Limiting Potential — The Problem with Collectivism Culture

The “because everyone think/said so” problem.

Agnes Eveline Anton
5 min readDec 15, 2019


Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

I still remember the first time someone proposed to me the idea of me becoming a writer. It was my Indonesian language teacher, who also happened to run the school magazine where I was a writer.

I froze for a few seconds at the suggestion, smiling shyly at the implied compliment and simply replied, “Maybe.” All the while thinking about the absurdity of the idea.

Writer is not a job.

No one had ever come out and said, “I’m a writer” back then. I never saw nor met any writer till I was well into adulthood and up until a couple of years ago, the notion of writing to make a living was pretty farfetched in my mind.

“Yeah, right. I can support myself with writing. Pft,” a voice in my head would mock.

Years and years of conditioning finally came into fruition.

I learned about the cultures of collectivism and individualism when I was in high school. Asians, apparently, tend to lean towards collectivism culture rather than individualism. We were told in class that our Western counterpart, adopts more of an individualism culture rather than collectivism.

Of many core values that set apart the two cultures, standing out versus fitting in is the difference that affect my life the most.

In collective culture, fitting in is highly encouraged, while in the individualistic culture, the opposite applies.

While the individualistic culture highly encourages expressing one’s personal opinion and thoughts, it is the opposite in collective culture.

Photo by 浮萍 闪电 on Unsplash

In fact, being singled out and honored as an individual from the rest of the team may be embarrassing to the collectivistic person.

-Purdue University-



Agnes Eveline Anton

Writer by heart. Teacher (English, Yoga, Pilates) by trade. Avid reader. World traveller. Model. You can reach me at