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Ana Cristobal

Professor Jennifer Rodrick


English 114 B
May 10, 2016
Conforming to Society's Norms can Change Peoples True Identity
Our identity is what makes us who we are as individuals. Family, friends, school, and
society can have a big role in shaping who we are, but our behavior can vary depending on our
surroundings. Different places and people who surround us can cause our identities to change, so
that we are socially accepted. Society pressures people to be a certain way in order to fit in with
the rest of the crowd. People would rather conform to societys norm than to stand out from it,
but what they dont realize is that conforming is harmful because they might be giving up their
true identity. Does conforming to societal norms harm the way we truly identify ourselves as?
Every persons identity is different depending on the environment that they are in. For
instance, people feel the need to conform in order to fit in. Many people dont want to feel
excluded nor be seen as different, therefore they go along with what is viewed as acceptable.
There might be situations where a person might not feel comfortable to be like the rest, but they
do because they dont want to feel different. There also might be times where they might not
agree with what the majority says but will not stand up and say anything because they dont want
to be an outcast. In the reading, what is a Homosexual? By Andrew Sullivan, he talks about the
difficulty of being a gay person and he learns how to conceal his true identity around others. He
says, In that moment, you learn the first homosexual lesson: that your survival depends upon
self-concealment (Sullivan 127). By this he means that at a very young age he learned that he
had to hide who he truly was by having to conceal his sexual preference and therefore he wasnt

able to express his true self. Sullivan probably felt like he was locked in a cage or as others might
say, hiding in the closet. Sullivan discussed how he wasnt sure who he was but did know what
he wasnt. He also talked about how he knew all the things that society views as right or wrong.
He knew that in society, heterosexual couples are the kind of individuals who are socially
accepted. He was aware that individuals who were attracted to the same sex were seen as
different and out of the norm by society. Sullivan didnt want to feel rejected by his friends or
classmates, so he got involved into popular school activities like creative writing, plays, and
science fiction as a way to fit in with the rest of his classmates. This shows that Sullivan put his
true identity aside by distracting himself and conforming to social norms. He had to hide his true
self by pretending to be like most regular straight teens his age. Sullivan had to wear a mask
every single day during school just so that he can seem like the rest. Sullivan also said that no
homosexual surrounded by other heterosexuals will ever feel at home in their sexual and
emotional world. Most homosexuals will have difficulty expressing themselves, therefore they
hide themselves in order to fit in with society because society will always see them as not
normal or different. Regardless of how tolerant most people/cultures can be, homosexuals will
always feel like others treat them differently just because they arent like the rest of the crowd.
Even if people accept homosexuals, they might not be as comfortable as they would be with a
heterosexual individual. Not everyone will be okay with easily accepting change.
Peoples identity can drastically change especially if society labels them as dangerous.
Labeling of colored people is one of the most common problem in society. Minorities, like
Mexican Americans or African Americans, are the ones who are targeted the most, they are seen
as criminals with an easy tendency to harm others. Society can make a minority group feel like
they are criminals even when they havent committed a crime or broken the law in any way

shape or form. People assume the worse of colored people. Perhaps this is because of the
reputation that others have spread about such individuals and labeling them due to their skin
color. Society needs to understand that an individuals actions does not represent their culture as
a whole. People who disobey the law act usually will knowingly commit a crime or live a life of
crime based on their own decisions. This choice to break the law, is not caused by where they are
from- where they originate from. Peoples skin color can change their identity and make them
conform just so that they arent perceived as dangerous. There are many different ways that
people conform to society like walking a certain way, the way they dress, or having the latest
technology device or car. Minorities want to be accepted for who they are, but it seems that the
only way for that to happen is if they conform to the American lifestyle. When minorities are
around others they might change their behavior by being polite or else others will assume that
they are rude and perhaps dangerous. In the reading Black Men in Public Space, by Brent
Staples, he talks about how others react negatively based on his appearance. Brent Staples is a
tall African American man who others get intimidated by, just because he doesnt look like a
decent guy. He says, I now take precautions to make myself less threatening. I move about
with care, particularly late in the evening (Staples 190). Brent Staples conforms to society
because he wants to be socially accepted. He doesnt like the feeling of being an outcast and how
others see him as a dangerous man Brent Staples was slowly changing the way he was because
he didnt want others to be intimidated by him. He started whistling popular classical composers
like Beethoven and Vivaldi late at night so other people hearing wouldnt assume that he was a
dangerous man. He chose to conform to societal norms so that others can approve of him. He
probably didnt see himself slowly forgetting who he was. He started being like the rest of the
crowd, he slowly changed himself in order for others to see him as a regular person. Changing

the way he dressed and the way he walked started changing who he was, but why couldnt
Staples just be himself? Is having everybody's approval more important than someone's true
identity? It is very sad to know that he had to change who he was for the sake of others. Its like
if who he is isnt important and like he has no other option than to change.

