I set out being really excited to put down some thoughts about social expectations for this week’s post, but it has proven more difficult than I had anticipated. I even had a bit of fun doing some research and asking a gazillion questions to friends, family, coworkers and innocent civilians about the expectations surrounding relationships (a big thank you to all of you who responded. Love you all!) I originally thought this would be an easy topic because there are so many expectations surrounding every aspect of life: Education, love, career choices and pursuits, family life, belief systems, holidays (ugh), personal hygiene….
I could go on about each of these and how I think we are often driven by these expectations (and understandably so, in many cases). I have experienced the restraints and pressures of expectations in all of these categories and I know most people have and do. But as I tried to write about them I kept feeling a gnawing dissatisfaction about something. It would be so easy to condemn all social expectations and “norms” and call anyone who conforms to them brainwashed people-pleasers! ...Or would it? Personally, I have come to be extremely cautious of any “group” or “organization” (religion, club, social party…) because they create a group mentality which distracts from listening to and honoring my own soul-voice. But that is not to say they don’t serve a useful purpose…and I’m still not sure how I feel about that last line, but whatever.
Really, social expectations don’t matter one crumby bit. They are only expectations. We may break hearts and let people down by not following them, but that is just a byproduct of honoring our hearts, of listening to our own soul-voice. Yet this doesn’t mean we always have to go against social expectations either. What matters here is that we are doing what is right for us. It means allowing ourselves to be selfish if we feel we cannot participate in the holidays as might be expected by our families. It means NOT moving in with the one that you love because it is what is right for your relationship, even though it might not make any sense to the world. It means quitting a stable and career-centered job with great benefits and the possibility for advancement because it doesn’t quite fit with your heart and makes you want to slam your face against a brick wall every time you think about it (this is entirely hypothetical I promise). But it could also mean getting married (social expectation), showering a few times a week (social expectation), going home for Christmas (social expectation) and perusing a stable, well-paying job (social expectation). The beautiful thing about this journey of life is that it is going to look different for everyone.
I feel like I’m always saying the same things: Follow your heart! Honor your own truth! Be who you are! Do what is right for you! Listen to your soul-voice! Perhaps this is the song I’m singing right now because it is the one I need to hear the most. But I’ll keep singing anyway. (Insert operatic vibrato-drenched voice here). In my experience, the joy and beauty that come from honoring my truth (whatever that is) is worth any sacrifice.
Forever and ever, AMEN!