“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and enemy of growth.” John F Kennedy.
There are two words that people often confuse or interchange but whose meanings and applications are totally different. These words are Adapt and Conform.
According to the Collins dictionary, adapt is to change your ideas or behaviour in order to deal with something successfully. In adapting, you don’t lose your identity or originality. So once you are through with what you are doing, you can easily revert back to your former self. A good example is water. If you put water in a container, it takes the shape of the container but when you pour it out, it doesn’t pour out with the shape of the container.
Conform on the other hand is taking up a completely new shape or identity totally changing the former. Once this happens, there is no reverting back to the original. A good example is mortar. If you put it in a hexagonal shaped container, it will take that as its new shape and once dried and you try to revert it to its original shape, it breaks into small pieces. A person who is a conformist takes up the character and behaviour of others and they have no originality. My reason for writing this is borne out of a trend I have noticed in our society mostly among the young where they take something or indulge in something as long as it’s the in thing. The only criteria they use is whether their friends are doing the same thing. If so, they are in.
The moment one conforms to a certain behaviour, you lose your power to make decisions over your life. It is taken over by those whose ideologies you have now embraced. Something else you lose is your identity. You will be answering to the name you are called even if that is not your real name (quote from Dr Wale). All this usually does is, lead to regrets later in life because more often than not, the decisions made on your behalf will never be for your good. Another danger is stalling and finally stagnation in life. You can never grow or develop beyond the company you keep and it becomes worse if your group of friends are not in the business of being open to development.
I am not blind to the fact that sometimes we cannot choose the people around us especially in school or workplaces but that’s where adapting comes in. You may not be in a position to choose what happens to you but you can choose how to react to these circumstances. If you find yourself in the company of negative minded people and conditions dictate you remain there, you can activate what I would call self talk. This is where you replace all the negative things that you hear, with positive affirmations. But this works best if you have stored in your mind, positive thoughts. These are easy to get from books, newspapers and the many posts on the AfricaTalentbank.com (ATB) website.
Finally, the last mode of adapting is slowly taking charge of any conversation without appearing to Lord it over the people you are talking with. You can sneak in some positive, thought provoking comments and slowly, you will steer the conversation away from negativity to positivity. I hope this will be of help to all of us as we work and walk towards our different destinies. All the best from Mwangi