Conforming to Societal norms can cause everybody to be the same. It takes away the
uniqueness of each individual. It restricts people to be who they truly are. Conformity is always
chosen because people want to fit in with the majority of the people. Most people deal with
Normative Conformity which means, Yielding to group pressure because a person wants to fit in
with the group (McLeod, Saul). This means that people are pressured to conform in order to be
accepted by others. According to a Huffington Post article, The Sadness of Conformity, by
Kristen Houghton, states that society doesnt accept differences amongst people and it just wants
everybody to be the same. For example, she states, Society, whoever and whatever it is, is
forever scrutinizing us and unforgiving of differences (Houghton, Kristen). Conformity makes
others believe that being like everybody else is the right way. Houghton also says that people
will notice when someone is very different and might think that something is wrong with that
person, just because they dont behave like most individuals (whether its their sexual preference,
behavior, attitude, sexual orientation, etc.). If everyone is the same it doesnt give space for

people to be creative. It might make others change who they are even if they are uncomfortable
with it. Conformity may lower someones self-esteem because if they choose to be different they
might think that others will not want to accept them and therefore reject them. Society is ruining
the way people see themselves. People now feel obliged to meet standards that shouldnt really
matter. Caring about unnecessary things like what someone wears, eats, or has makes humanity
seem like Society can also be very materialistic. Some people care about what brand or what
designer of clothing they wear.
Not only are people losing their true identity but they might also be putting aside their
roots from where they originally came from. For example, my aunt first arrived to the US when
the only language she only knew was her dialect and a little Spanish. She first had to get a good
grip of Spanish and when she did she had found out that she soon had to learn English as well.
She quickly realized that many people in California spoke English, so she felt obliged to learn it.
She felt the need to learn English in order for her to communicate well with the doctors or
teachers of her children. She felt that she needed to adjust to the way people lived in California.
My aunt felt like an outcast to the new society in which is resided simply because she did not
know how to speak or understand the spoken language. So she started attending school to learn
English. Currently, she speaks Spanish and her dialect proficiently, but is still adjusting to the
English language. Her children (my cousins) only speak English and struggle with Spanish,
which is sad because they couldve been bilingual. When my dad tries talking to my five year old
cousin in Spanish he seems confused. My dad has to speak English in order for my cousin to
understand what my dad is saying. Houghton says that people lose something that is priceless
when they conform. She states, You lose something priceless and precious when you are forced
to be like everyone else (Houghton, Kristen). I strongly agree because I feel like my aunt

conformed so much to the American lifestyle that she doesnt care whether her children learn her
roots or where she came from. My aunt doesnt realize that conforming to society can change her
childrens future generation and erase her familys history. Conforming can be good in some
ways, but there should always be a limit on how far can someone change in order to fit in. People
can avoid society from changing them by knowing what is worth changing for. If it helps people
to change for a good cause then it is for the better. Change is never bad, but when it comes to
identity people should be aware of who they really are and shouldnt go to the extreme just so
that they can get someone else's approval. Being your true self should always be done with pride.
People arent forced to assimilate or conform it is the person who chooses whether they want to
or not.
.
People shouldnt be afraid of others rejecting them just because they are different.
Society shouldnt make people feel like an outcast just because they arent the same as most
groups of people. Social pressure changes ones mentality and it can slowly change them into a
different person. Culture or family values can be forgotten if people adjust to the American
lifestyle due to social pressure. Peoples identity can change based on their surroundings, but no
one should ever feel like being themselves is a bad or negative thing. Instead they should be
proud of who they are and shouldnt hide their true self. There might be people who will not like
you for who you are but your happiness should always matter the most. Your identity should
always represent you not what society thinks you should be.

Works Cited:
Bcallahan17.The Structure of Social Groups. Google, February 2014. Web. 15 Mar. 2016 (Photo)
EqiVideos. Asch Conformity Experiment. YouTube. Dec. 2007. Web. 15 Mar. 2016
McLeod, Saul. "What Is Conformity?" Simply Psychology. Simply Psychology, 2007. Web. 15
Mar. 2016
Staples, Brent. "Black Men and Public Space" The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Nonfiction.
By Linda H. Peterson and John C. Brereton. 13th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012.
188-190. Print.
Sullivan, Andrew. "What Is a Homosexual?" The Norton Reader: An Anthology of
Nonfiction. By Linda H. Peterson and John C. Brereton. 13th ed. New York: W.W.
Norton, 2012. 127-31. Print.