A flock of Sheep – Social Pressure and Uniformity

Perfection! …What is Perfection? Can anyone truly define this word? We all look for it, even if sometimes we may not know what is that we are looking for. And then, when we think we finally have a clue of what it means, we all strive to reach it. We all want to be perfect, ‘cos perfect means better or even the best. … But what is it that we seek? Is it the outer beauty? Is it the right thinking? Perfect behavior and perfect ethical values? The perfect attitude? Being extra good at everything? … What exactly means perfect?

Well … if I remember well what I was taught as a child, you need all these to come close to what the collective world sees as perfect. Yes, that’s right! I didn’t accidentally misuse the word collective, but rather with intent, ‘cos even if there is that abstract and universal concept of perfection, what we all understand through it is taught to us by our parents and by the entire society as a whole:

We are taught how to look. We are taught how to behave. What ethical values we need to respect. What a man and a woman is. Their place in the universe. Their roles in society and how each of them must look and behave. We’re taught what a winner and what a loser is! And most importantly we are taught how to think and in what to believe, all in order to keep that perfect uniformity so resistant to change! … And all these teachings unfortunately still based on some very primal and raw concepts, left to us as legacy by our already long-gone and obsolete half-primitive ancestors. …

And the best part is yet to come! Yes, only after you’ve mastered all these qualities and knowledge, after you’ve complied with all the rules and all the requirements of our restrictive world, after you’ve achieved perfection in your looks and you’ve done everything the way it was expected of you, no matter how wrong and damaging all this may feel for your own body and soul, only then you may have a claim to that podium destined only for winners. …

Perfection! Yes, we all look for it and we want it dearly, ‘cos we all want to be winners. We all want to be admired and we all want to enjoy the good privileged life reserved only for heroes.

… Doesn’t anyone else feel that something is deeply wrong with this entire concept? …

Somehow it just feels that we try to find perfection in the wrong place. Most of us try to be perfect as taught to us by the world. And most of us want to be perfect only on the outside and almost never on the inside as well. Instead of trying to become perfect as dictated to us by our true needs and soul’s desires, we just try to impress the world around us, forgetting meanwhile that as individuals each of us may not have the same needs and aspirations common with others. In nowadays era only the outer beauty and a careful display for show of all those old traditional values we learn since childhood never to question are most important. Yes, it’s crucially significant how we are perceived by the others, and whether they like us or not. Whether they all see us closer to that ideal Perfect, a Perfect forged slowly and meticulously by entire generations, a Perfect that is still keeping us heavily anchored to a whole lot of old-fashioned tribal ideals. Most of us just want to look like and be like the girl or the boy that attract the most attention and get praised for their so-called successes. … This is sadly the kind of very narrow one-sided type of perfection we all aspire to reach.

… And it’s not our fault! No, we’re not entirely to blame that we strive for this kind of perfect uniformity, where we all would look in similar ways and act as the most. That we all want to rise to the expected standards so thoroughly installed in our bones since the moment we’re born. The world we live in nowadays is constructed in such a way not to offer the same opportunity to all its members in equal ways. This world instead of accepting every one of us the way Mother Nature left us on Earth and promote our own individual talents and inner development, without showing preferences for one or another, it cruelly segregates its children in different kinds of categories and places some on the top and many on the bottom. This very tribal primitive world forces our hand to act and be in the way is promoted at one specific moment in history. Not wanting to comply would mean putting yourself and your wellbeing at risk. In a way, it’s still a fight for resources and survival, and conforming with all the rules and norms, whether it’s integration through standardized acceptable appearance or “impeccable behavior”, will ultimately guarantee us the good-will of the social group we want to make a living in. Thus, making it possible for us to have a potentially good life as a result. … In a way, we are effectively blackmailed into complying.

Yes, that’s why we so eagerly strive for such a shallow and meaningless perfection. … Survival!

