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The Double Face of Conformity


Published in

El Norte de Castilla, Diario de Navarra

Gerardo Castillo Ceballos

School of Education and Psychology

Conformism can be good and satisfactory on some occasions, but not on others. In principle, it is the attitude of the person who accepts and assumes any circumstance of daily life, public or private, especially when it is adverse or unfair.


The protagonist of the story "The Man in the Happy Shirt", although he lived in a poor hut, confessed that he was happy; his secret was that he did not need anything. This was also the attitude of Socrates; it is said that one day while walking through the Athens market he commented: "I am happy because I don't need the thousands of things I am seeing". But there is also a negative conformism, in which instead of acceptance there is resignation or indifference.


There is a popular expression that alludes to negative conformism: "otra de gambas". It is a sarcastic phrase that makes fun of those who have an excessively unconcerned attitude about socio-political issues. This second conformism occurs when we change our opinion or behavior under pressure from group to which we belong. With this conformist behavior we simply try to be liked by others and avoid the possible rejection derived from expressing any disagreement.


Many parents worry a lot about a rebellious child, while they congratulate themselves for a conformist child. They ignore that rebelliousness has a function in the development staff , while bad conformism is dysfunctional for that development. It is easier to manage a rebel than a conformist; the former accepts to debate, even if it ends in conflict, while the latter avoids it with his indifference.


A current drama educational is that the number of rebels is decreasing while the number of conformists is increasing. In my opinion, this is related to certain habits acquired in childhood in the context of a consumerist and hedonistic society . If many conformist children are emerging, it is because conformist adults are also proliferating. Asking for "another shrimp" can also be interpreted as an evasion of personal problems, escaping from situations that overwhelm and surpass us, hiding our heads under our wings. So much for individual conformism.


In recent decades, social conformism has grown at a great pace. There is already talk of conformist ideology, which proposes adapting to what exists, which generates an attitude of passivity and resignation. Dissidents are labeled as unsupportive. The pressures on people to adapt to this mentality are innumerable. If they do not adapt, they can be considered social misfits, since the goal is to integrate them into the herd, at the price of depriving them of their individuality. We live in an era in which nonconformist people are usually marginalized, while "the submissive, the indifferent, the resigned, who are the masses, the crowd, who with their passivity, their sluggishness and lack of character, make the progress of societies slow and painful" (Ricardo F. Magón).


Preventing this problem requires educating children in the culture of effort; for example, that they earn some of the things they want. This usually leads to an improvement in self-concept and self-esteem, which will cause them to value their own opinions more and not so much those of others. The best resource to prevent children from being infected by negative conformity is healthy non-conformist parents. Nonconformity is an incentive to change. To commit oneself to oneself, to have personal concerns, is necessary to progress. Nonconformity is synonymous with the desire to improve.