Let’s get one thing straight from the outset – there is nothing wrong with belonging to a group(s). Most people are born into a family which is itself a ‘group’. It is here where you will learn the benefits of belonging with others that you can – hopefully – rely upon who care about you. This is not always the case, but you get my drift. You need co-operative relationships with other people to have a full and healthy life. However, when this need is exploited or distorted for nefarious purposes, you are in danger of losing your Self – your individuality. It all starts with the underlying mentality of the group and/or the leader(s) of it which will have a profound influence on you. Before I get into this, I will define the term ‘group’.
What is a Group?
From the Essential Oxford English Dictionary (Australian Edition 2010): (noun): a number of people or things near, categorized or working together.
Synonyms: association, band, batch, circle, clique, collection, company, coterie, crowd, faction, gang, gathering, organization, pack, party, troop.
I will use these terms throughout the article so that I am not always using the same word – pay particular attention to the breadth of concepts that mean ‘group’ and you will come to understand how pervasive this kind of ‘banding’ together really is. A few examples: family (as mentioned above); sports groups; peer groups; Facebook groups; social clubs; anything that requires you to be a ‘member’…
Any collection of people requires some common ground or belief system or law, that everyone within that circle uses as a guide in order to know how to conduct themselves within the group and often outside of it, too. These ‘rules’ are usually generated by one leader or a small band of leaders working together. For example, the father, mother or both parents decide on the rules of the household; a sports coach creates the rules of conduct within that group; the ‘Godfather’ decrees ‘gang’ law; the Pope generates religious ordinances and so on.
What happens when your beliefs and thoughts as an Individual deviate from the crowd?
All people have the ability to think for themselves – how many actually utilize this God-given gift is another story. One day you may find that you no longer believe, or want to live, the way in which your particular groups want you to – you were raised Catholic but now you want to practice Buddhism; your friends believe it’s cool to be promiscuous but you want to stop living that way because it sickens you; your spiritual group does not accept the existence of evil, but you do, and you want to do something about it.
If you can actually find the courage to speak and act differently from the crowd, congratulations. However, your life will be turned upside down especially if you have had long-term connections with these people and they have a vested interest in keeping you bound to them. They will try to bring you back to the fold (i.e. control you) or to vilify you if they fail to do so – I have heard the following phrases used repeatedly by others when using either of the aforementioned tactics:
“I/we love you.”
“If you loved me/us you would do what I/we want you to.”
“I/we care about you.”
“You don’t care about us.”
“It’s your ego talking.” (Often used by ‘spiritual’ people when it is actually their ego talking).
“You’re not living your purpose.” (As if someone else can presume to know YOUR purpose in life).
“You’re doing this to punish me/us.” (Often used by parents, lovers and spouses).
Basically, anything to make you look bad or pathetic in order to make you conform or to punish you if you don’t…
How do you stay true to yourself in spite of all of this?
Self Help Tips to Strengthen your Sense of Self
In order to strengthen Self-think you need to strengthen your Sense of Self. You do this by getting to Know Yourself. This involves reflective inner work, it may include therapy but it doesn’t have to. Deal with your demons and question whether or not everything you have been told is right for you. You may find that your religious upbringing is right for you, but if it isn’t, then carve out another path for yourself. The following questions will help you to ascertain what is, and is not, right for you:
- Is this what I really believe?
- Is this what I really desire?
- Why do I always listen to (…fill in the blank)?
- Why am I afraid of not listening to (…whoever it might be)?
- How does my body feel when I am around so-and-so or when I do what so-and-so tells me to do?
All of this inner work should ultimately create a very healthy self-esteem (if you do not already have one). Cultivating self-worth, also brings about a true, deep self-love where you will make healthy choices for yourself – Free (Self) Will.