Learning to deal with social expectations

We’ve all been there. Compared our life and the path we’re on as an individual to the next person.


‘I should have a boyfriend/girlfriend’

‘I should have moved out by now’

‘I should have my dream job by now’

‘I should be working out X amount’

‘I should be eating better’

‘I should look a certain way’


But what does this do for our confidence and our overall wellbeing? In this post, I’m going to explore my thoughts on what we can all do to manage these expectations.


Where do these expectations come from?

I think there are many reasons why these sorts of social pressures arise. They can derive from things we’ve read, things we’ve seen online or on social media, things we’ve been bought up to believe in, or discussions we’ve had with friends, work colleagues or family members. Much of the time though, I think we put these behavioural beliefs upon ourselves, as we constantly compare our lives to others and set high expectations for the way we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ live.


How can you prevent feeling pressured by social expectations?

I think many of us feel these societal pressures but what can you do stop yourself from feeling like you need to do exactly as your peers are doing. Below you’ll find my thoughts.


1. Avoid comparison

More than ever I think it’s super easy to fall into the comparison trap. Scrolling through your Instagram or Facebook feed, it’s very easy to over analyse your own life and compare your everyday life to someone else’s highlights. Take everything with a pinch of salt and try to stay grounded. You’re the only one with the ability to control your own life and although comparison can be a valuable source of motivation and growth, it can also create unrealistic ideals which are unachievable.


2. Be mindful of the time restrictions you give yourself. 

Having a set timeline for your future goals (like having a set age where you want to be married by or have moved out by) can, in my opinion, be risky. Of course, it’s important to have a dream and something to work towards but at the same time, if you set yourself such major life expectations, there is the possibility you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Things happen, life can throw curve balls along the way, so try to bear that in mind when setting yourself personal targets. Although we might sometimes feel like we need to live a certain way, the reality is, there is no set path for any of us.


3. Accept the fact that things can change

I’ve sometimes had a plan of action in place only to be knocked sideways by something that’s happened, which requires my attention elsewhere. Don’t expect life to be easy and to be one straight path. Learn to be okay with the fact that you might be following one direction and then find this takes an unexpected turn. We are all experiencing different things at different times in life and as a result, it makes perfect sense for us all to be at different stages in our own journey. Put the focus on your overall happiness and take things as they come.


4. Live for today

Okay, so I think the ‘live for today’ thing has become a bit of a cliche, but I do think it still holds value. I can certainly be guilty of worrying way too much about the future and things that haven’t even happened yet. If you can try and stay present and live in the moment, taking each day as it comes, it can certainly help ease off the pressure and allow you to enjoy life a bit more. Living for today can still mean planning for your future!


“Forget yesterday – it has already forgotten you. Don’t sweat tomorrow – you haven’t even met. Instead, open your eyes and your heart to a truly precious gift – today.” – Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free


5. Don’t be the person that projects expectations on others

This one is so important. Keep in mind that you play an important role in the success of other people’s lives as much as your own. You can be the one to make someone else feel empowered, rather than restricted and tied to a social norm. Remember to keep open minded and avoid judgement when commenting on someone else’s life and their lifestyle decisions; the only pair of shoes you can walk in are your own! The way you choose to live your life might be different from someone else’s so, consider offering a supportive, rather than a judgemental stance when speaking with or about someone else’s lifestyle choices.


6. Stay true to you

You don’t have to do anything anyone says you should do, if deep down you don’t really want to. I think it’s incredibly easy to do what everyone else is doing, just because you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb or be left out of a situation, but if it means sacrificing your personal preference and overall wellbeing, then try to stay grounded to what really matters. I’ve found that the more you believe in your lifestyle choices, and the more confidence you have in speaking about them, the easier it is for people to understand and respect your decisions.


I met with a good friend this week. She’s a couple of years younger than me and has just bought her first home. It sounds beautiful and everything I’ve ever dreamed of and for a moment, I felt that nagging pressure and self doubt that creeps in sometimes – why am I so far from this? The reality is though, i’m doing just fine and even if i’m years away from this, I’m happy and content in the present moment. Finding happiness in the now and respecting your own journey is something we should all try do. Don’t let expectations over-ride your ability to enjoy your own unique path.


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