Fit in or stand out?

A few days back, I was reading through some blogs as part of Blogging 101’s “Know your neighbour” activity. This post by Dhanya on conforming to societal concerns immediately stuck a chord with me. The following post has been inspired by Dhanya’s post. 🙂

No matter which country or culture you’re born in, there is always this invisible but permanent feature attached, called ‘The Society’. There may be so many things that you want to do, but you invariably end up doing what you’re “supposed” to do. And who decided what you’re supposed to do? Obviously, the society!

1. Go to school and get good grades
2. Go to a reputed college
3. Get married before you turn 25.
4. Pop out a kid within 2 years of marriage max.

And so on go the dictates of the society. You try varying even slightly from the norm, and you can be sure that you will have to answer a barrage of questions from all quarters. More importantly, you have to be mentally prepared to be “frowned upon”.

I wanted to study English Literature once I finished school, because even by then, I had realised that language is something I’m passionate about. However, these were the reactions I got from people.

“Are you crazy?”
“What! You didn’t good grades in your boards?”
“It doesn’t matter. You can study whatever you want. Anyway you’re a girl. Your husband will earn enough for the both of you!”

Of course, my own parents didn’t allow me to study English. They decided that I need to study something that will give me a lucrative career; so I ended up studying Journalism, which allowed me to focus at least partially on my passion – writing.

At least, I had the good sense to take up something that is connected with what I want to do. I have a number of friends who bowed to societal pressure and took up a professional Engineering course, because that was the fad then. Society respected you only if you were an Engineering student. As it turns out, those Engineering students are currently in the same job as I am – a customer service oriented job which any graduate can perform.

A couple of years later, I met the love of my life, and we decided to tie the knot pretty soon. When my marriage was fixed, I was only 21. You know how I said the society wants us to get married “before 25”. Apparently, they have even more specific criteria – “get married between 23 and 25”. 21 is too soon, obviously!

“Why are you marrying off your daughter so soon? Does she have any health issues?” – this one was to my dad.
“You studied in a college for women! How did you meet a guy?”
“You must be a responsible woman and earn for your parents. Why do you need love at this age?”

…were the questions that followed. The first time, I succumbed to societal pressure. This time, I didn’t. I knew what I wanted, I knew how to get it, and so I did!

The point here is that there are always people telling us what we should do. But whether we do what they say or not, is thankfully our prerogative. We needn’t do things just for the sake of conforming to society. It doesn’t matter what everyone else does or doesn’t. We should do what makes us happy!

You want to abandon a corporate job and start a music band? Go do it!
You want to take a few months’ break to write a book? Definitely do it!

These are just examples. Happiness means different things to different people. And as individuals, we have the power to choose to do what makes us happy. Whatever we do or don’t do, our decisions need never be based on what ‘the society’ thinks, says, or does! 😀

Until the next post,
With love,
Writer on the rocks.


7 thoughts on “Fit in or stand out?

  1. woohoo \o/
    After reading this post, I felt an affirmation of my view of the “herd” mentality. Or, as you called it The Society. All too often people go thru like in the manner of your list (1-4)…unaware that things do not HAVE to go that way…if they are happy, great. However, it is so sad when potential goes unfulfilled…or not pursued at all!


  2. I absolutely love this! Everyday I see people who say ‘I want to do this, but I can’t because I’m this, and people don’t like this’ (of course not those exact words). But it really bugs me! I’m like, screw what they’ll think? You want it? Go get it!


  3. Pingback: Side notes | Let's Talk Education, Technology, and Design

  4. This morning on the Today show (10/16) there was a perfect example of the societal pressure you are talking about. There was an interview with a young woman with a new baby talking about all the criticism she received for bottle feeding her baby. This was criticism from strangers who didn’t know that she was a breast cancer survivor who had had a double mastectomy. However, in defense of those outspoken strangers, many would have thought she should be breast feeding even if nothing was said—and few would have considered that there might be a good reason she could not.


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