Want a happier life? Ignore society!

It’s no secret that society tries to dictate how we ought to live our lives – whether it’s the number of kids we should have, the kinds of people we should date, or the types of professions we should be in. What’s more, we often feel pressured by friends, coworkers, and relatives alike to follow a certain path – one that they themselves took (which may or may not have turned out favorably for them), or one that simply makes sense to them since “it’s what most people would do.”  Though they mean well, those closest to us don’t always have an answer to the grand question:  How can we be happier in our lives?  Read on to learn why heeding others’ suggestions isn’t always the surefire prescription to a happier life – and how looking deep within yourself and following your gut is a better road to take. 

- Society says that, as a man, I should have an affinity for cars and tools.  In actuality, I’m into reading, writing and learning.
- Society says that I should have become a doctor, lawyer, architect, or accountant because those are the only professions that can provide you with a lucrative salary. I instead chose to become a writer.
- Society says that I should only find skinny women attractive. I married a woman who is packing a few extra pounds, and to me, she’s beautiful that way.
- Society says that every true sports fan loves football, and that I should too. Nope. Baseball, which is generally considered “boring” to watch, is far and away my favorite sport, and I just can’t bear to sit through a game of pigskin.
- Society says that a fun night out should include lots of partying and drinking.  To me, a fun night out is dinner and a movie – though I wouldn’t mind making it a Netflix night or curling up with a good book at home.
- Society says I should enjoy watching MTV and the Kardashians. I opt for more mentally-stimulating programming, a la Jeopardy!
- Society says that I should get married, have three children, and live in a big house enclosed by a white picket fence. Though I am married, I am not sure whether I’ll have any children, and I prefer the low-maintenance lifestyle afforded by a condominium.
- Piggybacking on my last point, society says I should love children and have many of them. I’ve never been crazy about kids, but I love animals and helping the less fortunate. To me, the latter can be just as fulfilling.

What society says should make us happy and lead to a more fulfilling life might indeed be true for a sizable chunk of the population – but it certainly doesn’t apply to all of us.
At the behest of my father, an accountant, and several other like-minded relatives, I grudgingly took a few accounting classes in high school and later earned an associate’s degree in accounting at a community college. Though I excelled in the subject – I earned an accounting award and won 4th place in a business competition – I found the subject utterly stultifying and craved a more creative vocation that allowed me to put my writing skills and passion for the written word to good use.  It all came to a head when I enrolled at a 4-year university; I switched from accounting to marketing a couple of weeks into my first semester and never looked back. Further, I graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, which put me on the path to becoming what I am today:  a copywriter/freelance writer.

You should always take the advice dispensed by those around you with a grain of salt. Their opinions  are largely shaped by their own personal experiences, many of which may not have worked out to their advantage. Take my co-worker Brian. He recently went through a bitter divorce that has caused a great deal of turmoil in his personal life; he’s had to shell out a fortune in lawyer fees and his twenty-something-year-old-daughters can’t stand the sight of him. So, it’s no surprise that Brian advises others, especially men, against getting married. He also insists that any couple choosing not to move in together at least a couple of years before getting married is doomed for disaster. Well, neither of my two sisters cohabited with their husbands before saying “I do” and they’ve each been happily married for more than 5 years. So much for that brilliant tip!  Just because someone else has had a bad experience doesn’t mean you will meet that same fate, so don’t let him or her rain on your parade.

And it pains me to say this, but sometimes those who purport to be our friends can grow envious of our success or possessions. Recently I was in the market for a brand new car, and Carl, a guy I’ve known since the first day of kindergarten, kept prodding me to buy one that cost far more money than I cared to spend. As someone who prides himself on keeping it simple, I naturally settled on a compact vehicle that is easy on the pocket, fuel efficient, and pleasing to the eyes.  All Carl could say was that he felt my car is better suited for a woman – a classic case of someone being a flat-out “hater.”

Moreover, I have a few friends who seemingly take it as a given that I’ll have not just one kid – but two or three. Why is someone who is not interested in having many kids labeled a pariah? Why is it so hard to comprehend that some people might prefer having pets to having children?  Is it wrong that an individual would rather spend time doing community service work than tending to a toddler?  It seems as though many people out there paint having children as a requisite for a fulfilling life. The fact of the matter is that people like me lack the patience to deal with kids and would much rather spend an afternoon engrossed in a good book or writing a thought-provoking article.

I also consider myself to be an intellectually curious guy. I read books on history and psychology for leisure, and no other subjects give me nearly as much intellectual stimulation. One day, my oldest sister opined that I was a “nerd” for avidly watching the long-running game show Jeopardy!  My response: “If wanting to learn makes me a nerd, so be it. In fact, I’m proud to be one.”  Excuse me if I see little merit in tuning into shows like The Kardashians and Jersey Shore and would rather indulge my academic tendencies by watching academic programming.

What’s more, because I abstain from drinking, smoking, and partying and instead watch documentaries, read voraciously, collect historical memorabilia, and traipse to museums at the drop of a hat, I’ve been given such nicknames as “old man” and “senior citizen.” I take such remarks in stride and am proud of the fact that I’m very mature for my age; I simply don’t need to get wasted in order to enjoy myself.

Thus, your main takeaway from this article should be this: Screw what society says you should do!  Oftentimes, when people notice something about you that makes you a little different, be it your unusual hairdo, the old car you drive, the bland apartment you live in, or your soft-spoken demeanor, they can’t help but  suggest you do something to change it. But who says it needs to be changed in the first place? Your car may be 15 years old, but if you love driving it and feel it has five years of life left in it, why switch?  If a few of your classmates goad you into talking more in class, why should you change your reticent ways just to please them?

Always listen to and follow your gut. Be true to yourself, and never change for anyone but yourself. 
 Life is too short to spend it caving to societal pressures. If anything, I always feel compelled to do just the opposite of what society says I should do – and doing so truly empowers me. Be proud of who you are, and never apologize for your interests or tendencies – even if they’re at odds with those society tells us we ought to embrace.

Do you ignore what society says you should do, or do you acquiesce to others? 

After commenting on this post, feel free to check out others here: How to Understand People

1 comment:

Marya said...

Hi 😊
I really enjoyed your post. I feel too mature for my age too, and I've been always different to the rest. With years I started to understand why I feel so alone around people, because I've haven't found authentic people with who share ourselves. Its difficult being true to yourself sometimes because its like....they pull you with a rope to continue their path. But I'm no gonna let them distract me of my true path. Thanks for your writing ��