The Difference Between Belonging and Conforming

(3 min read)

Like most people in the world, I want to be liked and accepted. I want to be kind, polite, and accommodating. I want to feel like I belong.

The problem with “fitting in” is that it can control you.

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “normative conformity.”

Solomon Asch, in a now-classic experiment, demonstrated this psychological desire to mimic the thoughts and behaviors of the people around you, to ensure those same people accept you into their group.

It’s the reason so many teenagers form cliques.

It’s the reason so many outcasts are bullied.

Normative conformity can be a good thing.

Most modern-day “manners” and “common sense” are a result of what normative conformity teaches us about society. We all know to obey traffic laws and hold the door open for the person behind us.

But normative conformity gets corrupted when it forces us away from our dreams. If we’re afraid of being judged, we’ll rarely take the next step to meet our personal goals

“If we’re afraid of being judged, we’ll rarely take the next step to meet our personal goals. ”


Every day brings a new temptation; sometimes it’s even prompted by my family or friends. We get tripped up when we want to say “no” to a cocktail or dessert, but also do not want to stand out, or seem judgemental of others. We may have plans to get to the gym, but friends want to go to a movie.

Concern arises if we decline, will we be included next time? Or will the “health nut” label start emerging?

Ideally, we should not worry about those things, but the reality is for most of us, we do.

That’s why it is so important to build your “tribes” of people who support your dreams.

But we don’t have to have just one tribe. Many of my friends/family are not trying to do Acro Yoga (they should – it’s so fun!). That is ok, I also have a tribe that loves to explore those things and with them, my crazy date nights with my husband trying to “fly” is the norm.

Just being mindful of what norms we are conforming to, can significantly impact our happiness and the realization of our goals.