To be unique, unprecedented, one-of-a-kind… to be an individual. What does it entail? Can it be accomplished? Why do we… rather, why do I make it such a priority?
My first instinct is to classify individuality as a cultural aspect. After all, were the Nazis stark individualists? Don’t many cultures enforce a strict dress code on school children (hell, doesn’t mine)? At the opposite end of the spectrum lie just as many conformists as there are individualists, possibly more. Is it just a social value, then?
I would say no. In the absence of self-expression, people still seek to distinguish themselves. There will always be driven perfectionists and social delinquents. In any group, leaders will emerge. In any setting or condition, some human beings will not be satisfied until they are set apart from the rest in one way or another. These are the natural individualists. The question remains, however; why refuse to conform?
I suppose it would depend on how far one takes it. Those who make individuality a high priority are probably overcompensating for some insecurity. Their egos become reinforced if they feel smarter, better, more popular, etc. than everyone else. Thus, a “stark” individualist is merely overemphasizing some perceived shortcoming.
On the other hand, what if individuality is an innate aspect of someone’s personality? What if being apart from everyone else in some notable way is just part of who you are? This could not be construed as insecurity, since failing to express one’s personality adequately would obviously be the less healthy choice.
In either case, personal fulfillment could be the only purpose to individuality. Perhaps it is simply another facet of human nature with some purely biological explanation. Whatever the case, I can only hope my own desire for individuality stems from a psychological inclination rather than neuroticism (although elements of both are likely involved).