There are enormous subliminal pressures flowing throughout society, whereby it is assumed that everyone should follow a rather generic set of ‘rules’ to be happy and successful. Get a university education, obtain a good steady and secure job, get engaged, buy a house (with the white picket fence) and pay a mortgage, get married, have children and then eventually retire, to finally put your feet up and enjoy the fruits of all that lifetime of hard work.
Detour from any combination of the above, and you can be looked on as an outcast, lazy, a rebel, loner, loser, misfit or worse. The result of trying to be an individual, and forge your own path, can result in becoming exposed to intense ridicule and bullying. The global proliferation of social media has only managed to exacerbate the problem.
It was especially tragic to read the final social media post from a young New Zealand sporting star, who recently took her life, due in part, to the pressures of societies rules and expectations :
“The feeling when you win is unlike any other, but the feeling when you lose, when you don’t get selected even when you qualify, when you are injured, when you don’t meet society’s expectations such as owning a house, marriage, kids. All because you are trying to give everything to your sport is also unlike any other.”
Pause and let these poignant last words sink in. Here is a young woman feeling deeply rejected by her sporting peers. But because of the sacrifices she made, and the dogged determination to strive to be the very best, she was also feeling intense rejection by her community because she did not fit into the very ideals of society.
This is such a sad reflection on the very fabric of society. Unfortunately, you don’t have to be a top sportsperson, famous celebrity, or successful business person to feel the weight of such sentiment. This unseen pressure is everywhere and it is dangerous.
Societal pressures have never been as prevalent as they are in these modern times. Ever-advancing technology has brought with it the universal reach and appeal of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, where users are free to post imagery of themselves portraying perfect bodies, envious lifestyles and having extraordinary wealth. Everyone, but you, it seems is ‘Living The Dream.’
A recent UK study found that an incredible 90% of young women reporting using image-editing software, or a filter, to alter their body image. This just highlights the intense scrutiny and anxiety young women feel under as a result of the proliferation of social media and the visually dominated society it brings.
The internet is riddled with imposters that want to give the image that they are living the perfect lifestyle, or how they can make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. But oftentimes, if it sounds too good to be true, then … it probably is.
Sure, people have a right to ‘freedom of speech’ but the dangerous subliminal messaging these platforms send also allows anyone a ‘freedom to reach.’ Such messages and images can subtly imply that your life is woefully inadequate compared to everyone else. That somehow all of society has moved onwards and upwards and you have been left behind.
But everyone has choices throughout their life. How you want your life’s playbook to transpire does not have to be determined by society or societies rules.
When you are writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.