The Danger of Social Conformity

Maybe I’ve been attending too many weddings this month and been getting too many “when is your turn?” questions, the thought of “settling down” and what “success” mean to me starts to trigger my mind. (*I quotemark there as I don’t agree with the definition of settling down meaning marriage or success meaning rating of one’s life quality.)

To be in your 20s and in Cambodia, it is sensible enough [to them] that your family and surprisingly others (some you have no idea they exist or how any of these should be their business) start pestering you about your future plan: your career, your partner, your wedding day, your house, your car, and your saving.

A lot of my peers are “considered” to be on the right track, graduating with a fancy “on-the-wall” certificate as a doctor, a lawyer, a banker…, getting a job with an average wage of 500USD, getting a dowry of 20KUSD, planning a lavishing 30K USD wedding, sending their kids to an “international” school and bragging how “cool” their kids are to be able to speak English, the list goes on, just base it on everything that may appear in the book of a typical life cycle: birth, schooling, working, and death.

However, if you turn out to not be one of those people who are longing for what I have described above, you are considered a loser and to them your life sucks to the very core. Of course, why would anyone not wanting to sit comfortably in a latest model of Lexus 570, or to live in a 2 storey mansion, or to have 10 HD televisions, or have the most extravagant and high profile wedding of the century, or have money to afford the latest gadget and those materialistic products. Wait did I just describe the life of Kim Kardashian?

Because to them, traveling and exploring the world, chasing after the blue sky to your real dream, expanding your options and knowledge, opening the eyes to see the core value of life and not living your life according to the book are not amounting to all the fame and recognition you would gain from being conformed into this society.

Not putting up with conformity of your society doesn’t mean that you have to alienate yourself from your family or your society. It only means that you are willing to let go of their opinions of who you are and to limit its effect on your life and your decision. One day, you can prove to them the true satisfaction of your decision and of the kind of life you’ve led.

Have you heard of the mythical theory “the Lemming Theory”? Lemming is small rodent looking quite similar to a mouse. The theory came about after a study of a lemming group which mysteriously plunged themselves off the cliff one after another resulting in their death for no reason [we thought]. It later explained that lemmings blindly followed those in front of them to their death just to conform with the pack and not question the order. Even though, this theory is only a myth; it teaches us a valuable lesson that conformity and relying too much on group-think instead of your own thought may kill your creativity and most important of all, kill you.

Society, in a sense, is a lot like a school. They need to somehow set up a status quo like school does with standardized test to measure the unrealistic success of each individual. Those who lead their lives like the lemmings will constantly follow the majority thinking everything they do is right and acceptable without questioning it against your personal value. Only until they reach the edge of the cliff that they know all of these wealth, fame, social approval are all for nothing when you are there alone being pushed by your society to plunge into your own death. Only then would you realise that all of these [you think] you’ve thrived for so far is only to chase after the approval of your society and there’s nothing in it for yourself as you was never once living your own life up to your own expectation but to others’.


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