Don't Let The Social Clock Dictate Your Life

Don't Let The Social Clock Dictate Your Life

Pressure to hit traditional milestones is stressing out an entire generation.
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How many times have you had a family member at Christmas pester you about bringing home a boy/girlfriend? She’ll nudge you in the arm and whisper “So, you got anybody back at school you’re thinking about getting serious with? You know it’s about that time.”

Or, you’ve heard a girl in her late 20s worry about her biological clock or be told that she best get to having babies soon. Social norms and expectations follow us everywhere, especially down South where I grew up and currently attend college. We’re taught from an early age about all kinds of manners and standards. Kids are taught what’s gentlemanlike and ladylike, what is appropriate to wear to this social event or that one, what is acceptable to talk about and what is prohibited to strictly behind doors. We know the rules. We also know what people think of others that don’t always follow these norms. It is a lot of pressure as a young adult.

Assessing all of these rules and considering the many ways the world wants you to act is immensely confusing at times. Not to diss manners, they serve their purpose and I'm grateful to have them. But I think that as we age we are introduced to so many different situations that weren’t always covered at home, or in some places structured and attended — etiquette class and all those social norms can be overwhelming. Responding to others appropriately is difficult, even harder is dealing with the way others view and respond to your actions because, in reality, everyone is taught a little differently.

Twenty to 30 is a rough place. We're supposed to be doing this whole figuring-ourselves-out thing. "Figuring ourselves out." That's a broad statement, huh? Yeah, it's a broad task, and I believe the hardest part is the pressure to get ourselves together as quickly as possible. We constantly feel like we're in a time crunch, and one of the biggest battles us growing adults face is the one against the social clock.

Professionally defined as the “conscious or unconscious consensus that dictates when events should occur,” social timelines can differ among societies but, in all, are the outside pressure to complete a life task in a certain time span. We internally stress and judge ourselves for not living up to these expectations set by family or society. Majorly, we don't even realize we're doing it. As humans, one of the focuses of our lives is to fit in, not necessarily to blend, but to find our niche. It is our internal desire to belong. We want to have a city, a friend group, a workplace in which we can identify and mesh well with. Even those who boast about being an “outcast” typically find other “outcasts” to socialize and agree with. This social clock (and its pressures) is just another hindrance to our ability to find the perfect place in society.

And, it is furthering our divide. Those who have accomplished a specific item off of life’s checklist in the correct age range are deemed well-adjusted, while those who work slowly are considered lagging. In addition to the everyday tasks of trying not to offend people, trying to look presentable in public, trying to foster social relationships, trying to be politically correct, trying to be kind, and trying to be smart we all have to try to be timely, too. We work quickly to find that perfect degree so we can graduate on time and land that perfect job. We search for that perfect soulmate in our early 20s so that we can get married and start that picket fence family — as if our generation doesn’t have enough on our plate and our fair share of judgemental finger pointing.

I bring all of this up to say that it’s crap.

It doesn't matter. It’s ridiculous to have to worry about a metaphorical timeframe. I’d say it is part of why some of the older members of this planet are a bit unhappy. We’re rushed into things. We’re pressured to marry someone because they’re “good” and the time is right. We’re pressured into taking a job offer right after college because it’s appropriate. We aren’t encouraged to travel, or to ponder, or to learn things that can’t be taught in a classroom. Substance isn’t valued — standards and traditions are.

So what do we do about it? We stop letting it bother us, and we stop allowing these constraints to consume us. We continue to value traditions and respect where we came from, but remember that there is room for new in our lives. We quit searching for the perfect spouse and search for ourselves. We volunteer to help others and not to get service hours for our resume. We stop planning our lives and we live them. The best things in life take time to grow and flourish, and we are worth investing our time in.

Invite powerful thinking into your life and refrain from doing something simply because it's the norm. Whether it is traveling, reading, relaxing or going to church, find what helps you feel solid in who you are as a person. Make these activities part of your schedule. If you can't finish your college education in four years, that's OK. If you don't want to get married or have children until you're 30 (or at all) it is OK. Take your time and spend it the way you see fit, not the way society thinks you should be spending it. One of the most encouraging things for me is to look for testimonies of successful people. For example, the founder of Amazon was working at McDonald's in his 20s, Tina Fey was working at a local YMCA, and J.K Rowling and Mark Cuban had both recently lost jobs.

