To escape the prison of conformity, you have to look at your life and identify what you’re doing as a result of social pressure and conformity.

All too often, people end up doing what they think they ought to be doing in life, instead of doing what they really want to do. They make compromises based on what their family and friends think. They make decisions based on which career paths are most accepted, aggrandised and rewarded in society.

People often head for status and financial security, and compromise on their inner values and beliefs. But this tends to leave them with a sense of being unfulfilled and out of control. Have you compromised too much? Are you living someone else’s dream? Are you living in the prison of conformity?

We live in a world where individuality is rarely encouraged, a world where people are homogenised through education curriculums and cultural norms and values. People are often afraid to step outside of the conventions they find themselves in, and this is especially true when there are added social pressures dictated by oppressive governments or religious orders.

As time goes by, people can become so blinded by social conditioning, so compliant with the forces of conformity, that they almost completely forget what they were passionate about, about what they felt inspired by, and about what gave them a sense of purpose and meaning.

In order to feel approved and accepted, we often comply with social rules, standards and conventions. We yield to social pressure and end up conforming. Our pretences in life are usually rooted in our perceived need to please others by complying with the status quo of ‘normal’.

You cannot break out of the prison of conformity if you are constantly having to change your appearance and behaviour simply for the sake of feeling accepted. You have to rectify this by being genuine and going in your own direction. So, you think, talk and act in a way that is true to yourself, regardless of whether you’ll be accepted by others or not.

Question yourself. Where do your beliefs, ideas and values come from? Can you trace back their roots? How much of you is original? How much of what you do in life is due to conformity? How much of what you do is solely to please others and fit in? Is the job you work at representative of anything to do with your personality? What is truly meaningful to you? What makes you genuinely happy?

You have to get in underneath the reasons for why you have certain attitudes, motivations and desires. Why do you want certain things? Why do you want to be like certain people? Why do you want to be perceived in certain ways? Are your desires genuine? Or are they projections of your insecurities?

As you begin to really look at yourself in terms of why you think in certain ways, why you act in certain ways and why you say certain things, you will gradually start to perceive yourself from a more objective perspective. You can then start to see the difference between your true motivations and those that have been foisted upon you by your insecurities and the forces of conformity.

What you are looking to assess, is how you can be more genuine and authentic in your life. The key to authenticity, is to act of your own volition and not out of conformity.

It’s not about being right or wrong, it’s simply about being real and genuine. It’s simply about recognising your own values, beliefs and observations — and being able to act on these without feeling any friction about doing so.

And people don’t necessarily need to know about your values, beliefs and observations — they don’t necessarily need to know why you are acting in certain ways. To escape the prison of conformity, it is often best to slip out the side door quietly. Otherwise, certain people in your life may try to stop you from making a run for it!

People’s expectations of us can confine us into a box. And even though you do have to compromise to a certain extent in life, for instance, with those people you have commitments and responsibilities with — you can still choose to negotiate your own path. And so you may have to discuss things with certain people and redefine your roles. And you may have to break free of people’s labels and expectations if they are restricting you.

So, you are going to have to be assertive, and you are going to have to live a life that is self-determined. A life where you govern your own thoughts, words, feelings and actions. A life where you feel in control of the choices you make.

Being in control of your life means acting of your own volition. So, you decide what to do based on the meaning, value and purpose that you recognise. You make commitments in alignment with what is genuinely meaningful and valuable to you. You become true to yourself.

Never surrender to being an automaton where you feel out of control, being swept along helplessly.

To break free of the prison of conformity, you have to take responsibility for your authenticity. And that means honouring your own values, and moving yourself towards what you genuinely want in life.