The Popularity Contest

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“The Pressure to Keep Up and Conform”
Written by Rick Trottier – RJT Images

Our social existence begins in a bubble of ego-centrism imposed upon us by the stages of growth that our brains must pass through on the journey to becoming a fully functioning human being. Most of the first seven to eight years of our lives are entirely taken up with the needs of our own minds and bodies, any sense of others outside our immediate family is fleeting, but is part of an emerging understanding that we live in a world of MANY people, all interacting in various means and ways. Our first few years of school, informal and then formal, have a profound effect on our world view and a growing comprehension of an ever more complicated array of social contact that proceeds apace all about us. And as each year passes, despite the best efforts of educators, family and well-meaning adults who work diligently to shape our sense of self, our individuality is merged with a wider collective as later childhood steadily gives way to adolescence. The need to belong and be a part of the ever-shifting social scene that swirls about us steals away one of the most beautiful gifts bestowed upon us, the power to be a unique and wholly special entity.
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One of the most powerful forces that coerces and co-opts our efforts to be a truly distinct person is the desire to fit in, be popular and gain acceptance. Before we are even fully aware of the deleterious effects of the social sphere, its influence shapes how we see ourselves and causes changes in how we interact with others, both positive and negative. Certainly, interpersonal and social skills are an essential part of becoming a happy and successful part of the Human Community, but it is the desire to climb the social ladder and gain acceptance from those we deem “worthy” that alters who we are and especially the kind of person we could have been. Too often, young people bend their actions, words, interests, inclinations and general demeanor towards the dominant current of popular mentality in any group dynamics. As such, the authentic person is often submerged beneath a façade, and sometimes that genuine individual never resurfaces as they lose track of who they are and focus more on who others expect them to be.
After the gauntlet of the teens and twenties has been negotiated, with all the pitfalls and traps for wary feet that can occur, a degree of individualism can often reassert itself in the 30s in a number of people. Persons who have taken the time in life to self-assess, self-evaluate and grow intellectually, emotionally and spiritually find pathways of self-acceptance, self-worth and find the strength to brave life’s journey in their own manner. But the social sphere’s influence can often stunt such progress when that pressure to conform to the expectations of others is greater than the desire to find one’s own voice and express it with confidence.
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You can see more in our May 2016 issue of ModelsMania