I have heard this statement from others and I always wonder whether this has to do more with the individual or the system that one finds oneself in. Some individuals find themselves moulding the way they present themselves depending on the environment that is presented to us. I ask what’s the point to this? Is there a function for one to change how one acts according to the environment, all this in order to fit in within a particular social context?
From an evolutionary perspective this might make sense in order not to stand out if one feels different to others in the social group. Standing out increases the risk for harm, such as bullying, exclusion, discrimination, and prejudice remarks. This has a lot to do with our automatic thoughts of; being rejected, this thought is one which the human being cannot tolerate and will avoid at all costs. Despite not wanting to be rejected, the individual feels out of place and is thus not content with the situation. It sounds like there is no way out of this situation due to the fact that both actions will lead to perceived negative affect.
This leads me to a quote from a particular TED Talk – “Perhaps the first step to finding people like yourself is to show up as yourself.” Being the individual that you want to be, as opposed to the individual which society wants you to become is extremely important. We are living in an age where individuality is striving, encouraged and rewarded. When the individual is free from the shackles which society tries to force us to assimilate, the individual learns of their own personal sense of agency. This sense of agency, or responsibility leads individuals to become more creative, sharper and tend to be more fulfilled. When one experiences this, one feels less inhibited or shy to express oneself. As this transformation is occurring in the individual, others will start to notice this, and might encourage the individual to start attending specific social event with them. This is what is called in a nutshell – Authenticity. The more authentic we are to ourselves, the more likely we are to feel satisfied in our relationships with others and our careers.
Karl Grech is a counsellor. He offers counselling to both individuals and couples within Willingness. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.