Let’s say you’ve just entered a room. You don’t know anyone there.

So you spend a bit of time observing everyone. How they move. When they speak. Where they stop. Their facial expressions.

As you stand at the corner of that room, you begin to wonder what your next move should be. Slowly, you find yourself mimicking what the rest are doing – their actions, their mannerisms, their rhythms. Before you know it, you are one of them.

Then the next person comes into the room. And you’ve moved from the observer to the observed.

Norms. Common practices. Whether we like it or not, there’s an abundance of routines around which society functions. Some of us like to think that we “choose” to follow them, while others just do so blindly.

In the classroom, for example, no matter how tempted I am to move around the room to improve the blood circulation in my body – or just stay awake! – I never have the courage to do so. Even if I’m on the verge of falling asleep, I’ll refuse to be different. I conform to the norms of a classroom just because everyone is doing it.

In fashion, trends come and go. Some pieces of clothing will only last for a particular period of time. For example, there was a time when cut-outs were in fashion. These holes appeared at various parts of the body, some larger than others. And just like how ripped jeans costs more than un-ripped ones, these tattered clothes cost more than un-tattered ones. I have difficulty understanding why.

The problem is this: That such conformity means our identity and worth are defined by what’s on the outside. The emphasis is all on the superficial. The badges of belonging.

But I’ll buy and wear them anyways.

As a female, I should neither sit with my legs up on the chair nor with my legs open. I am to use makeup whenever I leave the house. I should go for manicures, pedicures and facials, and never forget to groom those caterpillars above my eyes. My heart should flutter whenever a guy flirts with me. I should have a boy-crush at all times. I should keep my hair long. You’re a girl, act like one!

What if I don’t meet such expectations? Would that make me weird? Would deviating from the norm immediately put me into the oddball category?

Individuality is the quality that distinguishes a person from the masses. But when everyone is trying so hard to stand out, does it just make everyone look … kinda similar?

It’s strange: Everyone is born unique, and no two people are absolutely identical, but still we spend so much time and money trying to differentiate ourselves even further. We try to rack up more achievements, more community work. We make bolder and bolder fashion statements (only to end up looking like Uniqlones).

The problem is this: That such conformity means our identity and worth are defined by what’s on the outside. The emphasis is all on the superficial. The badges of belonging.

But that isn’t how God – our Creator and our Judge – sees us.

“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

The more we choose to let the norms of the world dictate our behaviour and action, the less we let God have a say in things. This is our loss – to our detriment – because we are choosing to step away from the good, acceptable and perfect will of God for us.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2).

What this famous passage is telling us is that our minds and our bodies are intimately connected. The evidence of an unsurrendered mind is a body that is not sacrificed to God in every way. That may even include how we dress or act.

You were bought at a price, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:20, so honour God with your body. You were bought at a price, he adds in 1 Corinthians 7:23, so do not become a slave to human beings.

You don’t need to look like anyone else. You don’t need to act like everyone does. Don’t sell yourself so cheaply. You were made unique and special – don’t go out of your way to hide it by trying to look like everyone else.

Back to that room we started at. This is the Biblical perspective on things: It’s not about how you should look like everyone else. It’s about how everyone else should look at you – and see the mirror image of Christ. That’s what really matters.

Stand out for Jesus.