So about four months ago I randomly met this boy in the city. He stopped me while I was walking to my bus stop and we started talking because that’s what people do. I found it fairly easy to talk to him and conversation flowed quite well considering this was our first time ever meeting each other. However, it felt almost like he was interviewing me. He had question after question and I almost felt like I was being rushed and forced into answering all of these questions. It seemed as though he had a very clear end goal to try and get to know me as quickly as possible and try and just figure me out completely in an hour, which was just never going to happen.
Now, I don’t have a problem with questions. Questions are great, when you ask the right ones. But a person cannot whittle themselves down to words and sentences. People are so much more than words. A person cannot simply tell you about themselves, when their view on their own self is going to be completely different to the view of others. Everyone views every person differently so it is impossible for someone to give you who they are in just some words. To get to know and understand someone you need to see them, watch them, listen to them, experience them. You need to see them when they’re angry, when they’re sad. You need to watch their eyes light up when they’re excited about something. You need to see them when they’re doing or talking about something they’re passionate about. You need to let them tell their stories. And they need to come out naturally. You cannot force the world inside of someone out of their mouth. Don’t ask a person to tell you about themselves, let them show you. Basically, you can’t get to know someone in an hour.
Even worse than trying to make a person fit into sentences or words, is trying to make a person whittle themselves down into just one word, one stereotype, or fit themselves into a box. I was talking to this guy and he says to me “So, what are you? Are you like a super nerd?” In response, I said “uhh no not really.” He said “So are you like a party animal?” and I responded, “No, definitely not.” He then said very forcefully: “So what ARE you then?!” I was quite taken aback by this. I was shocked that he was trying to make me give him one word that would define where I fit in the world. But I don’t think I fit into one of those boxes. I don’t think anyone does. The only box that any person fits in is their own. If I was to choose one of those boxes to put myself in, he would immediately make all sorts of assumptions about me. I think labels can sometimes be helpful in giving people an immediate understanding of your gender or sexuality etc. but in terms of personality and interests, putting a label on my forehead in order for him to immediately understand me, would give him a false understanding.
Yet, when I told him “I don’t know, I’m just me”, he came back by mocking the fact that I was ‘SO original’ and ‘SO unique’, which is silly. I personally don’t think that any person has the choice but to be unique and be themselves because even if someone tries to fit into a particular persona or image, they still see the world in a completely different way to the person next to them. The thing is every person walks the same earth, but no one experiences or sees the same world. We all process things differently, feel differently, think differently and just generally have completely different worlds inside of us. So everyone, without knowing it, is naturally ‘being themselves’.
I have never been one to try and conform. But at the same time, I have never tried to not conform. I do not consciously try to ‘be different’ or ‘be unique’ because really, I’m not too sure what conforming is. Because everyone is so different, I don’t know that society has a particular model of the perfect person whom everyone needs to match in order to ‘conform’. Are we just all just trying to be the most average person we can possibly be? It’s all in everyone’s heads. And I have just tried to not let it get into mine. Because what on earth is the point?
But to answer my own question about what is conformity, perhaps conforming is just simply trying to squeeze ourselves into these boxes. Maybe it’s not one model of a person we are trying to match, but simply one of these stereotypes that can often be so idealised. Because I think sometimes people have this view that if they don’t fit into a box then they don’t belong. If they don’t fit into a box then they are nothing. If they don’t fit into a box then they are boring. This is absolutely something that I have sometimes struggled with. I find it very difficult to be put on the spot and answer questions about myself and to describe myself and I often feel concerned that when I can’t come up with answers, I will be perceived as boring. Even though, I have answers. They just need to come out naturally, in my stories and natural conversation. Again, they cannot be forced out. No body is ever boring!! People have so many layers and are so intricate and interesting if only you give them time to reveal them and show them to you.
So… I think that’s all I want to say. To recap:
- Don’t expect to be able to get to know someone in an hour, it doesn’t work that way.
- You cannot force the world inside someone out of their mouth.
- Don’t make someone tell you about themselves, let them show you.
- Don’t try and make someone fit into a sentence, people are worth far more than words.
- Don’t try and put someone in a box. The only box a person will ever fit in is their own.
- Everyone walks the same earth, but no one sees the same world.
- No one is boring!