1. You make a conscious decision to cooperate with a group because you have learned through experience that the values of that group are similar to your own.
2. You conform to a group’s expectations – not because you thought it through and made a conscious choice – but because you fear rejection or social consequences.
In the first scenario, the group is a blessing that comes with valuable social support and enjoyment, much like a friendly campfire.
Like a raging forest fire, the second scenario leads to a life of anxiety, desperation, stress and an early death.
The physical and emotional consequences of conforming to group expectations due to fear of disapproval are many.
Here are just five:
1. Social conformity suppresses the immune system by causing stress
When you conform to group pressure against, or unsure of, your own values and beliefs, you automatically create an internal environment of uncertainty and anxiety.
Going along with the crowd without inner conviction is sure a way to create self-doubt. As time goes by, the self-doubt eats at you in the form of chronic, low grade anxiety that the body experiences as physical tension.
We all know the effects of chronic tension and stress. Some people live out their lives this way. It’s called the life of quiet desperation.
2. Conformity prevents healthy decisions
Do you have a healthy goal that those in your circles do not support? This is a huge obstacle in your way if you allow it.
You have a goal to get in shape, but your spouse prefers the couch potato life.
You want to stop smoking, but your friends and family smoke.
You want to start a business, but your family discourages you.
You want to speak out about your convictions, but fear ridicule and humiliation.
We often stop ourselves from committing to healthy decisions because others do not support those decisions, or we fear that they will not.
3. Social conformity leads to depression
Going along with others when you do not agree with their views leads you into the trap of depression. They are your support in life. They are supposed to be friends, yet they have no idea who you are or what you are all about.
You fear that if you take bold, individual action, you will be cast out, so you reluctantly conform and feel trapped. This adds up to a depressed state of mind in which you feel isolated and alone.
4. Social conformity causes emotional deprivation
Feeling alone and trapped is an empty place. Your emotional needs are not being met, therefore you cannot be satisfied with your life. People cannot validate who you are because they have no idea who you are.
You cannot validate yourself because you do not act on your convictions. You are left to criticize yourself for not being courageous enough to be an individual. You might also fall into the trap of internally finding fault with others who do not agree with your unexpressed opinions.
You will also be jealous of people who are living their own lives out loud.
5. It leads to thoughtless, dangerous acts
Peer pressure leads to more acts of stupidity than anything. A college student once drove his pickup into a ditch, killing three of his friends who were riding in the bed of the truck.
When asked why he had taken his first drink on that night, he replied, “I had never been a drinker, but I finally gave into the pressure. They were teasing me for being such a goody-two-shoes.”
When asked why he had gotten behind the wheel in such a state he said, “I knew I shouldn’t be driving, but they told me I was fine and to stop acting like a lightweight.”
Of course, the young man was blaming others, whom he used as an excuse for his own negligence.
Unhealthy social conformity is nothing other than self-sabotage
Subjugating your own mind and will to the expectations of the group – when you don’t necessarily agree with the group – is self-sabotage.
We all have the tendency within us. We deny ourselves the real opportunity to connect with like-minded people. We reject ourselves and withhold our opinion before giving others a chance to make up their own mind. We allow others to control us by going along mindlessly.
We are not happy doing so, but continue to do it. Self-sabotage at its finest!