I just wanted to start with a short reflection on 2018. It has been a solid year with highs and lows across my personal and professional life. In hindsight, I’m highly grateful for the experience and reflect on how much I’ve learnt, developed and grown as an individual over a short 12-month period. I believe each new challenge will eventuate towards something positive and the personal experience itself will teach me a lesson greater than any hearsay advice that I’ll ever receive.
One key theme I’ve recognised from my learnings in 2018 is our struggle with conformity. This point was raised in Life’s Temptations where our individuality can be constrained through expectations from our family, peers and environment that strongly influences our way of thinking to become more linear in adopting a ‘groupthink’ mindset. This made me question how can we pursue a particular way of life without experiencing significant cognitive dissonance where it conflicts with other’s expectations of us? I came to realise that it is only a real ‘struggle’ if we allow these expectations to shape the way we think and act in our everyday lives.
Some people may not perceive conformity as a struggle. In fact, conformity is what they strive for to meet societal expectations. I’ve recognised that these individuals tend to have a heightened emotional desire to ‘fit in and belong’, where they search for self-validation from their relationships with others rather than themselves. If we’re searching for this self-validation, would it be a real and genuine representation of ourselves? Or is it simply a superficial fascade based on what we can perceive just at face value?
A relevant example is the graduate culture in a large corporate organisation. Graduate intakes tend to be comprised of university students who have recently graduated from their studies with zero to limited corporate experience. In this case, the environment has replicated a culture where we would feel safe and comfortable in building relationships with similar peers who we’ve been interacting with all our lives, from early schooling to tertiary education. This makes me question whether the transition from studies to work would be as significant in terms of work ethic, interpersonal skills, maturity and personal growth in comparison to someone who has been placed in environment where they had no peers similar in age, background and upbringing?
It is interesting to consider that without the peers, organisation or environment that provides a sense of comfort and familiarity in defining ‘who we are’, these individuals tend to become lost and reluctant to pursue a path that is different from the pack. We somehow lose a sense of our identity because we have become so accustomed to that stable nature of our relationships and environment that we have forgotten the value of personal growth.
This prompted me to consider the following questions:
- Do we know ‘who we are’ outside a social/work environment?
- How do we define ourselves?
- Do we proactively seek justification from others?
- Are we aware of our own values, morals and ethical boundaries?
- Are we easily willing to be adjust these boundaries? If so, what factors are forcing us to do this?
Because at the end of the day, do you know who you are?
Some food for thought 😊