Society

Dealing with the pressure of societal expectation

pressure

Yes or no peer pressure concept. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • When we evolved and later moved to larger villages and eventually cities, the rules of social engagement changed and so did societal expectations.
  • Many boys are bringing home girls from as far as America and New Zealand and some even have Japanese brides.

QUESTION: What is the appropriate way of dealing with this beast called societal expectation? I am having a fight with my uncles who insist it is time for me to start getting children yet that isn’t my priority at all.

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The beast of societal expectation is a very difficult one to slay and as you might expect, many people have with variable levels of success tried to kill the beast. Before we examine how one might deal with it, let as try to understand the reason it might exist.

As primitive man evolved from barbarian to civilized being, anthropologists observe progressive changes in social organisation commensurate with sophistication of the society of the time. To put it simply, the regime that worked for the hunter/gatherer and rules that govern that society might not work for those who were primarily agrarian.

When we evolved and later moved to larger villages and eventually cities, the rules of social engagement changed and so did societal expectations. As recently as say 200 years ago, society expected one to till farms, grow up and when the time came, get married to the girl next door and let the cycle begin all over again. Formal education in schools would come much later.

In the last 50 years, the girl next door is no longer of your tribe or even nationality. Many boys are bringing home girls from as far as America and New Zealand and some even have Japanese brides. Social expectation that one must propagate genes of their tribe has been shattered together with many others.

For example, home is no longer just Kitui or Kapsabet, but can be and is Liverpool, Sydney or even some remote island in the South Pacific. The definition of home is now very wide and the expectation that one lives next door to their elderly parents no longer holds.

A few months ago, we had to deal with a mother who had gone into a depressive illness. She has four sons. The eldest lives in California where he works in the Silicon Valley as a very senior computer expert. He has a big job and lives with his boyfriend.

His mother gave up a long time ago trying to convince him that boys get girlfriends, not boyfriends. The other son, a doctor married an Indian girl, and they live in Japan. The woman tried to get her son to come ‘home’ without success.

She is a lay reader in her church and is ashamed by the fact that her son who lives nearest to her says he is a Buddhist. He does not pray to the same God she believes in, which means she has lost another of her sons.

As though that is not enough, her youngest son did what good children do, go to school, get as many degrees as their parents want them to, and get married. Tragically for his mother, he is a hairdresser, and as she told us “He looks after women’s hair”.

That he runs a successful business with his wife is not good enough. The societal expectation is that men will do manly jobs and women their typical jobs.

That she could not face society with the outcome of what she called her ‘failure as a mother’ is what brought her to us. She felt a total failure in the eyes of the society that she lived in.

In therapy, it became apparent that she was the ‘victim’ of her own success. From early in their childhood, the lady had brought the children up in a most liberal way.

All humans were the creation of God, and all stood equal before Him. By extension, sexual orientation was not an issue of concern. If one loved an American, or for that matter Korean, these were all human creations of God. Her children lived up to her teachings as they understood them.

Societal expectations are one of the most complex concepts to deal with. There is no right or wrong expectation, just differences from generation to generation and from different societies.

Another complication comes for example when society expects you to be happy all the time, to have many friends, lots of money, and to live as it has determined as the norm. Any departure from this might lead to anxiety and depression.

To avoid this situation developing, and to slay part of the beast, it is advised that you seek to develop your own expectations of yourself that guide the pace and direction of your life. Learn not to project your expectations on others and listen to the inner voice that tells you where your true north is located.