We, humans, are social creatures - without connection, in the most severe circumstances, we can become psychotic. While we need a connection to others to thrive, the need for social validation can wreak havoc on our ability to be happy and make career decisions that are right for ourselves. In fact, if you make any career decision based on what looks good or what others think, you're destined to experience frustration, unhappiness and potentially even depression.
Solomon Asch did a famous experiment in 1951 where he wanted to investigate the extent to which social pressure from a majority group could affect a person to conform. In his experiment he had actors give obviously wrong answers before the real participant was asked to provide their answer. What he discovered is that on average, about one third (32%) of the participants who were placed in this situation went along and conformed with the clearly incorrect majority on the critical trials. Over the 12 critical trials, about 75% of participants conformed at least once, and 25% of participants never conformed. Apparently, people conform for two main reasons: because they want to fit in with the group and because they believe the group is better informed than they are. The problem with this line of thinking is that when it comes to work and making decisions about your career, there isn't a one size fits all approach to success. We are all different and bring different ways of operating, thinking and behaving to the table. So, when it comes to our careers, conforming can be a trap.
So how do you prevent yourself from falling into the conforming trap and doing what you think looks good? Here are 4 ways to resist this urge and make sure you're doing what's right for you:
1. Know who you are and value it
While it seems like knowing yourself is a no-brainer, you'd be surprised at how little time people allocate for self-reflection. While often seen as something that gets put aside in lieu of skill-building, knowing who you are and valuing it is more important than skill acquisition. Take the time to start doing some reflection and if you have the means, get a therapist or a coach to support you in this process. You won't regret it.
2. Slow down and build awareness
We are all going 100 miles an hour throughout our days and often aren't able to see things others may see in ourselves. Awareness is going to be one of the most important skills for the future of work and for our society. When you are more aware, you have more control over your behaviors, reactions, and decisions. To begin to build awareness, think before your act. Create 5 to 10-minute breaks throughout your day to review what has happened, to build mindfulness of your own mental chatter and contemplate what is really happening for yourself.
3.Build your confidence muscle
There are few people that would say that they don't want to be more confident, but few actually do the work to create it. Confidence is not dissimilar to building muscles in the gym. Having it requires that you take the effort to build it. Which starts with valuing yourself and building a practice of re-wiring your own negative thoughts. Start paying attention when the negative messages that you've been telling yourself come to the surface. When they do, re-wire them into a positive and believe in yourself no matter what anyone tells you.
4. Stop comparing yourself to others
Comparing is the root of all evil and based mostly on assumptions. Social media makes not comparing yourself to others very difficult, and in turn, we as a society, have created huge barriers for ourselves. It's in our nature to compare and doing that is a career killer. Try going off social media for a month to help you stop the habit of comparison if you can't on your own, and remember that you're comparing your worst with other people's best.