiding who we truly are.
I knew of a kid that wanted to become a mechanic and his parents told them they would not pay for him to go to school if that is what he chose. If he studied business or some other profession that made more money, then they would pay for his school. I believe it is because his parents have the herd mentality. They are successful and their friends are successful (meaning they have money and white collar jobs, which is neither successful nor unsuccessful, it is neutral). The parents would be embarrassed to say their son was a mechanic. Why? Because that is not what the rest of the sheep do. He would be an outcast. So the son was pressured into going to school for something other than a mechanic.
I wonder how his life will turn out acting like something he is not. Will he be happy, or will he always feel like something is missing in life? Just a side note, I wonder who the parents think should be mechanics? They are just as needed in this society as a doctor or a lawyer.
So many people have dreams and goals that they would not dare pursue for fear of judgment from the rest of the group. I was like that. I did not truly start to live until I was in my 30’s because I too was a sheep following the rest. I was 268 pounds because I drank too much. I was depressed, in bad health, and miserable. I was sick of my life and started to read everything I could to get rid of the meaningless life I was living. Instead of leaning to “think outside the box”, I decided there was no box at all.
Once my thinking changed, my life started to change. I saw a triathlon race on TV and thought I want to do that. At the time I could not even jog to the fridge for another beer. But over time I got in shape. By the time I was 41, I weighed 195 pounds and I had run in 7 triathlons. The last of which was a 1 mile swim in Lake Michigan, followed by a 56 mile bike ride, followed by a 13.1 mile run. I did it all in 7 hours and 16 minute. I started playing hockey at 40 years of age. I started this blog. I have done so many things once I decided to abandon the herd and realize there was no box.
If I can change, anybody can change. Learn to follow your heart. Quit worrying about what others think. Throw the box away. It causes people to marry people they don’t want to marry. It causes them to work jobs they hate. It causes them to choose friends they don’t like and can’t trust. It robs them of an amazing life. We all have to live within in the confines of morality and the law, but beyond that, it’s wide open. You can do whatever you want to do. You can be anything you want to be. You can have an amazing life. But you first have to get rid of the herd mentality and start thinking for yourself. You can’t live in fear of people judging you. Most of the time people judge you because they lack the courage to do what you are doing. They want to keep you in the herd. They don’t want to feel like you’re better than they are. So they try to keep you down. Those people are toxic.
Get rid of the fear of failure. It is better to try and fail then to not try at all. Failure is part of life. But you get back up, dust yourself off and try again. You can at least hold your head high knowing you had the courage to try what others would not. You got off the couch and tried to live this life as it should be. Make no mistake, even if you failed, the fact that you tried is truly living. It will be our experiences we look back on or more to the point; the lack of experiences. In our last years, it will be the regret of not following dreams and doing the things we thought would bring us happiness that will haunt us. I don’t want to be that person and neither do you. So leave the herd and start living. You will be amazed at the life you can have.