Conformism in Small Doses

March 7 , 2020
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at )

I have in many different circumstances met people who - like myself - cannot help but conform. We do so mostly to fit in. Typically, we conform to impress others or gain their acceptance.

“Conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behaviour in order to fit in with a group,” reads an explanation of the word on the website

This is a description that exemplifies an experience I recently had.

There was this girl I knew who was entrusted by her family with the responsibility of collecting rent money from the tenants living in houses her family built and depositing the money at the bank.

She did not do that. She ended up spending the money recklessly. The truth came out, and when she was finally confronted, she could not produce it. Her parents went berserk and were deeply disappointed in her.

A rumour went about that her close friend had looked by as she spent the money or was even an accomplice in the offence. At the time, I was dismayed that someone could be so irresponsible and inconsiderate, breaking the trust they were given.

The friend who told me this rumour said some harsh stuff about the girl who spent the cash, calling her names. However, when all three of us met in person once and brought the topic up, the rumour-monger decided to change the things she said about the girl.

This time she did not speak ill of the girl. Instead, she was saying what she heard were just rumours and that the people who were speaking ill of her were probably jealous. I was confused and dismayed, because she made it obvious that she never liked the girl when talking to me.

When conversing with me, she insulted the girl, calling her irresponsible. She also told me that she blamed her friend and said she was supposed to stop her from spending the cash instead of being her partner in crime. But when we finally met, she went back on what she had said and began defending her.

Some would say that this is being duplicitous and not necessarily conformist. But this is only because conformism is not properly understood as being duplicitous to society, and to oneself, on a grander scale. Conformism starts at the personal level. Sometimes we conform despite not having to in the first place, for the simple reason that we have been duplicitous and need to keep up that lie in the face of those who may judge us.

If we have a certain opinion about something or someone, we should stick to it and stand by it no matter who we are talking to. The exceptions are if our life depends on it; if we are looking out for others; or if we are worried about hurting others feelings.

We cannot serve two kings with one sword. It is understandable why it is difficult to be completely honest all the time, but no one holds a gun to our head and puts words in our mouth. We could just keep quiet if we do not want to confront people or simply say we do not agree with what they are saying instead of conforming to everything others are saying.

It should not be acceptable social etiquette to bad-mouth people behind their backs unless we have the courage to say it to their faces. Let us not point our fingers at others without taking a good look at ourselves. We should take a stand for what we believe in. Otherwise, we will be carried wherever the wind blows us.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 07,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1036]

Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at

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