Elizabeth Untama / Gavel Media

Conformity vs. Individuality

A BC student: the phrase brings to mind more than it obviously entails. You might think you’ve captured us with an image of a slim, affluent, almost-twenty-something wearing Bean boots, a Patagonia vest, and a pair of carefully tailored jeans. Sure, there are some variations of the image, but the overall look is the same. It isn't a stereotype so much as an aesthetic.

Coming to BC, it's quite intimidating to be met by this apparently homogeneous crowd.  Almost immediately, you have to make a choice: do I conform, and risk losing my individuality, or do I stay as I am and risk missing out on the quintessential BC experience? Embracing the Boston College aesthetic is, after all, more than a fashion choice—it's a lifestyle, and the answer to the question above is both and neither.

A big part of going to college is leaving things behind—not just friends, family, and your childhood home, but misconceptions, too, about the place you've come to and what you yourself are like. Done properly, the "college experience'" should confront you with things that you know nothing about, things you think you have no interest in, things that intimidate you, and things that amaze you. Joining BC means accepting that there is more to experience than what you did in high school.

Submitting to the sports culture phenomenon was, for me, an example of this—as someone with a profound disinterest in sports, I wondered whether I was betraying some part of my identity when I put on my BC gear and prepared to sit through a football game in the fall. It was surprising to me that I ended up having a great time. Going to that game was one of the first of many decisions that made me wonder whether doing something just because everyone else is doing it is actually a bad thing, as many people are raised to believe. If many people are doing something, there's probably a reason, and that reason, regardless of your precious uniqueness, may apply to you.

As homogeneous as BC may appear to an outsider, once you stop judging people for their similarities, you start to appreciate their differences. As in any community, there are groups within social circles, complexities within the endlessly interconnected relationships (BC is so much smaller than I imagined it), and distinctive personalities within the numerous Canada Goose coats. Anyone who refuses to look past the superficial will deny others the opportunity to do the same, making distaste for conformity become a kind of self-imposed isolation.

Still, cultivating a personality from within the group you've embraced is in itself an effort. "Fitting in" is only a worthy goal if it furthers personal development and discovery. As such, one must decide what aspects of the newly-acquired BC persona to adopt. The good work ethic and motivation to stay in shape? Embrace. Un-ironically saying "that's so funny" with a straight face when someone tells a joke—a habit I've cringed at on numerous occasions when observing BC students interact—maybe try not to pick up. It's the process of analyzing and appraising those around us that helps shape who we are, and it cannot be done from the outside.

Of course, there are some things that should not be discarded in favor of conforming to a group—among these are personal goals, principles, and basic personality traits. But holding on to who you believe you are at eighteen for the sake of preserving an elusive sense of self isn't individualistic and won't result in growth. So let it all go—the truly essential parts of you can't be driven away, and all else that you acquire will make you more you, not less. A community is, after all, made up of individuals. Embrace your community in order to develop yourself and your community will be enriched by it.