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Own Who You Are. Don't Ever Let Groupthink (Or Other Outside Pressures) Define You.

Something I’ve been noticing in spades lately is how much people LOVE their groups. Alumni associations, car clubs, country clubs, investment groups, fitness clubs, political affiliations, religious sects; the list goes on and on and on. If you just go to Meetup.com and search your local area, you’ll probably find more group-focused topics of interest than you could have imagined existed.

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This all makes sense. Having a sense of identity and community is important, which groups can help provide. Being part of a group can also lead to comfort, growth and security; all of which are a valuable part of the human experience. But I’m also noticing more and more that there can be some toxicity in groups, especially when it leads to a situation where groupthink overrides self-think, which is infinitely more valuable.

True peace and happiness is all about having a balanced, internal harmony within ourselves. Alignment of ideas and actions to your character, conscience and values creates this internal peace. Without it, cognitive dissonance and internal conflict take hold which can lead to mental health issues and behavioral problems.

Groups and other outside influences are great at exposing us to new ideas, concepts and information. This is valuable because it’s healthy to be in a constant state of absorption which leads to personal growth and expansion of horizons. But we also must be cautious to not let social influence and ideas overrun true self. Internal harmony can only be achieved through self-think and a candid honesty with ourselves. We must always process the data we’re absorbing in an effort to form our own honest opinions and identity. Maybe Chris Rock states it better here (warning, expletives included).

“Let it swirl around your head.” Said perfectly by Chris Rock.

I’ve been evaluating all of this lately because I recently caught myself falling victim to the herd mentality. I was typing up a critical response to a post from someone I respect simply because they made a critique about the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) community for which I have an affinity. Thankfully, I took a step back before sending my thoughts and found that the author’s points were actually quite valid. I didn’t take the time to truly evaluate their statements. Instead, my reaction and response were embarrassingly knee-jerk. Shame on me. I jumped to the defense for my “group” before even evaluating the situation rationally. I let groupthink override self-think.

This type of reaction is surprisingly easy to fall victim to nowadays because social media feeds know how to push us into the corners. Honestly, it’s a bit frightening because ideals can be more easily radicalized than ever. This is even more reason why we have to fight being overly influenced by groupthink. We have to make an effort to absorb ideas and opinions in an objective manner. We have to understand the power of social pressure and make sure we are not letting others drive our internal guidance system.

I believe this concept holds true no matter the topic or situation.

For example, here are some truths about me that don’t fit nice and tidy into any isolated grouping.

  • I am both a stock market investor and real estate investor. These do not have to be mutually exclusive, despite what you might hear from the loud advocates on either side. I believe in balance. And this is OK.

  • I am not a Republican or a Democrat. I am fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and proud of it. Neither party wholly represents me. Nor should they. I think it’s ridiculous to try and pigeonhole people like this. And this is OK.

  • I am both frugal and extravagant with my spending. I am a tightwad in areas that don’t bring me much satisfaction and spend freely in those areas that I value. And this is OK.

  • I am a person of faith but am skeptical of religion. I believe there is a higher force/power that exists in life, but I also believe that organized religion is a product of man and should be questioned. This is my opinion. And this is OK.

  • I really enjoy social events but enjoy my alone time more. I feel great when out bonding with others, but in a limited capacity. I need my alone time after social settings to recharge my batteries and be in peace. And this is OK.

  • I love animals but also eat meat. This does cause some internal conflict, so I am pumped about (and supportive of) the potential for lab grown meat in the near future. And this is OK.

If a person or group tries to position you into a specific box of ideas, run. If a person or group tries to force you into a situation or “opportunity” in which you don’t feel comfortable, run. Most often, these people have an ulterior motive that will ultimately benefit them, not you. This especially holds true in the world of money and finance.

My main takeaway from this recent insight is that we all need to be more honest and true to our inner self. We should never settle for another person or group’s opinion. There is no such thing as the “lesser of two evils”. There are always options. And if no options seem to exist, we have the ability and right to create one that fits us best. There is no substitute for peace of mind. And this can only be achieved through inner alignment, not group alignment.

What are some things about you that don’t fit nice and tidy into a particular subset of ideas?