How far should you go to fit in?

I recently attended an event where I met a woman who I would describe as an ‘old school feminist’. Wearing a headache-inducing array of clashing colours, from the peach pink in her hair to the flaming fuchsia of her leggings, and a whole rainbow in between. I watched the group dynamics, a set of strangers who had never met before. The majority ignored this unusual looking woman, and gravitated towards the people who looked, well, like them. In the bar, after the event, it was the same. The lady sat drinking a cup of tea at one end of a long high table, with the others congregating at the other end, splitting the cost of cocktail pitchers to share.

One comment I heard was ‘She works for a mental health charity. You can tell, can’t you?’

I decided to go and talk to her, because she looked lonely, as well as interesting. As it turns out, she was fascinating, particularly on ‘vintage’ feminism.

When I got home I thought more about what I’d seen. I decided it was brave of her to defy convention. She can’t be oblivious to the strange looks she gets, to the way people walk past her to talk to someone more ‘normal’ looking. So she must be making a conscious choice to dress in such a zany style.

On the other hand, I thought it was sad. Her life has been so interesting and she has a lot of interesting things to say. But so many people miss out on hearing about those things, because they are put off by her appearance. Not to mention how much she is missing out on herself. Unlike others at the event, she didn’t benefit from the opportunity to network, to learn more about the others, their knowledge and experience. She purposefully and implicitly distanced herself from the rest of the group.

Since I was at school, making an effort not to look or behave like ‘the cool gang’, it has been important to me not to be conventional for the sake of it, but instead to be myself. On the other hand, I do often go into chameleon mode: adopting a more cut glass accent when talking to people I perceive to be posh, hamming up my northern roots at other times. It’s not deliberate, it just happens. At other times I deliberately present myself in a certain way, to my advantage. At a recent job interview, for example, I turned up in a smart dress and heels (which I almost never wear) as opposed to jeans and trainers. And even though I hate the idea of smearing chemicals over my face in order to appear more appealing to others, I wear make up to work every day, without fail.

I don’t know what the ‘right’ answer is, if there is one. Yes, it’s society’s fault that we’re so superficial and prejudiced. But do we as individuals not also have a responsibility to present ourselves in an advantageous way? Comments welcome.

One thought on “How far should you go to fit in?

  1. This is such a great post, definitely gives you some food for thought! It’s so easy to be either extreme of “conforming to be accepted” or making strong efforts to be different or “indie”. I think it’s about finding a balance of staying true to yourself in terms of morals and beliefs and if they have to be compromised in some way for you to be a part of a certain crowd, then that’s probably not the right place for you. Like in interviews, I’m often told i can be too humble which isn’t always the case – it’s just that the other candidates were evidently conforming to that one ideal which lacked modesty. I personally don’t like arrogance but know full well that to an extent I have to step it up without bragging to be on par with others; so yeah I think it’s about finding that balance that doesn’t change all of you for the wrong reasons!

    (So sorry about my essay of a comment, didn’t realise how passionate I was about this topic haha! Again, fab post 🙂 )

    Esther | EST. SINCE 94


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