1. a social theory advocating the liberty, rights, or independent action of the individual.
2. the principle or habit of or belief in independent thought or action.
3. the pursuit of individual rather than common or collective interests; egoism.
4. individual character; individuality.
5. an individual peculiarity.
While people watching today (and several other days prior), I was struck with a thought.
We put great value on individualism.
From the clothes we wear to the way we speak…to the color we dye our hair and trinkets we adorn ourselves with, we all try to be different. This obsession with individualism hits us at different times in our lives, some experiencing the need to stand out in highschool, others in college, and some further down the line. We all feel the yearning to be different.
However, in trying harder to be “ourselves”, sometimes we lose sight of what (or who) we really are. This is when we begin to syphon ourselves into the typical categories we tend to define ourselves (or others) by. The athlete, the beauty queen, the nerd, the hipster, the wanna-be, the artist, the book worm, the dreamer… the list goes on and on. Ofcourse, we never classify ourselves that way, since we are too unique and different to fit into these molds.
You are different, just like everyone else.
At this point I began to notice how the appeal to individualism is even laced in our marketing.
Why are we so concerned with being different? What’s wrong with being a unit, part of a group, one in a sea of thousands? Why must we define ourselves based on our uniqueness? Then, I wondered about how individualism was so ingrained in our culture, and how we as Americans stood on the grand scale of individualism
Needless to say, I wasn’t shocked when the US was on the top of the list of countries based on individualism. I honestly believe that individualism can be both a benefit and a detriment to a nation, but I often see the pros are nullified by the cons. For instance, yes, individualism stresses the importance of the individual, leading us to value independent thought. However, when someone values their own opinion too highly they stop caring about the thoughts of others… With individualism, everyone’s opinions should be considered…but what happens when people feel their opinions should guide rules/regulations/practices applied to everyone?
Individualism is a double edged sword. On one side is awareness, on the other side is self-centeredness. But on both sides is the pressure to be unique. As I placed my phone in my backpack and boarded the bus I concluded my thoughts. ” That’s the thing about being uniquely you. You shouldn’t have to try”. It’s not the clothes you wear, the color of your skin, the phone you buy, or the school you attend. It’s the first words that spring to your lips when a debate begins. It’s your reaction to seeing a person in need. Unfortunately, when individualism goes wrong we stop caring about the other side of the argument. You don’t worry about that person in need, since that isn’t you. We are citizens of the world, one out of billions, we aren’t that special. What we do is special. Living as a society instead of as an individual is crucial to the success of a nation.
You are one in billions, not the only one.