But it’s nothing I hate more than uniformity! It’s nothing I hate more than having to do things what other people want from me and what other people think that it’s good for me and thus for the entire society as a whole, ‘cos most people may think they know better, but they certainly don’t. We tend to forget that we all come in this world in different shapes and colors. Plus, we all have different personalities and thus different needs. No two people are alike, and this is good ‘cos if we all looked the same and we all had the same type of thinking, we’d very much looked like a flock of sheep. And we’d moved in life as one as well: mindless and purposeless. Yes, a very beautiful flock of sheep, where every single sheep would be absolutely perfect, moving in perfect harmony with the others, but still just a sheep from the lot, extremely beautiful but completely brainless as well. Striving for this kind of perfection is not only boring ‘cos it creates a sort of unbearably depressive uniformity, but also dangerous, both for our evolution as species as well as for our moral integrity and wellbeing.

And let me tell you why I do think that is!

I actually got inspired to write this blog after I saw a reportage on TV regarding social media and the internet celebrities who we actively allow to influence and sometimes even dictate our lives: what we buy, how we should look like and how we should act to be successful in this world the way they are. And it outraged me when I saw how much damage such people can do. People get to spend the money they don’t have. People get to try things they don’t need and thus damaging both their bodies and minds (alcoholism, drug-addiction, anorexia, self-harm, suicide, you name it). And that’s only because either some “cool guy” or “perfect girl” told them that that’s cool and that’s the path to success, or in many cases just because their self-esteem is so deeply damaged by seeing all that “perfection” pounding with pride and vanity, and looking down at the “less perfect” segment of the society (which is huge by the way. The better part of the human race) with complete contempt and disgust, and they simply can’t cope with the pressure. And as a result, do stupid impulsive things. And that’s not entirely their fault.

If you are thinking of blaming them alone, stop and think again. If you think: Oh, what a loser! Remember that we as a society might’ve taught them all to be losers and because of our own common values there is so much rot and ugliness around us, and not because someone is actually ugly or unpopular for some stupid reason. Our society as a whole is deeply damaged, and we clearly praise all the wrong values and norms. Since our childhood we are compared to others and even taught to follow the “trends”. We are taught to sacrifice our own individuality for uniformity. In too many cases we are asked to hide our own unique personalities and put up a mask, a mask that sometimes doesn’t even suit us, and that only for the sake of one homogeneous society. We all need (or forced) to think and act as one, and that’s only because a huge segment of one particular community we live in can’t process quickly enough anything different, or “strange”, or not according to their previous teachings. Or simply doesn’t know how to be original at all. We need to strive for the outer beauty, ‘cos if you don’t fit in the norms of what is considered “unoffensive” for the “sensible” eyes of one too large, ignorant and arrogant segment of our society, you’ll be laughed at and disregarded. And this is probably so often the reason why so many destroy the gift they’ve been given by Mother Nature, and cover or replace it with artificial masks and useless extensions. We, as a society, are still taught to judge people first by their looks and maybe only later by some other criteria, and that’s if we even manage to go farther than the look that is.

We need the change! Yes, as a society we desperately need to evolve. But unfortunately, most times we get stuck in a limbo, desperately needing the change but yet unable to do it still.

We are taught to be like this. We are taught and even forced sometimes to be like everybody else and follow the majority’s ideals. And we’re let to understand still from very early that by not doing so will cost us the love and the approval of the most, thus putting our own wellbeing at risk. And to make it clearer, I’ll take myself as an example.

I was always a sort of a strange kid that didn’t much want to comply and keep up with the popular norms and values of the day. For some reason I just couldn’t do it. Whether it was stubbornness or an inherited defiance I can’t say, but that got me in serious trouble with my parents, especially my mum who was very kin on the idea of her own “precious” kid to be the best in our neighborhood . A kid she’d be proud of. Well, I wasn’t that kid. I wasn’t the best in school. I wasn’t girly enough for her taste. When I grew up and became a teenager, she didn’t like anything I did on my own: clothing, hairstyle, personality, friends etc. And my entire life I was compared to others: “Why can’t you be at school like “X”? Why can’t you just dress as nice as “Y”? Why can’t you just talk like “Z”? And I always had to listen to my mum’s unreserved and frustrated complaint that all the kids around are super great, only her own is kind of a black sheep, that sticks out as never doing anything right. This kid could make her proud, but instead is making her feel ashamed and unhappy. …

This was my first introduction to this striving for uniformity. My mum wanted me to be like everybody else, and she wanted me thus to give up on my own little sparks of individual quirks for her and the world.

