How to Dodge the Hypnosis of Societal Expectations
It’s easier than you think!
Confession: I am not where I thought I would be by age 45. I have also felt hypnotized by the illusion of success. Luckily, I found a way to lead my own happy life, regardless of my age and society’s expectations of me.
I was recently speaking with a colleague of mine about her life, and although she has been with her significant other since middle school, they are in no hurry to get married. They live together and are in their twenties. However, many of her friends are getting married and having children already. She is feeling this all too familiar pressure to walk the same path.
It is common to want what other people have or to compare yourself to your peers. It isn’t easy to overcome societal expectations when they are coming from media, your friends, and your family members.
No matter what phase of life, we are bombarded with where society expects us to be by now.
Maybe you feel pressured to have children. Or if you have one child, like me, you feel the judgement of others for not having more kids. Perhaps you think you should have the dream house, the vacations, the healthy 401K.
Maybe you feel like you should be published by now, richer by now, more educated by now.
It is OK to be inspired by other people and their successes. But it can be harmful to endlessly compare yourself to other people or to listen to the constant voices (real or imagined) telling you that you are not good enough.
That is bullshit.
Know yourself, and know that you don’t know what will happen in the future. Be patient with your journey, and realize quickly that you do not have to explain your decisions to anyone.
If people ask you when you are going to get married, instead of feeling like a failure because you feel judged, try explaining exactly where you are in life. The person asking might learn something about themselves! Or you could ask the person when they got married and if they totally knew that was exactly when it would happen.
If people judge you for having an only child, it is about them, not you! And honestly, it isn’t anyone else’s business about your parenthood (or lack of it), unless you want to talk about it. Usually people are not thinking about other people’s decisions that much anyway. People think about themselves. Seriously, do you sit around and judge your friend who doesn’t have a significant other?
Focus on what makes you happy, then go for it! You get one beautiful life, live it as you please.
My regret is not figuring this out sooner. I wish I had not spent so much time caring about what other people thought.