It is easy to be at either ends of any spectrum. One can either be the biggest rule follower out there or one can be a rebel. What is hard is maintaining the balance between the two. I often find myself walking the thin line between conforming to every rule out there and breaking rules altogether. During my student years, I would miss one day’s class just because I did not feel like it and would immediately feel bad afterwards. I imagine there are countless other young people out there like me who are unable to conform but are unwilling to rebel. The position may be difficult, but is it not better to avoid the extremes of either being completely unoriginal while conforming to society or being so rebellious that you become an outcast?
Conformity, by definition, is having identical attitudes, beliefs and behaviours with those who are around you. It is a kind of social influence where one follows majority’s desires and expectations. Young people conform from a need to bond with a group and unwillingness to do so comes with the risk of social rejection. Too much conformity can often lead to peer pressure. Depending on the peer groups, peer conformity can be either a good or bad thing. If one is engaging with rebellious youths, they will be forced to take part in risky activities such as reckless driving or
substance abuse. On the other hand, if one is mingling with responsible young adults, they may be influenced towards positive behaviour, like volunteering, academic excellence etc.
However, just like conformity and obedience are necessary to some extent, in order to prevent chaos among youth in the society, too much of it creates a situation where the youth value other’s opinions over their own. This is
incredibly damaging in development of personalities and personal tastes. This mindset discourages being unique and original. As a result, without individuality, society becomes generic and bland.
Conformity first begins at home. Boys often put on their father’s ties and girls try their mother’s shoes and pretend to be like them. Then there are older siblings and rest of the family to look up to. Moreover, there is the huge influence kids get from watching television. Media often produces television shows targeted towards audience keeping in mind that young people can be easily influenced. At this stage, it is the parents’ responsibility to supervise on the kind of content their child is being exposed to. This is how they learn to differentiate between the good and bad at home.
Then once the child steps foot in the outside world, mostly through school environment, they are suddenly surrounded by peer groups. While influence from peers is limited during primary school years, it gradually increases as the child grows up. At one point, children often begin valuing their friends’ life choices and opinions over their parents. This often creates tension between children and their parents. If children are mixing with the wrong crowd, peer pressure can lead them to believe that conformity is a bad thing and being a rebel is the right path to be on.
I believe any kind of extremism can be harmful for a young person’s development. Too much conformity leads to unoriginality while too less of it creates a rebel without a cause. While it is difficult to maintain a fine balance between the two, it is ideal if one can do so. Young people need
to have some traditional attributes and orthodox behaviour which they learn from their families and educators. Such conformity is necessary in order to progress in society as a responsible individual. On the other hand, it is equally important to maintain originality and making life choices based on own principles and opinion. A young person can be equipped to do that only if they are armed with the proper guidance and the right kind of knowledge. The one key that is absolutely vital to get out of this tricky situation is finding one’s own values, being sure of tem and sticking to them no matter what.
At an age where youth are easily influenced by all kinds of media, it is of utmost importance that parents instill the right values in their children from a young age. So that when they go out and interact with their peers, they will be aware of learning the good things from them and forgoing the bad parts. This will eventually help them develop their own sense of individuality and shape them to be people with original ideas. Society needs to help the youth in embracing their originality. Because there can be no bigger threat to a society than lack of individualism. It is the diversity in our ideas, opinions and values which sets us apart. We never know who will come up with the next revolutionary concept.