How do I stand out from the crowd?
To learn how to stand out from the crowd and to be truly unique, we need to understand what the majority of us are doing and how we fell into the trap of abiding by the cultural norms in our society. When I was a primary school teacher, I noticed that children in schools were often shouted at and given a punishment for behaving inappropriately. By inappropriate I mean, acting in the wrong manner, being sillier than they should or small incidences that would cross the normal cultural boundary in that particular environment. Sometimes the children who were punished didn’t even have a chance to tell the teacher if they were in the wrong. However, children who are quiet and well-mannered were often praised.
At school, the children need to put up their hands to speak and they need to be chosen by the teacher to speak. They need to ask to go to the toilet, to have a drink in the classroom and there are certain actions children learn that they need to ask permission before doing. But is this just one way of keeping the children quiet and not voicing their opinions instinctively.
This taught behaviour is called conditioning. It’s a process whereby individuals are trained to adopt certain ideologies and norms in all aspects of life, from education to employment to how we should live our lives which are approved by society. This majority way of thinking or doing is also known as herd mentality. In some ways, schools must adopt this behaviour as it would be difficult to teach when 30 other children are talking. I am not deeming social conditioning but understanding this foundation of society will help you stand out from the crowd.
But this is what I didn't like about certain types of teaching, that everyone should be quiet when working, no one should shout out and most of the time is the teacher who is speaking at the front of the classroom instead of the children. And as the children grow older throughout their education, they learn by not speaking, they will be praised as they would be the well-behaved respectful dream pupil to teach. But in the real world, this causes a lot of issues when those children become adults. If they don't speak at school, at home or in another supported environment, they forget how to speak. It caused me a lot of issues whereby I didn’t know my authentic self.
So how does conditioning work? As a child conditioning is all around you taught by your parents, your teachers etc. You don't realise what is happening, you just associate certain sounds with certain actions and/or rewards. There is normally a neutral stimulus, a bell, a whistle, a clap. These sounds are then connected to a certain reaction, a certain action by a group of people. For example, the sound of a whistle means go/stop. In PE or a football match, the whistle is blown to indicate the start of the game or to stop the game. Sometimes with other types of conditioning, a reward or punishment is also included to reinforce the behaviour. If you work hard in school, I will give you a sticker.
There are many examples of conditioning in schools, but I will only name a handful of them that are to do with behaviour management in the classroom. Normally, to ask the children to be quiet, a musical rhythm will be used. This could be a shake of the tambourine, the teacher clapping several times or a rhyme would be used such as “one two three eyes on me” and the children will respond “three two one it’s been done”. In addition, for younger children, a certain song will be played when they need to tidy up the classroom.
Conditioning isn’t a bad thing as we have some sort of boundary to learn right from wrong. But some biases and expectations contribute hugely to how it shapes our lives. From a young age, only girls play with barbie dolls and boys play with cars. The colour pink is for girls and blue is for boys. You have to go to university to get a good job. Certain jobs are for men and women can and can't do. Only men are builders and women are nurses. Recently, I saw an advert for a shaver advertised for women. It was packaged in pink and light blue with flowers. Why is it that men can't use this shaver? A blade is a blade, it has no gender preference. And also why is it that women have to feel the need to shave their legs? I think media has an immense influence over certain stereotypes and cultural norms. However, this can hinder the growth and development of children with their academic success, their body image and identity. This can be dangerous as children continue to alter themselves according to the latest trend.
The atmosphere of a workplace can be conditioned by the staff to make it a friendly or hostile environment. The people in the workplace influence the behaviours of other people. Stepping into one workplace where one rule is accepted can be the complete opposite for another workplace. People's tone of behaviour can also set guidelines for what the work atmosphere can be like, for example, a person showing up late and profusely apologising compared to a person who strolls into the meeting halfway through. Other aspects of social conditioning in the workplace are things like the communication between different departments, the work ethic amongst colleagues and the inequality of a gender pay gap. All of these are observed and imitated by the majority of people and over time it becomes the 'norm', making it a certain standard in the workplace.
We are conditioned as a society, that normal full time working hours are Monday - Friday 9am-5pm. And in order to get that job, we must attend university, graduate and get a 'good grade'. To get these good grades we must study hard at school. All this knowledge passed down from the previous generation does not help us figure out how we should be living our own lives. Conditioning affects our behaviour in such a way that there are too many expectations to follow which restricts what we can or can't do. If we don't adhere to these social expectations, we are excluded from the group and made to feel as though we aren't as successful or aren't as worthy in society. This also creates negative stereotypes on the way we view other people. It affects the way we think, the way in which we question the world but this affects what we say and how we say it.
Conditioning is all around us. There are no issues for people who want to follow all the social expectations of life, want to be able to have a sense of belonging and community and be with the 95% who have the same mentality. But if you want to challenge and break the boundaries, unlock new realms within yourself and the world around you, you need to start fighting all the behaviours you have been taught. To that, question yourself on every part of your life and try a different routine. For example, if you sleep on the right side of the bed, sleep on the left side, if you always buy a Cadburys chocolate bar buy a supermarket own brand and if you go the same way to work every day use an alternative route. What if I told you I never eat breakfast or drink coffee? What is your initial reaction? The general reaction would be "Breakfast is the most important part of the day, you should never skip breakfast" and "Really! How can you survive without coffee in the mornings?" Think outside the box, be responsible for your own conscious process.
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