The Problem with Conformity


When I was growing up I was taught to be polite, quiet, well groomed, trim, and above all obedient. You can only imagine the areas of conflict I had with these culturally defined “feminine” qualities, especially since I was a known tomboy, with a well developed stubborn streak. Not much has changed but at least I own it. 

My parents were wonderful people, but it was the 60’s, and they were not fans of the counter cultural revolution happening on the fringes of society. I’m pretty sure I never heard the word “sex” via my parents lips unless it was associated with gender. They avoided the entire movement by moving our little family to the suburbs and went about raising Nancy and I with the qualities they understood to be of value. I get it. I did the same with my children. 

And now with my own grand daughters, I have to bite my tongue not to remark on their cute noses, sweet faces, soft curls, and adorable dresses, as opposed to their achievements. This tendency to compliment girls for their looks seems to be deeply ingrained in not only me but our society in general. When I raised my boys I rarely considered their looks. It was all about accomplishment, attitude, ingenuity (an excuse to allow for/praise mischievous behavior). We raise our girls to conform to impossible standards. So what’s the problem you might ask?

We believe that civilization has been created under the pressure of the exigencies of life at the cost of satisfaction of the instincts. Sigmund Freud

What happened is I learned to value meaningless things and as a result I did a lousy job of valuing myself. In fact my self awareness was so out of kilter I didn’t really understand who I was or what I wanted until much later in life. I accepted the reality in which I was raised. No questions asked. And now these standards are so deeply embedded in my psyche I’m afraid I will always be susceptible to there influence. At the very least I’m aware of these freudian tendencies when they bubble up and I start berating myself for being me.

“Something else to consider is that when you talk about a problem, you’re watering its roots. The problem just gets stronger and more pervasive!” Gala Darling

My natural disposition has always been loud, active, rumpled, and disobedient. The feedback loop I was subject to when young was not stellar. I truly believed if I only tried a little harder I could restrain my natural inclinations, round out those rough edges, and therefore be highly valued in a world that tended to regard females as purely ornamental. That was a total fail. Try as you might your natural inclinations will eventually surface. 

It was the old square peg in the round hole conundrum. What can you do? I wanted to please, so I made kindness my linchpin, and went about with this naive belief that everyone navigates life’s obstacles with simular tactics. Guess what? They do not and after much folly I find myself in need of a new strategy. 

A square, is a square, is a square until you realize fitting in is not so cool after all. 

“A massive and essential part of self-love is forgiveness and acceptance. So while you’re making an effort and striving to be the best person you can be, at the same time you need to recognize your own humanity. Try not to hold yourself to impeccable standards, and just do the best you can right now.” Gala Darling
I went in search of me, writing became my vehicle of choice, and slowly I discovered myself embedded in the sundry of words. It’s such a wonderful practice and I encourage everyone to partake. Keep a journal, start a blog, give poetry a try, write a memoir, a novel, or short story. It doesn’t matter, just write, do it daily, and the results will blow you away. 

“I want you to realize your radiance. I want you to come to terms with your innate goddess nature. I want you to figure out how goddamn fabulous you are. The universe is waiting for you to step up and live out loud!” Gala Darling

According to Gala Darling, the world is what you make it, and your inner world is constantly being reflected back at you. Do you see the implications? Of course you do. 

And one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong, and full of fire, and not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears. Mark Anthony

That old saying about opportunity only knocking once is as archaic as the flat-earth theory and as patently untrue. Opportunity knocks all the time — and it rings your doorbell, calls you up, and sends you e-mails says Victoria Moran. It’s never too late! Never! You will always have the opportunity to pursue, imagine, and manifest your dreams. 

Talk to yourself like you would someone you love says Brene Brown. I tend to keep my underlying negative feelings at bay by basking in comforting thoughts. How’s that going for me? Not so well. As I approach the end of the year, how can I throw off unnecessary vices, expand my narrow horizons, and forge a new path to a better me? 

What if we dedicated 2019 to the year of of loving ourselves better?  I think the solution to conformity is radical self love. I’m sure someone’s done the research on this, but the truth is the more you love yourself, the more you are capable of loving others. Trust me, it’s not fake news. 

