Belonging Relies on Us Forfeiting Our Individuality

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In a world that pressures for conformity, one of the greatest challenges we all face is to be ourselves. We not only want to belong, we need to belong, and so we are at our best when we feel connected to those around us. We like to be appreciated, enjoy admiration and crave to feel significant to those around us. Too often though, in our quest to feel significant, we forfeit expressing our individuality and limit our vulnerability. In the process we lose touch with what makes us special, disconnect from authenticity and give up what makes us someone who others feel they can really connect to. All people balance the need to conform and fit in with the need to express their individuality throughout their lives. The want to belong has the capacity to reduce individuality and influence members to behave in un-normative ways. In the daily strive to fit in with society; agreeing to abide by the rules involves some loss of individuality or freedom. In some groups the loss can be extreme, as in some fanatical religious groups where even questioning the leaders’ authority leads to expulsion. In other groups the loss of individual freedom is minimal. Conforming or belonging to a group therefore has the magnitude to depress individuality as in order for an individual to be included within the group, they must obtain similar characteristics, therefore decreasing the uniqueness spread amongst the group. Deindividuation is the perceived loss of individuality and personal responsibility that can occur when someone participates as part of a group. Deindividuation can occur in varied instances in police force, the military, sports teams, gangs, cults, and social organizations. Although they may seem very different on the surface, these groups share many traits that make them conducive to deindividuation. All of the examples share the strong drive towards group cohesiveness. Police officers, soldiers, and sports teams all wear uniforms that create a distinct in-group while...
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