What all four of those people have in common is that, in time, life worked out in their favor. It didn't just happen, they had to put forth an effort. They also had to be willing to put in the time. Stress incites more stress. Relax, breath deep and stop watching the clock before time is up and you've missed everything.

Cover Image Credit: 123rf

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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12 Simple Ways To Ease Your Anxiety

These are some super simple ways to handle your stress at home.

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Anxiety and stress are very common problems for many of us in today's society.

Over 70% of adults face some sort of anxiety or stress in their lives.

It can really be overwhelming and can seriously affect our mood for the rest of the day.

Pushing these feelings of anxiety and stress aside and letting them build up does nothing but cause more harm to our minds and bodies.

Sometimes, we just need a quick and easy way to help alleviate some of this stress to help us get through the day and to help us feel better.

Here are 12 ways to do just that:

1. Practice deep breathing

Mental stress and anxiety can cause your body to respond in physical ways. Since it affects your sympathetic nervous system, you might experience elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, or lightheadedness. Breathing deeply and slowly can help slow your heart and ease your body back into a calm state. When I panic or feel overwhelmed, I breathe in slowly through my nose, think of one thing that makes me happy, slowly breathe out through my mouth, and repeat until I can feel my mind and body begin to calm.

2. Light a candle or start up your essential oil diffuser

My personal favorite scent to soothe my anxiety is lavender. However, you can also try chamomile, rose, orange, jasmine, sandalwood, or whatever else might help you.

3. Exercise

This is a big one, but can also be a very difficult one. Whenever you're feeling extremely anxious or overwhelmed, it might be hard enough for you to get yourself out of bed, let alone do any serious exercising. My best advice is to be proactive and try to pay attention to when you first start feeling your anxiety creep up on you. Just go ahead and get up and go for a walk, run, or whatever form of exercise you prefer!

4. Read a book

For me, there's nothing like curling up with a good book to help calm my nerves. Whenever I am knowingly going into a situation that will make me anxious, such as traveling, I always make sure to bring a book to read whenever I start to feel overwhelmed. Reading helps me to temporarily escape my anxieties and can be a big help in giving myself some much needed time to calm down.

5. Do yoga and practice meditation

Yoga is such a helpful activity for those with anxiety and stress! It kind of is just a combination of many different anxiety-relieving techniques (exercise, deep breathing, and mindfulness). There are many different apps, books, classes, and websites you can use as a guide and help to do yoga. You can find what positions, locations, and situation are best for you. Doing yoga gives you a great opportunity to think about and reflect on your feelings and worries.

6. Spend time with loved ones (yes, even your furbabies)

Sometimes, all we need is a little love and reassurance in our lives to alleviate some of our anxieties. Spending time with your family, friends, and pets can help us to see and remember the good things we have in our lives. So many times, those of us with anxiety tend to seclude ourselves and that makes it easy to forget the good we have.

7. Drink more water

Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause feelings of anxiety. It can make you feel jittery and can be a cause for elevated heart rate. Drinking more water not only helps you physically (like hydrating your skin and body), but it can also do wonders for your mental health. When your body is unhealthy and unhappy, that can be a big factor in feelings of depression and anxiety.

8. Take a short nap

If you begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious, sometimes it can do some good to just take a short 30-minute nap. Just give yourself some time to rest your mind and body and face the issue with a new focus and fresh thoughts.

9. Journal

Even though writing down your feelings, bad or good, can be helpful, when you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed, try focusing on the positive! Write down a few things that made you happy today or a few things that you're grateful for. Don't let yourself be bogged down by the negative.

10. Clean

This might not work for everybody, but I know that sometimes when I'm feeling restless or anxious, cleaning and decluttering can help clear my mind. Basically, it's just good to find something to put your focus on when your anxious thoughts feel like too much. Try to pick a task and focus on that until you're finished. You'll likely find, in the end, that you feel much better than before you started.

11. Listen to happy and soothing music

Listening to music is a BIG help to some people with anxiety. However, you need to be mindful of what you're listening to. Don't put on the breakup playlist you made when you were 13. Find happy or soothing songs and make yourself a playlist of songs with themes of positivity.

12. Don't bottle up your feelings

This might just be the most important advice I can give you when it comes to handling your anxiety. The worst thing that you can do is to suppress your feelings and try to force yourself to forget about them. Hiding or bottling up your feelings might help temporarily, but that will just make you feel worse in the end. Talk to someone or try one of the other methods I mentioned to face your anxiety, but don't pretend like it doesn't exist.

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