‘If everyone is doing it, it must be right’, is a saying that resonates perfectly with the herd mentality.
Herd mentality is a tendency to adopt the behavior and actions of people around you, mostly ignoring feelings and ideas of your own. This often blind, sheep-like mindless following of one’s circle of influence, is driven by emotions rather than logic and reason. People tend to internalize the beliefs, attitudes and trends of others to ‘fit-in’. This lack of individual point of view and moving with the majority causes teenagers to lose themselves in the crowd.
Certain ideas, which enjoy majority support, are valued, and moving away from those ideas may invite disapproval from the society. Teenagers feel especially obliged to adopt dominant viewpoints and behaviors so that they are not isolated or made fun of. Being a part of the crowd, gives a sense of security and support whereas being the oddball makes people uncomfortable. The fear of criticism and not being accepted by peers, family and society in general accentuates herd mentality.
Teenagers and young adults feel anxious and nervous to express views that are opposed to the dominant thinking, leading to low confidence and self-esteem. Herd mentality may have positive outcomes too, such as invoking patriotism or gathering support for a noble cause. However, losing one’s individuality and interests to suit societal standards is detrimental and unnecessary. It is essential that people realise that being different is not necessarily a bad thing. Having a mind of one’s own and the courage to take the road less traveled may lead to wonders.
Taking my example of an ex CA aspirant I nearly escaped from the herd mentality to pursue what I truly wanted to.
I always aspired to join Narsee Monjee College. After securing 84% in my board examinations, I was fortunate to get admission in my dream college.
I wanted to join a management studies course after the 12th grade. However, after meeting and interacting with my classmates, I realized that 90% of them were opting for Chartered Accountancy. I was always good at completing the job at hand; hence, I too fell prey to the herd mentality and pursued CA. I commend the remaining 10% who opted to follow a different career path. Even after completing my articleship (internship) of 3 and a half years and clearing the second level of CA, I failed to achieve any sort of happiness from these achievements.
I asked myself “What kind of a job do I see myself doing after completing CA?” I knew that I am not among those who can sit in front of a laptop for 12 hours a day, as I am a people’s person.
It is rightly said that it is never too late to do what you love, and one day, I took the risky yet satisfactory decision of quitting CA. This decision was a tough one and as expected not taken too well by many. Out of the 24 CA friends I had, 22 did not even attempt to understand my stand. They tried to convince me into changing my decision. I did not quit CA because I was scared or incapable, but because I realized that it was not what I wanted to do in the first place.
For once I listened to my heart and not my head and quit CA. People asked me why I would quit after three and a half years with only a year remaining. Did I not feel like I wasted those precious years? According to me, if I gained knowledge for these three and a half years, it can never go to waste. I proved my point by monetizing my knowledge and becoming the youngest professor who was not a CA herself, but taught 1000s of aspiring CA students.
I believed that even if I “wasted” three years of my life following the crowd, should I waste thirty more years trying to please them? Despite earning the same as most of my CA friends, I am still asked why I quit CA as an employer sees my CV for any job interview”.
I laugh at off at this question and reply that I quit since I didn’t want to fall a prey of herd mentality.
It is very important to be self-aware in order to nip herd mentality in the bud. Do not let others dictate terms for you. If an idea, attitude or action does not align with what you believe is right, let it go.
Do not allow yourself to be manipulated easily. Always be up to broadening your horizons and expand your perspective. Accept that people are different and so are their opinions. Learn to question dominant ideas and follow them only if the explanation seems satisfactory. Rely on diverse information sources apart from your parents, siblings and peers. Sometimes they too are victims of herd mentality.
Do not ridicule or get ridiculed for being different. Remember, walking alone when you know your right is better than following the crowd with a burdened heart.