Rabbi Zusua said that on the Day of Judgement, God would ask him not why he had not been Moses, but why he had not been Zusua.
Walter Kaufman (German-American philosopher)
Although we have much in common, everybody is a different, separate individual, with our own distinctive set of characteristics and life experiences. So individuality is a given, and this area will focus on factors that restrict its actualisation: copying others, conformity, being self-conscious and trying to please others.
Copying others may be useful when learning new skills. However, copying the manners or appearance of somebody else with the hope that some of their essence will rub off on us, is misleading at the very least. Copying another may temporarily increase your self-esteem but it requires suppressing your individuality, which creates an inner conflict and diminishes self-respect. To copy means, in a way, giving up your own life, losing yourself. So, even if you achieve a desired goal but alienate yourself in the process, you won’t enjoy it because you will not be there but somebody else’s copy. Everybody has their own way, and what has worked for one person may not work for another. Copying doesn’t work with others either; an imperfect original is usually more valued than even a successful copy of a masterpiece.
Conformity refers to compliance with the attitudes, behaviour, dress code etc. of a group. Where conformity dominates, individual judgments tend to converge and group norms become a relatively permanent frame of reference. This can be a result of the need for security and approval, or just simple laziness. Another powerful force towards conformity is the feelings of separateness and anxiety that showing individuality may bring. These feelings may be experienced not only by those who do not conform, but also by the rest of the group, who may fear for the cohesiveness of the group. Individuality, however, does not need to be a threat to, or create a conflict with, the society or group. It doesn’t mean being egocentric, but accepting that you are, like everybody else, somewhat different, and allowing yourself (and others) to be so. Valuing what we share does not preclude respecting what we don’t. In fact, individuality may add something worthwhile to the group. What stands in the way of the above is peer pressure.