Social and cultural norms can be found everywhere on earth. They may differ from country to country but they are always there and often visible and openly communicated.
Well, there are historical reasons those standards have grown and one good example, which you find in most countries is marriage. Marriage is originally meant to protect and provide, especially for women and ensure the continuance of humanity by making babies. With growing equality marriage actually becomes more and more unnecessary to provide for the women economically and the number of single parents also grows and so the question arises: Why should someone choose marriage for other reasons than love and the will to enter that bond and the wish to have a child.
Despite that, in most countries, if you have reached a certain age, people will look sceptical at you if you haven’t married and started getting kids. For women, that is often starting from their mid-twenties. The same goes for men even though the age is more towards their end-twenties. Once you are married you also should start getting children directly, in the best case scenario you also buy a house or apartment so that you can settle and be safe and happy till the end of your life. Family, friends even random strangers you are meeting for the first time will check with you why certain things on this to-do-list haven’t happened.
I don’t know how many times I have been asked by people I just met, who got to know my age (I am still below 30 – not that it should matter though), if and why I am not married. What the heck? None of your business. The ‘accused’ usually instantly feels the need to explain, that it is by choice or different circumstances that best have nothing to do with him- or herself. It gets even worse if married couples without kids are interrogated. To all the people out there doing this: If you don’t have an active part in procreation, guess what ‘IT IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS’. A question like ‘Why don’t you have kids yet?’ can stir painful emotions. Don’t ask this question or questions around it. Maybe the couple has been trying for a while and is unable to conceive. Or they lost a child. Everything related to relationship and what comes along with it shouldn’t be of your concern. The only relationship everyone should worry about is their own. That doesn’t exclude you can’t help out friends when they need to talk but be as neutral as possible when it comes to making decisions or give advice that leads to decisions.
Let’s get back to the main topic. With those type of questions (and the strange looks when the outcome is not as expected) people enforce their own beliefs on others, and the worst about it is that in many cases people actually also would like to live a different life. People just decide to chose the easy way.
If you think about it, that is exactly what it is. The Easy Way. If you comply with social norms you usually don’t have to bother with the discussions, drawbacks, and the rocks people roll into your way. But dare you do decide something that is only good for you and that makes you really happy. For example choosing a job that pays less, but is exactly what you want to do over a well paid but boring office job. People will judge you and argue with you about why you make decisions for your own life.
And that goes for every category that people can judge about. The way you dress, if you drink alcohol or not, job, and as mentioned relationships – i.e. you can’t possibly be happy being single, you can’t have fun going out without drinking alcohol and obviously, you are only really comfortable when you are rich.
A lot of people seem to forget that we are all individuals. We all have our own experiences and backgrounds we are coming from. What makes one of us happy might stress someone else out. Generations before us have fought for us to have rights and freedoms and we should ensure that no one gets limited in those freedoms by us using them – that also includes forcing our personal opinions on others just to blame them for having made different decisions – especially when we are actually not affected.
What difference does it make for you if someone else is married, has kids and a house? Why would you care which job someone chooses or which God he or she is worshipping? Truths and happiness are individual and they should be accepted.
I know why: Because it forces into self-reflection. Seeing others making independent decisions and dealing and living with the consequences shows that you are the only one responsible for what you do. You are responsible for your happiness and how you shape your life. If you comply with social norms and the things others expect of you and then you are unhappy… that’s on you, on you only.
To conclude: Social pressure is the easy way out not just because you don’t face bad looks and rocks in your way but also because it gives you the option of always blaming it on others if you are not happy.
I would say let’s just avoid unhappiness in the first place and make decisions to what our heart tells us and not what others expect of us.