Teaching psychology for almost 20 years, I’ve learned a thing or two about human behavior.

People can be predictable, and often are preoccupied with fitting in, conforming if you will, or not standing out to others, especially young people. Remember when we were told, you can’t do this or that’s not something you can pursue, you won’t fit in. It undermines our full potential as human beings.

It occurs when people yield to real or imagined social pressures. Sadly, we live in a world today where people are disliked for being real and being perceived as different. “The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you but yourself.”

Why do we often think we have to act like everyone else, can’t we be who we feel comfortable being, whether it’s in our beliefs, our career choice, or just what we want to do with our life.

From the time we are infants, we are taught to fit in, be like everyone else, follow the rules, don’t stand out. We are taught to behave and think a certain way, black and white, no in between.

What if I don’t want to, what if I want to be an individual and follow what I’m passionate about? How many times have you heard people say, oh I wish I would have pursued my dream of doing this or being that, but I didn’t because they were afraid of being ostracized or what people might think, they have to live with their regrets.

We probably can all relate to this at some point in our life. Often we are taught by society to think of those who are different as strange, rather than embracing our willingness to be ourselves, and be happy.

We need to stop worrying about what others might think if we try to fulfill our dreams or aspirations.

Often our reactions to others have more to say about us and our background than about others. We all form impressions of others when we first meet. From appearance, such as height, weight, skin color, hair color, age, our occupation, or how we are dressed.

Our verbal and nonverbal behavior also played a factor, how we talk, facial expressions, eye contact, body language, or what we disclose about ourselves.

I remember when I was 18, I wanted to enlist in the Navy after graduation from high school. I was told I was too young, it would be hard being on my own, I wouldn’t make it.

I followed my dream, and I did see the world, it was one of the best experiences of my life. It was my life, and I was able to attend college after the Navy.

Our purpose in life is not to please others, but to be our true selves, to be happy with who we are. If you are older, and you always wanted to be an artist, or go back to school, but you are concerned about what others might think, then become an artist or go back to school if you want to, remember it’s your happiness that matters.

At the end of the day, we all want to fit in, why, because that’s what we’ve been taught, to think and act certain ways. One of my students wrote in a recent assignment. Think of all the opportunities we rob ourselves of because we are afraid of embarrassment or the opinions of others, we need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

“You don’t get harmony when everyone sings the same note.” The bottom line is this, don’t be someone you’re not, be grateful for who you are, don’t wear masks, you win when you are different and be yourself.

Think of yourself & others as being unique, there will never be another you. We can live our life to just fit in, we will never live up to our full potential. When you are your true self, the right people will show up in your life.

It’s OK to be different, embrace who you are and what you want out of life. There will never be another you. We don’t have to conform, we can do and be whomever we want.

It’s never too late to be happy, isn’t this what life is all about? We are here to make ourselves happy, not be afraid of what others might think of our choices.

Randy Glysch has been teaching psychology for over 20 years at Madison College, and is Oregon Village President.

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