If you could change something about yourself, what would it be? My best friend, Lillian, asked me this question the other day and it got me thinking a lot on whether I am comfortable with how I live, how I look like, who I associate with, what I eat, and so many other things. For some reason, I could not figure out what I would change about myself, but I was inclined to think that I do not like the way I have to conform to a certain diet and lifestyle just to have a perfect body; as it is the norm in the current world for one to have a lean, well-toned body. Many are the times we hear our guardians reminds us of the cliche go to school and do your best to achieve good grades so that you can qualify for a good university and build your career, an utterance that keeps prompting students to perform their best so as not to disappoint their parents.
As one grows up, social institutions such as family, friends, mass media and religious groups inter alia, play a significant role on an individuals code of conduct, dispositions, and behavior, since we live within a structure of social expectations. For example, a common expectation from the society is that an ideal person is supposed to finish education, leave his or her parents to start life on their own, attain financial stability, marry, and start a family with their better half (Watson). In a journal written by Koichi Hasegawa, Chika Shinohara, & Jeffrey Broadbent, they describe social expectation as, the general mood of society about what people should do: the spirit of the times (180). In essence, the authors imply that the social institutions tend to influence a persons thoughts, feelings, and actions, for we apprehend how our behavior will impact them and what we can expect as a result. Thus, one cannot behave randomly in certain situations as the society expects us to act in particular conducts. As such, these expectations could cause devastating impacts on a person.
Personally, I think that some societal expectations have led to some degree of damage on individuals, rather than building a person, more so on women in general. Rachel Toalson, a blogger at the Huffington Post, echoes my sentiments in her article titled, Dear Societal Expectations: I Quit. Toalson says no more to live up to the expectations of the society, where, as a woman, she is supposed to have a perfect body, perfect life, perfect job, perfect husband, and perfect home. For instance, she questions the ideology of the society to expect a woman to have a flawless, desirable body even after giving birth, to say, six children. Rather, she thinks perfection is overrated as it makes individuals to live fake lives at the mere pleasure of pleasing others. I remember last week when we went to change for our games practice; I met this girl who seemed very distressed because her eyes were swollen red and she sat in a corner all by herself. Upon enquiring what the matter was, she finally opened up and told me that she had not slept in days since she was studying hard not fail her parents who have always wanted her to become a cardiologist. She said she that she couldnt even play her favorite game hockey, for fear of her parents thinking that she was wasting her time. As a result, she narrated how other students from her class had started to ignore her in their activities like birthday parties because she chose to be a geek. I imagined the amount of pressure the young girl was undergoing through just to please her parents. I felt sorry for her and took her to the school therapist. This was a just a case of one student among the many who are undergoing the negative effects of societal expectations.
In relation to the same, there is a novel I read a while back namely Cats Eyes, written by Margaret Atwood, which focuses on a story about a controversial painter, Elaine Risley, as she recounted her past when she used to be bullied by a group of three girls because she did not fit into societal norms. As a result, Risley undergoes mental distress as she attempts to conform to the expectations of the society. She describes the discriminating position that women are placed in, stating, There will be no end to imperfection, or to doing things the wrong way. Even if you grow up, no matter how hard you scrub, whatever you do, there will always be some other stain or spot on your face (Atwood 187). As in, despite how one attempts to be perfect, the society will look for new faults to look down upon that individual.
Reflecting on the findings of the theme, I think that we have all lived a fake incidence at some point in our lives, be it watching a movie that you do not like for the sake of pleasing your best friend or opening an Instagram page just to look normal like other kids. Regardless, I feel that it is high time that people appreciate others for who they are and respect their decisions by supporting them; and not looking down upon them. We must stop changing for other people but change only for ourselves. We have to be content with how we look, what we wear, be proud of our little achievements, and pursue our dreams.
You wouldnt worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt.
November 15th, 2017.
Growing Up Is Scary
I believe everyone has a dream of what they aspire to pursue after completing the high school phase. It could be joining a college for further studies, or finding a job to generate some income, or even joining the armed forces to serve the nation. Regardless of the dream, one thing is certain, the thought of becoming independent and being able to make personal decisions is terrifying. Since childhood, the idea of freedom sounded fascinating in my mind, as I imagined all the things I could do without having to worry about my parents patronizing me all the time or being concerned with school assignments. Besides hoping to become a proficient lawyer, I have always fancied traveling to various parts of the world to experience different cultures and at the same time appreciate nature. However, the reality is, the more I think about my life after high school, the more I get scared of the responsibilities that await me. What if I fail to achieve my dreams? What if something terrible happens to me when I am miles away from my parents and friends, who will help me? How will my life look like in the next ten years, will I be happy?
It has now been a week since I decided to join my neighbor Terri Johnson, over a cup of coffee in honor to grant my request in gaining insight into her world. The reason I chose Ms. Johnson is that I was curious to learn how an African-American woman, who is transsexual, made it to the top to become a renowned TV Producer and an influential TV Personality. After a long-drawn thought, she started by saying, Growing up wasnt always a bed of roses, in fact, it was not easy at all. Ms. Johnson described her traumatic experience of how she used to be despised by other girls her age at school because of her physical appearance. It would go far as the male students and kids in her neighborhood fearing and running away whenever they saw her. As a child, she would become helpless at times and cry in solitude about it. Despite these encounters, her family was very supportive, and it was one of the main factors that encouraged her not to give up in life.
A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) organization she joined when she was seven years old was another pillar of strength to her, as it helped her built her image, by sponsoring her and offering advice so that she could understand herself better. The foundation enabled her to interact with many other children who were also like her. As a result, she gained the courage to face her uncertain tomorrows, where she vowed to prove those who despised her wrong. However, Ms. Johnson said that it is self-belief and faith that got her where she is today. She appreciates the presence of establishments like the National Center for Transgender Equality that have helped shape her career, by offering protection to Transgenders. In May 2015, Ginger Christ published an article which highlighted that OSHA would partner with NCTE to advance new resources and to educate employers, a move made to protect transgender workers (Christ). The experience of Ms. Johnson made me realize how low we go as humans to despise the LGBT community without knowing them in person. Ms. Johnson concluded by admitting that yes, she was afraid of growing up, but it became the best part of her life as it enabled her to have the means of providing for herself the little things that make her happy, empowered her to make personal choices in regards to her body, health, and lifestyle, and provided the ability for her to possess a little corner of the world to call her own.
Atwood, Margaret. Cat's Eye. New York: Anchor Books, 2011.
Christ, Ginger. OSHA, National Center for Transgender Equality Form Alliance. Ehstoday.com, 2015, http://www.ehstoday.com/health/osha-national-center-transgender-equality-form-alliance. Accessed 5 Dec. 2017.
Hasegawa, Koichi, et al. "The effects of social expectationon the development of civil society in Japan." Journal of Civil Society 3.2 (2007): 179-203.
Toalson, Rachel. Dear societal expectations: I quit. Huffingtonpost.com, 2016, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachel-toalson/dear-societal-expectation_b_8510548.html. Accessed 5 Dec. 2017.
Watson, Lydia. Social expectations of young adults. Studentnewspaper.org, 2015, http://www.studentnewspaper.org/social-expectations-of-young-adults/. Accessed 5 Dec. 2017.
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