OUR CONDITIONING IS OFTEN INVISIBLE.
Could we be living somebody else's ideal life? This question might seem controversial but keep an open mind! As we grow, we gradually build an image of what life should be like. This influences our preferences & behavior. The concept of what is an ‘acceptable life’ develops subtly through our upbringing. This starts with parental & social conditioning and then peer pressure. Usually, we don’t even realize this has occurred. We can end up living someone else's idea of an ideal life!
From a young age we have been taught to comply. We learn to follow external directives or rules which suppress our autonomy. We are not taught to trust our inner knowing. Using inner guidance is generally not promoted. This is often regarded as daydreaming or living in a dream-world.
…Are you living someone else's life, and not your own?
WE ARE CONDITIONED TO CONFORM & SUBMIT.
What is the basis of the social conditioning we receive? The subconscious message is as follows: If we want to survive & succeed, we must fit in with the system. This includes being cared for, respected, and even loved. So, we learn to follow the rules and behave accordingly.
We learn to submit to figures in authority, and even admire some of them. We conform to group norms, beliefs, and expectations. We do this at the expense of our own true values & needs. So, in effect, we are living with another's person's belief system and not our own. Those incorporated values may not reflect our own true nature.
SOCIETY REWARDS FITTING IN WITH OTHERS.
Our conditioning is reinforced by rewarding the ability to conform. This starts with us receiving parental approval for complying with their requests. Then, if we want to succeed in our schooling & training, we must fit in with the accepted behavior there.
We usually accept all this compliance as being totally natural & necessary. Society values our ability to ‘get on’ with others. Social cohesion is viewed as important for group survival. The need to submit & conform becomes justified by this!
…Do you feel the pressure to fit in and conform?
WE ARE ‘LOVINGLY’ TAUGHT TO CONFORM!
Our parents & teachers lovingly teach us conformist behavior. They believe this will help us make friends, fit in, and to become productive in the material world. They believe it will help us succeed! Our parents want ‘the best’ for us. They want social acceptance and material success for their offspring. Our individuality, free will and self-expression has a lower priority.
The conditioned message to submit or conform is often unspoken. A facial expression or a posture might be all that’s required. The subtle withdrawal of love, care or attention is a powerful motivator.
THE PRESSURE TO COMPLY PERSISTS ALL OUR LIFE.
As we get older, our social and career expectations also require us to conform. This obedience is required in vocational training and the workplace. A similar standard is upheld by our community leaders and role models. The message to comply is subtly propagated through the media as the accepted narrative!
All this conditioning has subtly restrained, limited and homogenized us. We are molded into a group norm. We are shaped into someone else’s expectation. We have lost our autonomy and the true notion of independent selves! We are no longer purely living our own inner dreams. We no longer think or behave like the person we inwardly yearn to be.
…Do you recognize that you have been subtly conditioned?
IT’S UNACCEPTABLE TO BE TOO DIFFERENT.
We might express superficial differences, but inwardly we tend to conform. If we appear too different or behave too radically, we risk being isolated. We risk being laughed at, criticized or punished in some way. So, we settle for small differences and superficial changes. This level of minor rebellion is considered ‘acceptable’ and is mostly tolerated.
Acceptable differences include our taste in food, fashion, recreation and creative pursuits. We might for example focus on our body appearance. This can range from dieting & exercising to bodybuilding, or even tattoos & body piercing. We might follow the latest fashion in clothes and accessories. However, this shallow expression of our true nature is not sufficiently satisfying. It does not address our deep inner needs & drives.
FRINGE GROUPS ARE DISCOURAGED.
Even as teenagers we learnt to rebel ‘acceptably’. For example, by supporting a local sports team or by following the latest pop group or social media personality. Perhaps we joined some philosophical, political or social justice group while at university. These special interest groups provide a feeling of acceptance & belonging. This collective socialization is encouraged, instead of exploring our own inner nature.
Special identity groups are still constrained by their own social values & norms. They don't allow the full freedom of individual expression. The more radical groups usually have very strict rules. Punishment for non-compliance in militant groups is usually expulsion or worse.
But allegiance with social or cultural groups is not the whole answer! This won't replace our unmet inner needs. Those group norms are not our real values and don’t meet our real needs. They don't promote the unique creative expression of our innermost being.
WE YEARN TO EXPRESS OUR INNER NATURE.
Will we settle for self-expression through superficial differences and small group allegiances? This will not satisfy our deeper need for individual expression. We have a drive to be uniquely special and independent. Will we heed that inner calling?
Our social priority is companionship, and to be accepted by our friends & peers. We believe we can achieve this in a particular way. That's by following a particular set of rules or beliefs. We usually don’t want to risk alienation or social rejection. Rarely do we have the courage to stand alone with our deep values or beliefs.
…Will you find the courage to be your individual self?
WILL WE SACRIFICE OUR UNIQUE POTENTIAL?
Meeting society's expectations does not appease our inner yearnings. We have a deep need for self-expression. This drives us to be our true self! Anything else is like applying a band-aid to a broken bone. Similarly, our inner needs require special attention, otherwise major complications can ensue!
No one else has the same experience & talent that we do! Each of us can excel in some special way. So, we have a valuable contribution to offer the human collective. Our human diversity is so precious, and this should be cherished. Our special gifts should be made available to the world.
If we ignore our inner gifts, and our true nature, we suffer. This increases our frustration & dissatisfaction with life. We defer lasting happiness and fulfillment! Not only do we suffer, but we waste energy and damage our wellbeing as well. Humanity as a collective, also loses a precious resource.