The Cost of Conformance & Non-Conformance

Personal Growth | January 20th, 2020

Our human inclination to, as the old expression says, ‘judge a book by its cover’, has become a source of vast psychological study. The study of snap judgments is more than just figuring out what we assume by merely looking at each other.

Knowing how people size each other up from day to day has significant implications for identifying and overcoming particular biases, discriminations, and stereotyping. We don’t like being put in boxes.
Think for a moment about your favourite cafe or restaurant. Now think for another moment about why it is your favourite cafe or restaurant is so. As humans, we tend to like what we like and like what we know. We prefer what we are used to and comfortable with. We are all creatures of habit in some areas of our life.

The Benefits of Standardisation

Imagine if you worked for an association in which your directors or coworkers had no set guidelines for managing problems or tensions. Anarchy would likely unfold! It would be like you drew in a crowd of random people, sat them down at a desk, and ignorantly assumed to see workplace excellence happen.
Standardisation serves a great purpose in many aspects of society, such as in the family home, through standards and discipline. Unification in the workplace allows for productivity and efficiency to happen with fluidity and timeliness.
It’s good that we now agree on what it means to standardise. To standardise something means to make it meet a specific set of guidelines or requirements. For example, If a school decides to standardise its grading system, it must make sure that every teacher assigns grades in precisely the same way.
Not to standardise grading in this way would undoubtedly promote disunity, perceived inequality and unfairness, regardless of intent.
Now think about high street fashions (and I appreciate this example might be more relevant to some people than others). Currently, in Scotland, skinny jeans are the ‘fashion’ for both men and women. Some brands of skinny jeans very closely resemble leggings or jeggings that would have primarily been worn by females a few years earlier.
A problem I have identified with fashion is that cool things only remain cool until cool things have become cool in a standardised way. Sadly, for some people and clothes brands, once cool things have been socially accepted as cool and normalised across all high street stores, and outlets, the shelf life of these cool things begins coming to an end.

The Disadvantages of Standardisation

So, we’ve looked at the workplace, and we’ve also acknowledged fashion, let us now look at a few ways the standardisation of things doesn’t always serve us as human beings.
We all want to be known and unconditionally accepted for being ‘who we are’, right? A common problem throughout much of western culture is that since the world wars, the social institutions or family, religion and politics has weakened. Today there is no standardised decree for teaching people how to live moral lives and build healthy relationships.
Much of modern religion teaches conformism and submission to a preordained leadership team. Political leaders require a popularity vote from the masses, which can only derive through the process of making appeals and promises to the largest groups of people with similar ideologies, beliefs and sets of priorities.
As you might be starting to notice, a problem arises when people want to be accepted and treated as unique individuals, but yet conform to the status quo and sometimes mindlessly subscribe to the promises and ideologies of whoever has the loudest microphone or has attracted the most massive audience.
Being individual, remaining unique, owning our minds and pursuing our interests in a congruent and authentic way, requires us to become acutely aware of how much standardisation we are prepared to accept or embrace.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Few people want to be controlled in an authoritarian way, and since the dawn of time, groups of people commit acts of terror or ever ignite wars in the name of freedom and social liberty. But how free is free?
Does personal freedom mean that we are aware of the countless ways in which we needlessly conform to the preferences and whims of others? Or, does freedom look like more of a journey we go on to take control of our life, and standardise our own processes?
Our own processes to get ahead in life, become more individual in our ways; we might get closer to pioneering the initiatives that would let us leave behind the kind of legacies we want to be remembered for.
On the other hand, we could just let other people do our thinking for us, as we’re all fully aware, life’s far more relaxed when we just ‘go with the flow’.
Kain Ramsay blog author

About the Author

Kain Ramsay is a social pioneer, entrepreneur and is admired among the world’s top masterminds in the field of applied psychology. Partnering with some of today’s most ardent social innovators, Kain supports aspiring entrepreneurs, coaches and social influencers as they master themselves, stretch their potential and enrich the world in their unique ways.