No, I don’t have a problem parents to try and teach their kids what’s right and what’s wrong, ‘cos if they don’t children could never learn on their own, but this was too much for me. I wasn’t a bad kid. I wasn’t the best at school, but I was among the good ones, and I learned and was responsible. I wasn’t too girly, but I was nice enough and almost too quiet. I didn’t drink. I didn’t use drugs. No, I wasn’t a trouble kid at all. The only thing was that I was a little bit different than the others. And yet, it’s only complains and reproaches all that I’ve heard my entire life. And I used to hate all those who my mum was giving me as examples. I used to hate X, and Y, and Z. All the perfect ones. I used to hate my mum for never wanting to accept me the way I was, even if I wasn’t as perfect as the others were, or as perfect as she thought I should be. No matter how much she’d want it from me, I just couldn’t play that part she was asking of me, and I couldn’t understand what part of this doesn’t she get!? …

And the moment I left home was the happiest moment of my life, ‘cos I was finally free. … So I thought at least, but was I indeed? No, I wasn’t yet free, and I noticed it very quickly that the years of constant nagging have carved deep wounds in my mind, living me deeply scared by then. Even after I left and I was finally free of my mum’s constant mobbing, there still was that permanent echo left in my head that I needed to fall in line with everybody else. I needed to do and look like they all do, and I needed to impress, the more the better, ‘cos that was how you get to success and that’s what gives meaning to your life. Even if I “run away” as far as possible from my parent’s home, I battled still for many years with a strong urge to do something great, and in accordance with all the social values and norm my mother so valued, and finally make her proud. And that even when deep inside I was still hating her for making me feel worthless and useless for so many years. …

And this obsession of mine with becoming something important, someone highly noticed and admired, all started with my mum and her own desperate desire of showing off with the result of her heavy labor as parent. To show the world and be proud how well she taught me how to fall in line and be great. How she’d created a wonderful daughter she could proudly display in front of the others as a masterpiece, and everybody would be wowed by her beauty, elegance and good education. I was my mum’s masterpiece. I was her labor. It was her pride I needed to feed, and she was the one to collect the awards for the great work she’s put into me. … And I? What I wanted and how I felt about it, didn’t matter. My own wishes and my real needs didn’t exist. I as an individual with a very distinctive personality and special talents wasn’t counting. What I really wanted to become and how I wanted to live my own life was irrelevant. Glamour and show it’s all that was expected of me. … Oh yes! And falling in line with everybody else. … To be perfect!

That moment, when so much pressure to fall in line and to comply with the values of the day was being put on me, I no longer felt like a real person with a soul, but a mere golden idol for show (at least I was intended to be one if I hadn’t been so defiant … or incapable to keep up with the world. Choose what you like!). …

I wonder how many parents treat their children in the same exact way and end up having problems with them later on. And then they blame the children for this, ‘cos they actually think they did a great job and it was all in their children’s interest. Yes, children need to be taught what’s right and wrong, but they don’t need to be completely destroyed and remodeled to fit de majority’s needs, ‘cos some children may not understand it and may hate their parents, and even the entire world for it. And what meant very early on as a motivational lesson, may actually break some children to pieces. It could destroy their self-esteem so badly that they may never properly recover from it at all and never find a proper place in this world for themselves.

My mum scared me with her pride and ego, and I had to pay a heavy emotional price for years to come. I was never meant to be the girl she wanted me to become, and I knew it. But she just couldn’t understand it. The girl she wanted me to become simply wasn’t anywhere to find inside of me and I could’ve acted and play a role as so many people do, but this would’ve made me hate myself first and then her even more. My mum wanted me to be like everybody else, but better. A whiter and fluffier sheep in a flock of other white sheep. But I chose consciously to be the black one. And not even that. I chose consciously to be some sort of an outsider, a freak of the nature in her mind, that wouldn’t think and do things in a “normal” way. Like normal people would do them. In her eyes I was a real loser, ‘cos I wasn’t striving for the same values and ideals as the most. And I … I hated her for not wanting to see and accept the fact that I couldn’t care less for the life she was dreaming for me. I couldn’t care less for that perfection everyone else was striving for. …

