Words by: Juliette Capomolla Art by: Ilanda Tran
I bought flared jeans because they were the thing. Never mind they accentuated my big hips and didn’t show off my smaller calves.
I cut bangs because everyone else was doing it. Let’s pretend I didn’t look like a moonface (as my mum would so kindly put it).
I downloaded TikTok so I could keep up with the jokes, despite knowing full well I would spend hours on that app when I could be doing something productive.
And that’s just to name a few times in my twenties when I’ve done a thing or two just to fit in. It’s a terrible thing isn’t it, trying to keep up with the Joneses? So why do we do it?
As I’m sure you can all relate to (read: I’m praying you’ll all relate otherwise I’ll be so embarrassed), the desire to be liked plagues our existence. Perhaps it’s a disease for young adults, or perhaps it’s the ugly byproduct of social media. Whatever it may be, the yearning for external approval haunts me on the daily even though I’m well aware of how stupid I’m being.
Psychologists will tell us it’s all very natural. According to social identity theory, we create groups in society and form our own identity around our membership in those groups. So, it’s only fitting that we will shape our characteristics and personality traits to match the others in our “in group”. After all, evolutionarily, not fitting in could result in life or death consequences (not to be melodramatic or anything). Now that we’re no longer living in clans or hunting and gathering, perhaps this evolutionary trait is no longer relevant. We probably shouldn’t be giving up our own wants, needs, quirky traits and individuality for the sake of others’ satisfaction, particularly when our lives no longer depend on it. And yet, we still do.
Nowadays, it looks like changing your vocabulary to match the slang of the day, wearing low-rise jeans despite all the red flags telling you not to, buying a Frank Green water bottle so everybody knows you’re trendy, or watching MAFS every night so you know what everybody is talking about. Sure, these social media trends (and trashy TV) are meaningless and don’t really have a big impact, but arguably, they are making us more basic, similar and monotonous than ever.
Have you ever turned up to drinks with friends and you’re all matching in a black-leather-jacket-cute-top-suit-pants-white-sneaker outfit? Same. Unfortunately, Basic White Girl — an easily identifiable breed thanks to Poppy Lissiman bags and Nike dunks — is now a derogatory term for all those who simply want to blend in. How shameful of us! How dare we follow the trends and try to fit in! You just can’t win around here.
It’s a real shame that we don’t encourage and pursue individuality. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, but when someone attempts to stand out from the crowd, our Australian instinct tells us to bring them down a notch (thanks for nothing, tall poppy syndrome). I mean, we can’t have people embracing their true selves too much, right? There’s some weird comfort in everyone being the same — it’s predictable. And when others defy that comfortable sameness, we shut them down to appease our desire for normality. You’re probably well aware that this idea extends way beyond fashion trends and TikTok slang, but I digress.
Whether you enforce compliance with the status quo or are the victim of needing to be liked — or both, as we probably all are — it’s a tough cycle to break out of. I don’t know about you, but I’m hopeful that I won’t be craving everybody else’s approval my whole life. I’m hopeful that it is only a disease for young twenty-somethings, and I get to move on at some point. I’d like to think I have the inner strength to just be myself and allow others to do the same, but that’s probably giving myself more credit than I deserve. After all, I do want to fit in and I do want to be liked. Is that such a bad thing?