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In today’s society, the topic of conformity along with its principles has become a controversial subject throughout the world. Conformity is a tendency to align ones’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviors in hopes to fit in a group. It is a major aspect of life that can be considered as a form of social pressure or even a subtle unconscious influence. Most individuals can relate to conformity one way or another. I can strongly relate to the concept of conformity due to various cultural and social dynamics which have greatly affected my life. The Transcendentalist movement has played a significant role in the commencing of this controversial matter. The Transcendentalist movement was an American literal, political and philosophical movement which was established during the nineteenth century. This movement was led by essayist, lecturer and poet; Ralph Waldo Emerson. The era was full of critical judgements of individuals of their own society due to careless conformity. However, it intended to encourage people to find their unique relation to the world. This ambition inspired people to object and protest against the common state of mentality and perspective that was present during the time.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a major icon of the Transcendentalist movement. This was partially due to his inspirational and moving essay “Self-Reliance” which was written in 1841. This well-known essay consists of Emerson’s advice for individuals to scrutinize their connection with Nature and God. He stresses the importance for every individual to avoid conformity 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 be interpreted in various ways. Two statements that are vital to his essay are “envy is ignorance” and “imitation is suicide.” In terms of my own interpretation, I believe that Emerson is attempting to display how being jealous of someone is the same as being ignorant due to the lack of ability to understand the potential in one’s self and all of the positive aspects in the individual’s life. In addition, I think Emerson is trying to express the concept that if you imitate someone else in any way, shape, or form, then you are disregarding your own individuality that God has given you. In other words, he means that you are killing yourself by destroying your true identity.
One probable reason as to why individuals conform is due to cultural dynamics. Most people are affiliated with some sort of culture of which they are expected to follow the traditions and norms of. As a result, if they do not accept and follow certain traditions and standards of their culture then they will be frowned upon by others who are affiliated with the same culture. With a complete Pakistani background, there are various behaviors that I conform to on a daily basis. For example, a norm has developed within our culture to wear traditional, ethnic clothing whenever we are gathered together with family and relatives. During these gatherings, I feel highly obligated to conform by wearing ethnic clothing because I believe that if I do not conform, then I will be looked upon in a strange way and will be judged by others around me.
Another probable reason as to why individuals conform is due to social dynamics. As a teenager myself, I think it is safe to say that most teenagers conform in some way, shape, or form; especially when it comes to fitting in with a group of people. We attempt to alter ourselves in order 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 in secret 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 in Christmas based activities, displays an example of social dynamic conformity. I am afraid that if I do not participate, I will not be able to fully be a part of the group I want to be in. With these everyday conformities that exist till today; the fact is that humans naturally strive to fit in wherever our hearts desire regardless of how much we think of ourselves as individual people.
With several personal experiences regarding conformity, I agree with Emerson’s viewpoints on conformity to a certain extent. I do agree with his idea that people should refrain from conforming to the best of their ability and that they should follow their own desires and ways of life. I also appreciate his encouragement for people to find their own unique relation to the world. However, I believe that Emerson took this matter way too far. He believed that factors such as religion and society should not have any effect in terms of how people behave. However, with influences of religion and society, there are various regular and ordinary principles that I feel are needed in order to have a successful and developed society. For example, I believe that a desire to be like your own father or mother should not be discouraged. Many children look up to their parents as role models and should be able to without being criticized for it. I also believe that if individuals choose to criticize others for these ordinary principles, then it could lead to a serious damage in society. In other terms, I believe that conforming one’s personality, character or identity is wrong but I believe that upholding civility in society is imperative.
Overall, the topic of conformity along with its principals has become and will remain a controversial subject throughout the world. Conformity, as is a tendency to align one’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviors in hopes to fit in a group or croup is a major aspect of life that has the power to destroy one’s identity. This matter can be related by most individuals including myself. As the Transcendentalist movement urged people of society to prevent themselves from conforming, it encouraged them to find their own unique relation to the world. This movement has played a major role in the controversial matter of conformity. Ralph Waldo Emerson, leader of the Transcendentalist movement inspired people to go against the common state of mentality and perspective. This touching message from Emerson continues to remind people today to embrace their individuality that God has given them and that they should focus more on the positive aspects of life rather than the negative ones.
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