PSYBLOG recently posted an article about conformity, a topic that means a lot of me.  The protagonist in my current manuscript is something of a non-conformer, and according to one friend who I spoke to today, he and I could be brothers.

Conformity has never been my thing either. 

The item in the PSYBLOG’s list that I found most interesting was #6:

Social approval

People use conformity to ingratiate themselves with others.  Conforming also makes people feel better about themselves by bolstering self-confidence.  Some people have a greater need for liking from others so are more likely to conform.

Have you noticed that non-conformers are less likely to care what other people think of them?  Nonconformity and self-confidence go hand-in-hand.

This explained a lot, both about me and my protagonist.  Neither one of us have ever cared a great deal about what others think of us, and yes, this is probably born from a heightened, possibly overinflated sense of self-confidence.  But the result has been a lack of conformity. 

But what is not mentioned is how the willingness and ability to avoid conformity also builds self-confidence.  While it may be true that “conforming also makes people feel better about themselves by bolstering self-confidence,” I have also found that my willingness and ability to swim against the stream, stake out new ground, and avoid the tug of the masses has garnered me enormous amounts of self-confidence as well. 

For some people, knowing that they fit in breeds self-confidence. 

For me, knowing I don’t have to fit in does the same. 

And you know what?  That statement may lie at the heart of all my fiction.  I write about characters who don’t fit into the mainstream but have managed to find comfort, success and sometimes even joy in being themselves, regardless of their lack of conformity. 

Which has left me wondering:

Is my non-conformity also born from attention-seeking behavior? Are my divergent and occasionally controversial positions on family, cultural and societal norms, child-rearing, religion, education and other issues merely a means by which I can garner the interest of others?

Is all this braggadocio and non-conformity a hoax? A means to an end? Have I fooled myself into thinking that I am something that I am not?

Wouldn’t it sometimes be easier to conform?

Then I remembered that I was also the kid who decided to be a Yankees fan in a family, town, and state dominated by rabid, insane Red Sox fans.

I was the only boy in my school district to play the flute.

I was suspended during my freshman year of high school for inciting riot upon myself after passing out Seniors are Wimps flyers at the doors of my high school.

I was the first kid in my Boy Scout troop to perfect the art of campfire pizza.

For more than a year, I read books upside down just to annoy my teachers.

In my early twenties, I routinely bought girl’s sneakers, thinking they looked better and were more comfortable than guy’s sneakers.

Regardless of the origin or purpose, it would seem that my nonconformist streak has been hardwired in my brain for a long, long time.