When I was young I wanted to blend in. Standing out from the crowd wasn’t seen as a good thing. If your friends were into something, it was good to be into it too. I wanted to feel as though I belonged.
Somewhere along the way, my feelings changed. As I grew up, I began to realise that I no longer wanted to conform or blend in. Being part of a crowd, particularly if it meant suppressing who I was, became anathema to me.
Now the thought of being part of a homogenised whole makes my heart sink. Today if everyone else is turning right I will turn left just because I can. Being different is no longer something to be shunned. Now, it is something to be embraced, cherished and encouraged.
Partly I think the change is down to confidence. As you grow up, you discover who you are as an individual. If you are lucky you become comfortable in your own skin and no longer need the comfort blanket of others’ opinions to know your own mind.
Partly I think it is the nature of society today. When we are children we are learning how to survive and thrive in the outside world. The group represents safety in numbers, the camouflage of others. When we grow up we find ourselves surrounded by subliminal messages of how to behave and what to aspire to. The power of advertising and social media can make it all too easy to live in identikit houses, eat identikit food and live an identikit life. No wonder so many people find the pressures of modern life suffocating.
There is nothing wrong in being part of a tribe so long as you recognise it for what it is and understand why you belong to it.
But it’s better by far to walk to the beat of a different drum.