Society shapes a lot of what we do and how we perceive the world around us, including ourselves.
Social media also fuels this – I know plenty of people who are perfectly privileged with nice lives who feel discontent because they think they should be wealthier, healthier, busier, or more attractive.
They actually fail to see that they’re living lovely lives just as they are.
So, if you want to avoid making the same mistake and you desire to be happy in life, start ignoring these 8 expectations from society:
1) Achieving a certain status or wealth
Society often equates happiness with financial success or high social status.
But from where I’m sitting, those folks have a heck load more stress and anxiety than I do!
Think about it:
Do you really need a lot of money to be happy? Or do you need just enough to live comfortably?
My guess is with the latter.
We need to break free from the idea that money brings happiness. It makes life easier in some regards, but at what cost?
It’s time to recognize that happiness comes from much more than just how much you’ve got in the bank account. It might impress others, but if it’s not your life goal, you’ll end up miserable chasing it just because society says you should.
2) Conforming to traditional life milestones
Graduation. Engagement. Marriage. First house. Kids. Second house. Where does it end?
These traditional life milestones might sound tempting since everyone else follows the pattern, but they actually put a lot of stress on people for no reason.
While one person may meet their life partner at 20, another may find theirs at 40.
And if you’re in your 50s and you don’t own a house yet, so what? Maybe renting works out better for you.
And don’t even get me started on kids.
They’re great – if you want them.
But if you don’t? You’re looked at like an alien.
We should make our own timelines. There is no “perfect” or “right” time to do any of the above because it’s different for everyone.
And when you drop this societal expectation, you’ll release a lot of that pressure and anxiety. You’ll also learn to be happy and embrace whatever stage of life you’re currently in – because that’s exactly where you’re meant to be.
3) Maintaining a particular appearance
“I would never stoop so low as to be fashionable, that’s the easiest thing in the world to do…” – Dolly Parton.
I heard this quote the other day, in an old interview with Dolly Parton and Barbara Walters. Barbara was actually insinuating that Dolly didn’t have to dress the way she did, that she could “fit in” more with the current times.
I loved how confidently Dolly replied. She didn’t care what society thought – she dressed to make herself happy.
Now, if she can do that with all the eyes of the world on her, what’s stopping you?
People are always going to have opinions. You’ll never please everyone. So I say – why bother trying!
Look and dress however your heart desires.
4) Adhering to gender roles
I’ve come from a culture where there are strict gender roles, but from a young age I started ignoring them.
If there was something that boys could do that I couldn’t, I’d argue until I was allowed.
And as an adult, that continues. I’d say I’m a lot happier in life than my friends and cousins that I grew up with, who still adhere to such outdated rules.
For example, in my house, my partner and I both work. So naturally we both share the chores – he cooks, I clean.
We’ve had the odd remark about it. But it so obviously comes from a place of jealousy, usually from tired, fed-up wives who hate waiting hand and foot on their husbands but still go along with it.
So, think about your life.
What are you holding back from because society says it’s not right for you? And how can you challenge it?
Sometimes, we have to fight for our happiness. And this one is well worth battling for.
5) Working in a high-prestige profession
Your parents might have encouraged you to get a “top” job in law or medicine. Society often treats people in high-prestige professions as if they’re above the rest of us.
But if it’s not what you truly want to do, what’s the point?
Sure, you’ll probably get some perks like being “respected”, a good salary, private healthcare, and whatnot.
But if it makes you dread going to work every day, it’s simply not worth it.
I’d much rather be a cleaner or a bus driver, working normal hours and interacting with people in my local community, than a stressed-out CEO who never sees their family and has a treadmill in their office.
6) Possessing material things
Newsflash folks – shopping addiction is real.
And in the consumerist society we live in, it’s promoted. “Retail therapy”. Black Friday Sales. Buy now and pay later.
When did we need so much stuff to be happy?
I’ll admit, I used to buy into all this, but when I moved to a small village in a Mediterranean country, I learned that true happiness comes from other things…
Like nature. Like community. Like having a purpose.
So yeah, while I still shop on the odd occasion, it’s now for things I NEED, not necessarily for everything I want.
Remind yourself of that the next time you’re online shopping at 2 a.m. Or when you see your friends with the latest car or iPhone – it may look and feel good for a day. A week. A few months at most.
But will those things (and the act of constantly competing and trying to keep up with everyone else) really make you content in life?
I don’t think so.
7) Always being busy
Another expectation from society that will actually make you miserable is being constantly busy. Always being productive. Having a million side hustles and still managing to work out and redecorate your house.
There’s a unique beauty in slowing down.
In letting your body and mind rest and recharge.
I know your folks or friends might brand you as lazy. But you’re putting your well-being above looking productive, so ignore the haters!
You may actually find you have more energy and focus to concentrate on the things that really excite you in life, rather than spreading yourself thin and never getting anywhere.
8) Never showing weakness
And finally, while society is slowly moving away from this perception that showing weakness is a bad thing, there’s still a lot of progress to be made.
Especially when it comes to men.
As I mentioned earlier, I live in a tiny Mediterranean village, where men are still seen as the sole providers, hard workers, and typically, devoid of emotion.
My husband tried to fit back in with this lifestyle but ended up becoming miserable. Pent-up feelings, stress, and no outlet. It’s a dangerous combination.
So he decided to break the trend. To show vulnerability when needed. And guess what?
Not only is he happier and more relaxed, but he’s connected with so many other people who also felt constrained by this societal expectation.
So remember – when you’re ignoring the expectations listed above, you’re not just enhancing your happiness, but that of others too.
By breaking the rules and creating your own life, you give power to others to do the same.