Society's Expectations Can Fuel Anxiety and Depression
Society's expectations have pressured me to live in a certain way for as long as I can remember. There are specific life events and accomplishments that society seems to expect of everyone. Examples are: graduate high school, go to college, establish a good career, get married, have children, and the list goes on. Society's expectations fuel my anxiety and depression, and here's why.
This a path many of us are expected to follow. And that scares me. It scares me enough that my fear turns into panic as I realize that this is not the journey I am on. The depression, in a way, made me veer from that set path. As the reality sets in, I begin to have doubts and criticize myself for not living up to society's expectations.
I know that anxiety factors into my self-judgment. Without the mental illness, there may be stress but it would feel manageable. Instead, my anxiety makes me jump to the worst conclusion.
And that conclusion is that I have failed. I have failed to live up to society's expectation. I am so far behind. It seems impossible to make up for lost time.
Depression and Anxiety Stopped Me from Fulfilling Society’s Expectations
Before my mental illness became prominent, I was on that expected path. I graduated high school and moved away to college. I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Everything was going to plan.
Then the depression entered my life full force. Everything came to a crashing halt. At that point, I did not care. I was in such a dark place. It did not matter things were not moving forward according to how I had envisioned them.
As I started to come out of the depression, the anxiety took its place. I realized that the six years I had been working towards recovery had set me back on my journey to accomplish what society expected of me.
I had anxiety attacks constantly. How was I going to get back to where I thought I was supposed to be?
Society’s Expectations Do Not Dictate My Life
I finally was able to stop and look at the situation realistically. Yes, society expects that I will follow the steps to what it claims is a successful life. However, what I have realized is that everyone follows their own path. There are multiple ways to find fulfillment and happiness.
So many people say that in order to be happy, you have to find your purpose or your passion and stick to that for the rest of your life. I don’t believe that. One of my favorite authors and speakers, Elizabeth Gilbert, once gave a talk about this very subject. She said that there are a few people that will follow this expected path. However, the rest of us have multiple passions that we must explore. She compares people to hummingbirds, flitting from flower to flower, exploring and trying new things.
Don’t let yourself be discouraged if you have fallen away from society's expectations. You are a unique, beautiful person and there are many paths that you can take.
This is still something I struggle with accepting. But as I reflect on my life, I realize that I would not have the accomplishments, friendships, and experiences that are so important to me now. I look forward to what is to come.
Has your mental illness made you feel that you have fallen off an expected path? How are you moving forward?
Capper, J. (2018, March 6). Society's Expectations Can Fuel Anxiety and Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalhealthforthedigitalgeneration/2018/03/how-societys-expectations-can-fuel-anxiety-and-depression