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.

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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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