Conform Shom-Form

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

On Conforming

Portrait of kitty cat in hands

"Unique" by Marina del Castell

I am sitting on an airplane and can see from the divide in the seats in front of me that the guy in front of me has on a shirt with multiple evil-looking cats (just their heads) wearing Santa hats displayed all over it. All the cat heads appear to be floating among the stars.

This makes me so happy.

I don’t know the story of the shirt, but I love that he’s rocking these evil Santa cat heads. Because I mean, why not? There is freedom in that shirt, and I bet he’s got a certain extra level of confidence when wearing it. I bet he’s more likely to say yes, to take risks, to say “what the hell.” Because an evil Santa cat head shirt is like a signal to the world that says that this dude is who he is and he’s going to do what he wants. It’s like, ANY choice he makes people would just be like, “Well, I mean, look at his shirt. Are you surprised?” What a wonderful way to interact with the world.

Why do we all try to conform so much? It’s fascinating to me. We work so hard to look like, sound like, act like, and have things like everyone else. But in reality, that way of thinking is so restricting. And we do it to ourselves. When we conform so that we might fit in, we box ourselves into a set of “rules” to follow—what’s okay and what’s not okay to say or do within the confines of what we’ve conformed to. We play it safe. Stay well within the lines.

But why??

Life is so much more expansive OUTSIDE the lines, out in the evil Santa cat head realm.

When you free yourself from the confines of conformity, you find yourself.

And the world finally gets a glimpse of the true you. And, honestly, is so much happier for it. (And the ones in the world who aren’t happier for it? Well, they aren’t meant for you anyway.)

So, to the notion that we have to look a certain way, act a certain way, be a certain way, live a certain way? To that I say conform shom-form.

You’re only diminishing your own light.

So take an inventory… What do you love? What do you love to wear? What do you love to listen to? What makes your home feel more beautiful? Where are you happiest? What brings you joy? What makes you laugh? What sets you apart?

How fully are you living within all those things right now? How brightly is your light shining?

Maybe you’re not ready for evil Santa cat heads. But maybe there is something you can do to honor the true you. You deserve to. And so do the rest of us.

What’s one thing you can do to show the world the true you today?


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“Conform Shom-Form”, The Leadership Program, 2017

Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.