There are many layers of social expectations that seem to be engraved into our minds, one of which outlines the way our lives should be progressing. Certain standards lay out a paved path for us, demanding that we must complete certain occasions at certain points of our lives. We are expected to start our first relationship by a certain age, find our first job by a certain age, get married by a certain age, have children by a certain age, retire by a certain age and so on. This is the most common path most people take, steady and predictable, something that has been thriving repetitively for a long time.
So what if you don’t fulfill these expectations? What does that make you? Are you officially classified as ‘abnormal’?
Society is quick to condemn and look down upon those who don’t follow its typical stereotypes, perceiving the minority through different lenses and ridiculing people’s inability to fit in with the ways of a particular lifestyle. For example, imagine a 17 year old teen who has never gone out on a date nor engaged in any romantic activity. Often times, people with similar situations are talked about, perhaps not in the best way, in their high school environments. And also picture an unmarried 45 year old woman. Her marital status is likely judged and questioned. It’s unfortunate that the lives of harmless individuals are so intensely criticized by others simply because they stray a little from the most treaded road. Society’s expectations are so tightly woven into everyday culture that not a lot of room remains leftover for people to fluctuate.
Despite fabricated norms and the pressure they may produce, it’s critical to remember that the things others do and the things they expect you to do should not dictate your life decisions, especially when it comes to significant events that can really turn your life one way or another. This is easier said than done, I know. Your life may not always move along in the same manner as other people. In fact, sometimes it can even feel as if everyone else is at a completely different place in life and they seem to have left you behind.
It’s hard to stay true to your own feelings when it appears as if you’re just not the same as everyone else. Have you ever looked around and realized that all your friends are somehow in relationships while your life just feels like one huge third-wheel experience? Are you someone who is struggling with the idea of starting a family and yet your peers are already brainstorming baby names? Not arriving at the same point as everyone else is a weird feeling, a feeling that can make you doubt the correctness of your lifestyle. You may wonder if you’re doing something wrong. After all, if so many people are doing the same thing while you’re the one doing something different, you’ve got to be the problem in this picture, right?
Nope, not at all!
The truth is that not everybody is going to follow the life landmarks that are too often used to define us, which is completely alright. You may be 19 and not have had your first kiss yet. You may be 24 without a romantic history. You may be 35 and have yet to find that special someone and say “I do” at the end of the aisle.
Regardless of what is expected of you, social standards really shouldn’t matter, and allowing them to control your actions or self-worth belittles your individuality, something that should instead be looked upon with appreciation. What truly matters is that you’re happy with yourself. No one else can tell you how to live your own life, so if you haven’t exactly fallen into place with society’s common landmarks, don’t think any less of yourself. Your special moments will come naturally, and they’ll be just as wonderful even if they come a few years later than what’s considered the usual. Or maybe you’ll simply skip over a milestone altogether, which is also totally okay as long as you’re doing something that matches your personal idea of fulfillment. While some people may be perfectly content with the most common succession of events, other people may decide that this route just doesn’t cut it for them. Want to raise a house full of kittens instead of getting married? Why not! Felines are probably better partners than humans anyway. Have plans to travel the world instead of eventually settling into a retirement home? That’s cool, too. You can never eat enough foreign food.
All too often people are afraid of being different, fearing the lack of security that may come with being set apart from others. This is a natural feeling, but it’s also a feeling that isn’t necessary to dwell upon. Comparing the differences between yourself and the rest of the world does an exceptional job of lowering your self-confidence. You’re not a clone of anyone else, and that’s the plain truth of it. So instead of beating yourself up over this or debating over what you should change, try to accept the fact that you are nobody but yourself.
I suppose what I’m trying to get at here is that your life is yours and yours alone. The flow of your life takes its own way at its own pace, and if landmarks are being delayed or steered around altogether… Well, all of that adds up to something that’s unique to you. You shouldn’t feel pressured into twisting your life and turning it into a replica of someone else’s, especially when in reality no two people in the world are identical. Being different is okay, and this is a fact that has yet to be fully embraced. Take a step back and realize that you are not required to follow a course just because it happens to be the most accepted. You’ll be much happier with who you are when you come to acknowledge this.