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Societal Conformity

April 26th, 2020


How the Pressure to Follow a “Traditional Path” Effects Our Mental Health

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

How the Pressure to Follow a “Traditional Path” Effects Our Mental Health

Outside Pressure

Many things can impact one’s mental health, so it is important to be alert to these different factors. Keeping one’s psychological health as strong as possible is crucial to living a happy, productive, and satisfying life.

One such area that impacts mental health is the pressure from others. This pressure can come from friends and family – those close to us, and the pressure can come from society as a whole – people we may not know but have an impact on our lives based on their culture and norms.

First, it is important to be aware of the pressures that we may face on a day-to-day basis, both from society as a whole and from those who are more intimate in our lives. We may not think about these things daily, but often the decisions we make are influenced by pressures from those around us, and often these pressures include leading one to follow a “traditional path” in life.

Pressures from Those Around Us

We may not realize it, but our lives are filled with constant decisions that we must navigate and lead us to choose what path we go down in our lives.

Sometimes, these choices are mundane, such as “What am I going to eat for breakfast?” or “What outfit should I wear to work today?”, while other decisions we make impact our lives in a much larger way – “Should I get married?”, “Who should I marry?”, “When should I have kids?”, or “Should I stay at my job or should I look for a new one?”

These choices and decisions that we make are inevitably impacted by those around us. Society, as a whole, has a say on how one should dress and when someone should get married and have kids, and this is communicated through norms and culture.

Norms and Culture

Norms are essentially the unofficial guidelines for how one is supposed to act and conduct oneself. They are unwritten rules that help guide behaviors for people in a society.

Culture is a phenomenon that is impacted by the group of people living in a certain area and represents the thoughts, ideas, and nature of that group of people and can be expressed in the foods, clothing, and lifestyle choices of those groups.

Therefore, both norms and culture can be different – and often are vastly different – based on where you go around the world. The culture in one geographic location is not going to be the same as the culture in another area. The same is true for norms. The norms in one community might be completely different than norms in another.

This is true at the macro as well as the micro-level. Meaning, the norms in one family may different than norms in another family right next door. The culture and norms that we are surrounded by impact our decisions and can also impact our mental health in various ways.

Pressure to Follow a “Traditional Path”: An Issue of Conformity

While culture can be a beautiful thing, and norms are extremely helpful to help guide people into acting a certain way (often that is best for the group as a whole), there can be downsides. Often, society establishes a culture and a set of norms that apply to the majority of people.

As previously stated, culture and norms are unwritten rules or codes of conduct that were often developed over time. They often become expectations for people to live by, regardless of whether the person wants to live by the culture and by these norms or not. Therefore, it is a way of society pressuring people to follow the path that has been set out for them by those who established the norms and culture, to follow what can be called a “traditional path”.

The Problem with Following a “Traditional Path”

While taking advice from those in one’s life can be helpful, and listening to one’s elders can be beneficial, it can be problematic if one does not get a say (or feels as though they do not have a say) in making decisions for their own life.

The “traditional path” is not for everyone. All people are different and what is good for one person, may not be good for another. Forcing people to conform, or even pressuring people into conforming can be detrimental to one’s well-being.

This can affect one’s mental health in various ways, including leading to depression, anxiety, and increased stress. Clearly, it can be stressful to have society pressuring one to do something and follow in a path that they do not want to do. It can be depressing and anxiety-provoking, if someone chooses to follow a “traditional path” that they do not feel, is right for them.

The Importance of Autonomy

The Importance of Autonomy

It is best to allow people to have autonomy over their own lives. Allowing individual self-determination and the ability to decide what they want out of their life and how they want to live their life is critical for experiencing overall positive well-being.

When individuals are pressured to conform to society and follow a “traditional path” it can lead to increased stress, depression, anxiety, and other negative reactions. This pressure from society can have a detrimental impact on one’s mental health.

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