Defying Society’s Expectations

With the upcoming conversation on Social Expectations at The Kickback, Mhairi shares her thoughts and experiences on the topic.

Personally, as someone who works mostly with those who don’t follow the norms and expectations of society, I cannot understand why so many are under an apparent spell of people-pleasing and constantly trying to give society what it expects. I suppose that’s part of why I love the minorities and the extremes so much, because even if you just look at the meaning of the word, you will see that they are not society’s expectations by any means.

Yet, I still sometimes find myself trapped by social expectations and wanting to meet them, even if it is subconsciously. We constantly adjust to beliefs that what is most common is what should be, following fashion trends, meal choices, favourite tv series until we all start to become carbon copies of each other. Individuality is one of the most beautiful things about the human species.

Humans are inherently social beings, so it’s only natural that we exist in a world of so many societies, but the diversity and growth that has come out of these groups is what I believe should be celebrated and not the idea that these groups are what is meant to be and what should be stuck to. Society should be something that is free to change and evolve, without the views of certain individuals keeping us where we are. The developments we have had so far in terms of globalisation and the way that we can interact socially on so many online platforms, which allows us to communicate with such a range of people.

This globalisation and rise of the internet has also seen our societies come together and begin to merge more all the time. This has meant that cultures are being buried in order to meet social expectations. It can be argued that many places have become ‘westernised’ in recent years, which has seen a whole new set of social expectations placed on a society and people having to quickly adjust to meet these, when there was nothing wrong with their old ways.

We are seen and judged so much more now than we once were and it is more likely that what we are doing is going to be not only remembered, but documented permanently in a database by someone, no matter how many times we hit delete, and that thought can be terrifying and even make us want to conform.

“Our normal expectations about reality are created by a social consensus. We are taught how to see and understand the world. The trick of socialisation is to convince us that the descriptions we agree upon define the limits of the real world. What we call reality is only one way of seeing the world, a way that is supported by social consensus.” – Carlos Castaneda

I mentioned working with a marginalised section of society, autistic individuals – those who struggle with social interaction and social communication and do not desire or often understand societal structures – because I have managed to really benefit from being around these individuals. It constantly makes me question our dependence on society for approval, recognition and regulation. Just spending time around children, in fact, can show you that society can be damaging and in fact rob of us of our childlike imagination and free-thinking. Children are so seemingly unlimited in their thoughts and play and yet they are also far more honest than adults. Society can often make us hide away and feel we have to lie about the things we think and feel.

“My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.” – Stephen Hawking

Sometimes, I feel that more of us need to think before just conforming to society’s or anyone’s expectation of us. After all, what is most important is the individual, and expectation can lead to frustration, which could have a detrimental effect on us. Our mental health is what is most important, not what society thinks of us. Perhaps we can all try to make an effort to be more aware of doing things for ourselves first, because even I fall victim to conforming and trying to meet social expectations of me rather than thinking freely.

Join the conversation on the 20th August at Project B from 6.30-8.30pm, and stay updated on what Mhairi’s getting up to by following her on Instagram: @mhairishona

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