The most miserable and tortured people in the world are those who are continually straining and striving to convince themselves and others that they are something other than what they basically are. And there is no relief and satisfaction like that that comes when one finally gives up the shams and pretenses and is willing to be himself. Success, which comes from self-expression, often eludes those who strive and strain to "be somebody," and often comes, almost of its own accord, when a person becomes willing to RELAX and "Be Himself."
- Dr. Maxwell Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics)
Everyone has a tendency to conform to their gang (group, club, tribe, whatever), usually without even recognizing it.
It’s been well established that we mimic those around us.
In 1999, Chartrand and Bargh – professors of Psychology at New York Univesity – discovered that people have a natural tendency to mimic the physical movements and speech inflections of those with whom they interact.
This behavior has been dubbed the Chameleon Effect.
Sasha Ondobaka of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour elaborates: “when you’re having a conversation with somebody and you don’t care where your hands are, and the other person scratches their head, you scratch your head.”
However, the use of mimicry extends beyond individual interactions and affects the way people interact with (and thus associate with) groups. Dr. Maxwell Maltz, author of Psycho-Cybernetics, explains that people naturally conform to groups, but this type of conformity only leads to “the most miserable and tortured people…”
He goes on to explain that our actions aren’t dictated so much by what we think we should do, as they are dictated by what we think others LIKE US would do.
In this case, it would be the gang we conform to (a self-perpetuating system of failure and misery follows).
This applies to any group identity: if I'm a devout Christian and I'm confronted with a choice to stay out and drink all night or come home early so I can make it to church in the morning, I don't ask myself what I think I should do - I ask myself (subconsciously) what an ideal Christian would do.
This doesn't only affect those who are religious - if I'm an atheist, and I'm confronted with a choice to support a particular political party, I don't ask which party is right for me - I ask which party would a person like me choose.
If I'm on the Paleo diet, I don't wonder if I should eat that pizza - I ask what would someone on the Paleo Diet eat?
Answer: not that...
It's almost as if we have a concept of an ideal self within us that controls our actions more than WE do.
What does all this mean?
Well, it means we face a lot of internal struggle – a lot of push and pull – and we feel it whether or not we can actually identify what causes it.
It’s important to note that there is another element at work here: the concept of acting like the person we think we should act like. Deep down, the reason we do this, at least according to Dr. Maltz, is because of our natural inclination to become our best self.
It’s an internal struggle to become the person we ought to be (versus the person we THINK we are right now).
Which is why Maxwell Maltz's quote above is so important.
If we can just learn to relax, we can be successful with less pain and less struggle (come on, I can’t say without any struggle at all…I’m not a self help guru. There will still be struggles. Deal with it.).
So relax a little. Things will come more naturally. You'll forgive easier. You'll make friends easier. You'll be happier. Your true wants will be easier to determine and act on.
After all, if you’re not sure what to act on, you sure can’t instigate.
p.s. if you dig this article, you'll dig this book: The Art of Instigating.