This is my plan for 2019 and you’re welcome to join me if it works for you. I’m going to get more sleep, exercise daily (emptying the dishwasher counts), stay hydrated, limit my sugars (including wine, carbs, and desserts), stay teachable, keep in touch with friends, remove clutter from my home, heart, mind, sprinkle the world with kindness, evolve, refuse to respond to negativity, spend quality time with the people I love, laugh as loud as I want, forgive myself, and lean so far over the rail (Bob Goffism) that I fall for life all over again. As Brian Krans says, “get your gloves on, it’s time for rebirth.”

You are worthy. You are capable. You are beautiful. Book the ticket. Write the book. Create the dream. Celebrate yourself. Rule the queendom. Elyse Santilli 

I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, well talk about our freudian tendencies. 


  • No one is you and that is your super power. Elyse Santilli 
  • She remembered who she was and the game changed. Lalah Deliah
  • If youth knew, if age could. Sigmund Freud


Leave a Comment

  1. Hi!This latest post elicited many reactions in my mind. Sounds like your parents may have had some challenges in your early years. 😊 In my estimation, there is nothing overtly wrong with raising a family with a little bit of values. I think your parents did a great job. I am glad you are striving to encourage productive, worthwhile goals and achievements in your grandchildren (less doting on superficial things, but oh my, aren’t grandkids the cutest?) Hopefully our society will continue to evolve that way (and not to the detriment of the males in society, i.e. can it be a win win situation?) When I look at the changes in American culture, I wonder what is in store for us. Which changes are for the better? I see more independence, more texting, less marriage, less children, more mobility, less desire for home ownership, less desire for a family, less furniture (china, silverware and large dining room tables can be purchased on the cheap now), more awareness of what can be hurtful to others and less talking. When I read about you trying to reinvent how you think about things, trying to avoid ingrained responses, I think that maybe somewhere along the way, your parents gave you the capacity think critically, and adapt to a changing world. It is great that writing gives you the opportunity to hash out your thoughts and their meanings. The way you/we change makes me think of an old Dylan tune, though I confess that I don’t truly understand the depths of it’s profound lyrical meaning. The Byrd’s version is better. on, you write about it never being too late to change. I totally agree, though the clock may be ticking for some of us (me!) The not too late to change motif can be applied to relationships, interactions, self-appreciation and of course, ultimately, religion. It makes me instinctively think of a similar line in Stairway to Heaven, “Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on.”I will leave you with Maureen McGovern’s love song to the world, exhorting us that it’s not too late, we should be giving….. It’s not too late, not while we’re living… (apologies for the wimp factor.) It always triggers memories of watching the Poseidon Adventure with my younger sister., almost forgot…. I read with total dread your resolutions for 2019. We may have to scrap the part of your visit itinerary that included awesome dining experiences, coupled with an amazing oenophilic tour de force. (Na!)Thanks for blogging.Happy New Year to you, Larry, and your entire family !


  2. Hi Mike! Your perceptions and observations give me much food for thought. I love how you recognized the importance of valuing achievement, ingenuity, creativity in our children regardless of sex. I agree we are headed in the right direction with this one for both genders. But I also love that you credited my parents for encouraging me to think outside the box and they did (what else could they do with their tomboy?) Your insights on the subtle changes in American culture and how they are affecting the next generation are spot on. Marriage, family, home ownership were my primary goals after college, as it was with many of my peers, but not so much with my children. I love the adventures they are pursuing, new career paths they are exploring, ways of living ~ it's exciting but also elicits anxiety in me because it is so different from the path I took. I have to learn to breath and enjoy the decisions they make.I so badly want to believe it is never too late to manifest your dreams but I realize some opportunities are no longer possible (olympic athlete, pro car racer, etc.). Being realistic is part of the advantage of our age. And quite possibly although my eyesight is softening my vision has expanded or at least I like to think so. No worries about the itinerary for the visit! My resolutions are totally flexible and I adapt quickly to the prevailing circumstances! We will eat, drink, and be marry!Love the music recommendations, enjoying them with my coffee this morning. Thank you Mike. And by the way I continue hearing from my readers that they absolutely love your comments. Keep them coming!Happy New Year to you, Gail, and your amazing family! xxoo


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