Lately, I’ve been mulling over the “herd mentality.” In marketing, the herd mentality is an extremely useful tool to use and understand. Essentially, we buy things, or buy into ideas, when our herd does, or the herd we wish to align ourselves with do. The opposite also has its power – when we do not desire to align ourselves with a certain group, we shun those things and ideas that represent them.
My first remembrance of being led by the herd mentality came in elementary school, perhaps 3rd grade. Many a day, I would sit on the bus next to, or close by, a girl one year younger than I. She had the curliest sandy-colored mop of hair with horn-rimmed glasses, so shy and quiet. I considered her a friend but, I regret, she may not have felt the same about me. There was this moment that vividly sticks in my mind of briefly becoming a part of a group of bullies. See, she had lice. Quite noticeably too. Hopping lice. Honestly, I think a part of me was fascinated – I had never seen this, but that fascination led me along the waves of taunts by the other classmates. It wasn’t until it started getting out of control that I realized what was happening and I stopped in abject abhorrence for the part I played. She was my friend, and I violated that trust.
I don’t remember what I did next in that moment but I became determined to make up for it by always placing myself near her to protect her from any further bullying, for I was never afraid to speak up for others.
It was that day that helped define how I wished to operate in this world:
- Never be subject to the herd mentality
- Always question when the mob speaks
- Always question everything
- Allow compassion and empathy to be at the forefront of all interactions
Believe me, I have still failed these rules on many a day throughout my life. There are times in each of our lives that we can be too wrapped up in the ego, and forget the spirit. But, by making them life-determining commandments, the ability to realize our failure to follow the right path in life will become more honed with practice, until compassion is automatic.
It is the herd mentality though that can also define our political views, values, careers, friendships, and everything else under the sun. Beginning with the family we were born into, the herd mentality begins its control over determining who we are. We take into our psyche values of those who surround us, words that are repeated by others, and actions displayed that cement themselves into how we define ourselves – even though ALL of that may be in contrast with who we are at the soul level.
Who are you really? Are you a mere product of your herd or a determinant of your own destiny?
We like to say we’re INDIVIDUALS and SPECIAL, each and every one of us. But are we really? Unless we learn to question EVERYTHING that we have been taught to believe is true – whether that means about ourselves or the world around us – how do we know we’re not just a product of the herd mentality, with no real ability to think for ourselves?