If you’d asked me do I feel I ever put on a façade for others I would have answered categorically no, definitely not. That was until I found myself plumping the sofa cushions today.
A new mum friend was coming to visit, someone I don’t know very well, so I’d tidied the house ready. When she popped round to offer her apologies –she couldn’t come after all her babba was unwell- I thought oh well the house is sorted now at least. As I switched the plug in off I thought “Oh how funny, I must have had that on expressly for her visit.” Then I went round and did a few other things, I opened the window, I made a cuppa, I realised actually there were a few things I had done in order to present myself in a certain way to this person I didn’t know very well. I thought that was really interesting.
In college I failed my psychology A-Level and a couple of others too (cough cough) but I remember learning about conformity. Zimbardo did this awesome albeit completely unethical experiment in 1971 called The Stanford Prison Experiment which I see on TV quite regularly in varying forms. He basically pitted two groups of people – volunteers – against each other as prisoners and prison guards and the surprising results were not just how horrible the guards became with the prisoners but how compliant the volunteer prisoners became.
There are different ways people conform to things. Basically what I like to think of as the wishy washy and the true die hards. I fall into the true die hards camp. If I agree with something I take it on fully. Balls to the wall, no holds barred, I’m in or I’m out. This is probably why I was smoking 20 a day by the time I was 21. As I’ve gotten older I can see that most of life is a massive grey area and therein lies the beauty (turns out there are many societal factors that play in behaviour like smoking so not quite so rebellious after all) but I am still prone to strong opinions and I am still prone to not really caring what people think of me. To be honest, I think it was what Rich found so attractive about me. It certainly wasn’t the smokers cough.
I’m an informed decision kind of person. It doesn’t matter to me if all my friends are doing the cry-it-out method, if there is a good reason I don’t want to then I won’t. I read and research things, I go my own way when I have to because I know that ultimately it’s me who has to be happy with the consequences of my decisions. That’s not to say that some of my decisions are not sacrificial. I love hearing people’s opinions and I love it when my thinking is challenged. In fact let me just take this moment to say those people are my favourite. The ones who can discuss without arguing, who present me with a totally different viewpoint and go but what if…? And it makes my mind open like a flower.
Anyway I would never in a million years have thought that I was the type of person who does something, anything just because it’s what other people do. Until today when I plumped those pillows and considered waiting to use the loo in case someone knocked my door. Did I want her to think my home was lovely? Yes. Had I decided the best way to show her that was to have a nicely presented orderly house? Yes. That was somewhere in my consciousness. Did I want her to think my house smells nice? Yes. That’s just a funny I like nice smells too, I sometimes spray air freshener even when no-one has done a poo. When I get to the root of it, what essentially is the point of all that? I wanted her to like me. I turned that plug in off and all this came running through my mind -and now you have had the pleasure of coming on this mini journey with me- and I thought “Oh.” ” I wonder what other strange little ‘please like me’ things I have been doing all this time.” Perhaps I would have been a lot more compliant in that experiment than I ever realised.
“…in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” – Mother Teresa.