But on the other side she was still my mum, and good or bad I still loved her. And even if I knew she was wrong, I still as her child had that strong unconscious desire to make her pound one day. And she was unhappy because of me! And I was unhappy for being unable to make her happy, and all because I didn’t want to give up my life for her dreams. And this for years has torn me apart and has made me feel like being the worst child that ever existed in the history of humanity. A selfish child that couldn’t do anything good or proper. Couldn’t make her parents proud. This very thing for a very long time had literally eaten my soul. My self-esteem and my self-confidence were simply inexistent. I couldn’t believe that I could actually be worth something until I’ve made myself successful in some way. Until I did everything “right” and I’ve made my parents proud. And because of this I actually seriously considered at one point of sacrificing the life I needed for the one they wanted for me. But it made me angry to have to choose. It made me despair that I couldn’t. It made me look at times with envy at the edge of that bridge and think “what if I’d jump and everything will be over in just a second?”.

Yes, my mum’s “education” had made me desperately need to become somebody people would see. To crave attention and approval. To want to be like everybody else, but better. To be perfect in the way everybody else understood it. … How stupid!

Now I realize that besides feeding her own pride and ego, she must’ve also wanted to increase my chances for a better living in this rigidly modelled world. Now I realize that through her persistent nagging that ultimately destroyed my self-esteem, she was actually desperately trying to pass down on to me that instinctive knowledge that was passed down on to her by her own parents and the people she was surrounded by all her life: the knowledge on how to make it in this world, where differences are looked at with inquisitor eyes and most times violently rejected. I was her child and I guess she didn’t want to see me singled out as a black sheep and marginalized. Now I know that in her own way she must’ve meant me well, but it doesn’t make it more pleasant. I used to hate her for this, and it almost completely destroyed me. It’s because of this type on instinctive education, passed down from one generation to the next, the changes so badly needed occur very slowly or even don’t occur at all. It’s this type of instinctive behavior that’s holding us back and hinders our evolution as species. Too much of what is still taught to us from generation to generation as good and priceless is deeply outdated and not necessarily useful anymore.

I wonder how many children think they don’t give a damn what their parents say and want, or how other people see them, and yet, instead of trying to find their own way and truly break free from this vicious circle, it’s still at those who their parents and all other people around admire these children are looking with envy and end up finally trying desperately to emulate. And all of this only to be seen as winners by the entire world and increase their chances for a better life. Or in order to prove to their parents that they too can be that whiter sheep in the flock. That the genes they were gifted are great and that their parents’ effort was not in vain. And when they don’t manage to impress enough? When they don’t make it as “winners”, ‘cos in nowadays twisted system there can be only a limited number of winners? When they feel or notice that they don’t possess the necessary skills and attributes to get to the top of the pyramid, what then? How do these children react? Resentment, anger, despair, depression, destructive and self-destructive tendencies? Pick one, or two, or all combine. The entire world sees them as losers. Even sometimes their own parents see them as losers. How will they see themselves then? … As losers, of course! And when this point is reached, doing the right thing starts not to count anymore. And why would it? If we are losers anyway and there’s no chance of becoming something better anytime sooner, what’s the point of even trying to do something well or right?

So no, I’m not surprise at all that so many people, especially young people, cave in when faced with the requirements of our society. What we see and hear form our parents and the people around us as we grow up does count in making us who we are. And even when the pressure doesn’t come directly from our parents, it still exists and it comes from the outside world in form of critical and fussy neighbors, friends and superiors, ‘cos in the end we do need to coexist with our neighbors and the nature and quality of this specific coexistence will also too often determine the quality of our entire life. We are not alone in this world and our ability of earning a decent living depends on a lot of other people. And in many cases, this particular trait is extensively used to keep everybody compliant and in control. Let’s not forget, to select the winners form the losers. If people like you and they like what you do, whether you like it yourself on not, then everything’s fine and you may have a good chance for a nice, comfortable living. And that is as long as you comply with the rules and as long you fulfil your “moral” and social obligation. If not! If you don’t do what is required of you and what it’s considered as a norm, you may very soon end up on the loser’s list and have to endure the punishment: a life not comfortable, not privileged, not pleasant at all. And all of that only because you couldn’t prove yourself as being one of them.

