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The Struggle is Real – Societal Expectations

The Struggle is Real – Societal Expectations

Hi Magnanimites,

I’m facing a big decision. A decision that will have a profound impact on how (a big part of) the rest of my life will look like. It’s a decision that doesn’t have a single best answer, and so it is worth spending a little more time than average with the matter (and luckily I’m starting to think about it way before the deadline. Thinking ahead is a virtue). Maybe it’s not just a decision, but rather a dilemma. When I answer the question
will this bring me closer to my objective in life“, the answer is yes to a plurality of possible decisions.

What will I do after my BSc. in Psychology?

The immediate environment

What’s more important at this point to me however is another aspect of this challenge. I wrote an article about the Art of not giving a F@#$. It turns out it is quite hard to do that, especially when you’re on a road less traveled. And I can confidently label my path a less traveled one. A few weeks away from my 30th birthday, a student at university, happy as a child when I meet someone who is 25! The single fact that I almost don’t get to meet people of my own age in the environment I mostly reside is proof that the path I have chosen is quite a ‘lonely’ one.

The other factor to that, and quite a powerful one as well, is my ‘historical’ environment. My long time, same-age-friends have almost all chosen a more common path. They’re all doing great! A great girlfriend (in which area, I must say, I am the luckiest one, hehe), a great job with even greater perspective, their own place called home, babies are starting to pop up here and there. I have 3 or 4 marriages on the agenda the coming year for christ’s, mohammad’s and/or buddha’s sake!

And god damn I’m proud of them all. I am happy for them, I’m blessed to have them as my friends and for me they’re indispensible and irreplacable and I’ll do my best to let them know. There you are guys, you know who you are.

Talking and listening to them also gives me that feeling of… “For f@#!’s sake, I want that too!”. BUT… I want it at my terms. And these terms are not yet all fulfilled. So that longing to have that as well, I conclude, must come from these societal expectations and norms. Yet they are inherently artificial. Or is there someone reading this that can substantiate why we’re expected to live by this template? Interesting discussion.

Rat race?

Anyways, life is not a race, but that’s hard to realize when others are ‘in front‘. The road less traveled is quite bumpy at times. You’re tested on multiple levels, especially on the social one. Society has certain expectations, after high school you go and get a degree, get a girlfriend/boyfriend in the meanwhile, get a job, live together, marry and have kids (in whatever order), and then live your kids life, instead of your own. Of course it’s not as rigid as I’m painting the picture, but grosso modo these are the steps considered a normal path.

Societal expectations

The more and the longer you stay off that path, the more people begin to worry and the more they start asking questions. Of course it’s all well-meant, but this element partly is what makes life feel like a race at certain points. This is where it get’s cloudy at the intersection of what I want and what society expects. On the other hand I must admit that I also get a lot of respect from people for the fact that I dared to make the choice and choose this path. Thank you for that open-mindedness.

Now what..?

The most important thing for me at this point, is that I don’t get paralyzed by moments that require decisions such as these. So how do I plan to go about this?

  • Case studies
    • I will be looking at what other people did in a similar situation, preferably people in my own network. This will get me various perspectives, ideas and inspiration.
    • One get-together has already pointed me to the idea of consulting with companies for example, and have some orientating chat’s. (Thanks Frank!)
    • Another friend gave me a total opposite idea. How’s that for different perspectives!
  • Literature study
    • Are there any reliable texts and/or books on this problem.
  • Consult with friends
    • And of course I consult with my earlier named friends. People who have my interest as much at heart as I do myself in this case.

What works for me

These three bullet-points are all about getting new insights, new perspectives, new knowledge about what might work and what might not. The most important thing however, is that I choose something that not only works, but works for me! That is the hard part, this is how I plan to do that:

  • Try to be fully aware of what my body and heart tells me, and not my head
    • Your head is your conscious awareness, simply put. It’s exactly that part that is influenced by the outside world the most in a situation like this. I have to try and find the subconscious desires and drives (more about this difference in a later post, it’s powerful!). And I believe the way to do that is to go deep. How? That’s the question. My guesses:
      • meditation
      • intuition
      • (emotional) reflexes

Knowledge is potential power. Gain knowledge, do something with it, proceed.


I already mentioned that there is not just a single answer to my question. In psychodynamics there is this concept of equifinality, which means that more roads can lead to the same outcome. That is the feeling I have here as well. Then again, I think some roads will lead to more opportunities besides just the desired outcome at this moment. This is where systems thinking comes in. A way of thinking that is essential with challenges like these.


I’m not looking for pity. I’m sharing and structuring my thoughts on life defining situations we all face, in one way or another. The question is, how do we deal with it?? I’d say, grab the bull by the horns and look for the best possible outcome. The worst thing you can do is walk away and choose the easiest route. I’m afraid that happens more than we could wish for, and we all know at least someone who chose this way. This is where Michel’s question comes in handy again. Although this question doesn’t give me a definite answer, it sure does discard some easy ones.

To be continued…


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