Have you ever given a thought to the reasons why you want the things you want in life? Is it because you really want them, or is it because society tells you that you should have them at a certain time, at a certain age, etc.
Today I will talk about “Societal Abandonment.”
I’m not sure if that is an actual term in sociology or in psychology, but I figure I’m pretty innovative, so just work with me here. I have this fear of being left behind. And I’m not talking about the rapture. I’m talking about everyone else progressing ahead of me. Everyone else living their happy and perfect lives while I’m still struggling to figure out where I fit in society. But what does progression really mean? Is it defined by society or is it defined by me?
I conceptually know the answer to this question. But how much does society factor into what success is and what it’s not? And how much of it is just a result of my own warped thinking?
For example, I have played the flute since I was in the fourth grade and both my parents encouraged me to pursue my talent. However, there was always this underlying message that I needed to get a “regular job” to be able to support myself. So when it came time for me to choose a major in undergrad, I first chose Accounting. I hate anything to do with numbers, finance or accounting. What the hell was I thinking? So when that didn’t work out, I transitioned to Marketing. I could be a bit more creative in Marketing, but what happened to the music? It was silenced for awhile. I listened to some voice inside of my head that told me that I would never be able to do anything with music, I would never be able to make a living playing the flute. There was no creative solution that would allow me to make any money with music unless I played with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and what were the odds of that happening, I wasn’t that good.
Major in business and marketing and that’s a safe bet that you will get a job.
And I did. That was socially acceptable. I didn’t believe that “society” would be accepting of a career in music that brought in no regular income. But what would have really made me happy?
I don’t regret the choice that I made because it led me to more amazing interests and causes that I work for. But shouldn’t I get to decide what my life looks like and not some image that is created by society?
Another issue is the whole marriage and kids thing. I’m 35 and I can’t help but think I need to get this whole love, marriage, and family thing taken care of quick before I’m too old to enjoy a partner or I’m too old to have any kids. I hear about biological clocks and I see many of my friends on their second marriages and they are younger than me! Really?
Who is saying that my time is running out? Who is saying that I should have kids by now? Is there a Society.com website that has a checklist of things that people should be doing at a certain point in their lives? No, but the societal messages are sneakily implied.
Or it could just be me and an issue called “comparison.”
So basically, if everyone else seems further along in their journey than I am, why should I give a damn?
Because I don’t want to be abandoned by society.
“Comparison is all about conformity and competition…The comparison mandate becomes this crushing paradox of ‘fit in and stand out!’ It’s not cultivate self acceptance, belonging, and authenticity; it’s be just like everyone else, but better (Brown, 2010).”
Ahhh, Authenticity. That means I need to “stay in my own lane.” I need to embrace my own journey…whatever that journey looks like.
“Creativity, which is the expression of our originality, helps us stay mindful that what we bring to the world is completely original and cannot be compared (Brown, 2010).”
But the fact remains that I am human (yes, I know it’s hard for you to believe) and I desire a certain level of belonging. And for a long time, belonging to me meant, “fit in” and “be better.” I am starting to learn that as far as those who truly love me are concerned…well…I already belong. And because of the impact I make in their lives, they are glad I don’t necessarily “fit in” to society or social norms. They are glad that I’m just ME.
- Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Center City, MN: Hazelden.