So, the pressure is huge to make it on top or at least be like everybody else. It’s how our society is built to function, and let’s face it, our society and its morality isn’t that great at the moment. And what our society is telling us now? It’s telling us that the education is good only if it can bring you a lot of money, and it’s completely useless when it doesn’t teach you how to manage your taxes and how to get rich. We need scientists to discover how we can survive on this planet and enough educated people who can actually grasp what environmental disasters and climate change means, but who cares about that when it doesn’t bring money?! Our society teaches us that being extremely rich is good, and that’s regardless how you got there: whether you stole, or killed, or got your money through less ethical means. Who cares as long as you’re reach, ‘cos money is status and power nowadays? It tells us that being in the center of attention is mandatory if you ever want to be somebody in this life, ‘cos who knows and wants to make life comfortable to a nobody that nobody knows? Not mentioning to a black sheep, who looks funny and does things not like everybody else. And our society tells us that instead of feeling like a real person with a mind of your own and a soul, it’s fine to be and feel like a mere object, who can be judged, men as well but especially women, only by your appearance, and it’s ok to be treated like a desirable good displayed in a shop display-window for sale, like any other product on the market. Everything’s for sale today … even people!

Since childhood it’s ingrained in our bones a long list of values we slavishly need to fallow, and the saddest of them all are that we either need to be extremely reach or possess and extraordinary beauty to be properly noticed and respected. The brain and proper education don’t matter that much. The special talents every single of us might’ve been born with, they are nothing if they can’t be used to make money. In this era where sex stopped being a function but is rather consumed as food, the pressure of having the perfect face and body is greater than any other time before. It doesn’t matter if you’re immature as an ignorant child, if you can make money out of nothing, you’re the man. As long your body size is in the “right” proportion and you have the “right” kind of face, you’re the most precious person in this world and everybody either looks at you in awe, or craves in envy to be just like you, and that’s regardless if there’s something of worth or nothing at all beneath that “perfect” skin. The outer shall is much more important than what’s inside. Both men and especially women need to be beautiful and compliant first, and the rest might not even matter at all. And we all strive for the “save” looks and ideals. … What the hell! Who needs brains when we’ve got the looks? Who needs visual poetry and color with people in different shapes and a huge pallet of quirky minds and personalities, when you can fill an entire canvas with a bidimensional pattern of very similar dots?

From birth we are let to understand that it’s either money or beauty, and preferably both, the main key to success. And beauty is like trends in fashion, artificially created and imposes on everybody to accept. Beauty nowadays means largely sexually attractive (big boobs, super slim bodies, lots of useless make up, muscles and suntan, uselessly uncomfortable clothing), and it became kind of a norm, so it’s not surprising that so many young people, especially young girls, feel the pressure from the system to strive for it, no matter what it takes (makeups their skins may not agree with, plastic operations they don’t need, improvements and upgrades they could do easily without, weird diets and lifestyles that could damage them in the end. And entire industry that takes advantage and profits of their innocence and ignorance). The pressure is to act as the winners do and a winner today, in the era of social media, is everybody who is liked enough and followed. And nowadays we love standardized beauty (whatever this perfect beauty means), and money … lots and lots of money.

Yes, the pressure of permanently needing to impress and follow the trends is huge and most of the time falls as heavy chain around our necks. Even if some of us can’t be as the most, there is a constant pressure on us to want it. The pressure to stand out, but only in conformity with the rigid values of our actual society. To be that whiter sheep in a flock of other white sheep. … Or when we’re unable to stand out from the crowd, just simply be like everybody else in the crowd and hope for the best. …

And it’s so sad!

It’s sad because instead of finding our own way of living, one good for our own individual needs, we are taught and pressured to follow always role models and success examples, whether is on how to look or how to live our lives. It’s sad that through this system we are controlled and taken advantage of. It’s sad because sometimes we simply can’t break away from this vicious cycle and be ourselves, and so many of us, though we might not like it, are still forced to strive for the same ugly and rigid uniformity that was so thoroughly installed in our bones since we were born. It’s sad ‘cos no other better alternatives are show to us and sometimes it’s just by design. And it’s sad because such uniformity in appearance, preferences and behavior is killing our creative momentum, ‘cos right now we are still taught to relay on imitation and mimicry and not on a truly original thinking.

We’re still just a huge flock of sheep!  

16.02.2019

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