Generally, to live in peace and harmony with those that surround us, following similar rules or guidelines can be helpful. That is all fine and good if we communally agree what those living principals are. But in today’s world, many of the rules that dictate our behaviors and attitudes have been imposed and enforced by governments and companies with quite selfish motives. There are social norms to break to help us live happier more love-filled lives. Creating your own paradise might just mean you gotta break the “rules” a little bit.
What are social norms?
First, to be clear of what we’re talking about here, let’s define social norms. Common ways of doing things or how most people go about their daily activities create norms of a society. They create an informal base from which most people decide what the standard way of doing things is.
Standard ways we greet each other (handshakes in North America, kisses in a lot of Europeans and Latin American countries), when and how to use words like “please” and “thank you” and not farting or sneezing on people in the metro are a few examples of social norms we tend to live by.
Social norms are a fine base from which to decide what works for each of us. They aren’t laws, and we won’t get beheaded in the plaza if we don’t obey them. But you may feel that you need to justify your actions more actively if you choose to go against them. But often times, for me, it’s a price worth paying if it allows me to live more authentically.
So, without further ado, here are the 6 unwritten rules of society that I believe are most dramatically destroying our ability to live happily.
Social norm to break #1: Being disconnected from yourself
I’ve already written a few times about the way-to-common issue of being super disconnected from the real you (this article about why it’s so important to connect with yourself, this one is about how to do it, and this one about how to recognize you’ve disconnected). I think that the massive loss we take on because of this disconnect is one of the ginormous conundrums of our times.
The main person that will benefit from better getting to know yourself, is you. It’ll give you confidence, joy and tranquility to know that no matter what happens, as long as you have yourself, things will be ok.
Getting to know yourself and how you operate makes it easier to navigate through your days. Everything just seems to flow more naturally when you understand the inner workings of your mind, body, and spirit.
Being consciously aware of what you honestly think and feel is also vital to help you build healthy relationships with others. But still, that doesn’t convince many of us to do it.
Instead, we use our relationships with others to feed the parts of ourselves we haven’t been able to tend to ourselves. We use others, beg for their attention, manipulate them, become needy and take advantage of them.
We walk around the world with our cups of self-love so empty that we become love vampires; sucking out any love, kindness or care lingering around.
It’s like as though we’ve built a house with no foundation. And yet, we keep trying to put up the walls, fix the plumbing, and put in the backward pool, with the ground constantly caving in beneath us.
What to do instead
Here are a few ideas of pointers for how to better get acquainted with yourself. Become mindful of and consider:
- The thoughts that go through your head throughout the day, why you think you have them and what they make you feel
- The sensations in your body you have in different situations (for example, the tightness in your chest when you’re nervous or an unsettled stomach when you get annoyed)
- The parts of your identity you cling to tightly, what views/opinions help you build that identity and how you define who you are
Start by working with your relationship with yourself, to then build loving, mutually supportive and honestly caring relationships with others. This is the only way we will actually manage to build healthy communities and societies.
Social norm to break #2: No bad feelings allowed
One reason we are all so keen to disconnect with ourselves is that we haven’t been properly taught how to deal with our shit.
Sadness, pain, confusion, anger, and loneliness are mental states that linger inside all of us. Different situations make us feel different levels and variations of these “negative” feelings. But we haven’t be taught to how to deal with these daunting ways of being. In fact, our society teaches us to hide those hard feelings far out of view from anyone. Especially yourselves. We deny they exist at all cost.
We smile, laugh and share sunshine and rainbow moments freely. Then, any potential arrival of tears and heartache, we run for the hills to hide out in shame from our moment of darkness.
What to do instead
Get acquainted with the hard stuff inside. Learn to recognize when you’re feeling unpleasant shit, and instead of rejecting it dramatically, sit with it. Let it just be there.
When you do this regularly, you realize that these feelings are only as horrible as you let them become. And if you give them time and space to exist, they tend to just dissolve, like sugar in coffee.
Just like all things in life, feelings are impermanent. Good ones, bad ones, dramatic ones and silly ones, are all transient.
The more you accept that moods and modes of being will flow and change constantly, the better off you are. That way, when hard ones do come up, you know for sure that eventually, the wind will pick them up and blow them on by.
Social norm to break #3: Consume to distract
Then, to make sure our pain and sadness don’t even get a second of airtime inside our minds, we consume. Excess TV, shopping, drinking, eating, Whats apping, social media or busyness divert our attention from the real stuff inside us that we’re looking to avoid.
Pretty, shiny, sexy things are way more fun to look at then the hard, sad stuff inside us.
So companies, media agencies and marketing campaigns take advantage of this to sell us whatever they want. “Drink this vodka to feel at home” or “Eat this type of cheese to really feel the love”. So we buy or intake constant distractions to avoid having to deal with our not-so-fun stuff.
What to do instead
The path to true freedom is breaking free from habits that consume us.
It’s hard to feel free like a bird if your smoking addiction forces you to intake nicotine each hour of the day. So, the more than you can break free from the shackles of consumption, the more liberated you will be.
Social norm to break #4: Lost perspective of what’s important
We work a ton, to buy a ton of crap, to fill our big houses with shit we don’t need. Every second of the day is filled with activities and work to produce and consume.
But then, if you think about what’s most important to you in life, I doubt that having a validating job title or the nicest car would top the list.
Seriously, think about it. If you knew you were going to die in 2 months, what aspects of your life would you prioritize? Spending more time with your family and nurturing other important relationships would probably be up there, as would doing more things that make you smile and laugh.
In fact, there’s a whole book about what dying people most often regret, and the top things they say they wish they’d done differently were to:
- Live their life more truly and authentically for themselves, instead of doing what was expected of them.
- Be less work focused.
- Be more genuine and honest about their feelings
- Have been more in touch with friends.
- Have let themselves be happier.
What to do instead
Be more conscious of how you use your time and energy. We sometimes forget that our lifespan is a build-up of all the small moments of each day. So ideally, we are present to deliberately decide how we fill each of those moments.
Laugh more, cry more, be present, see family and friends more often, share moments of beauty and seek moments that bring happiness and love. Give less fucks about the rest.
Social norm to break #5: Wastefulness as a default lifestyle
We buy and dispose of things mindlessly.
It’s as though we forget that the materials used to make these products are yanked out of the earth to be transformed into useless crap for us to buy. Then, we eliminate forests and natural areas to make room for all the landfills of useless garbage that we strategically place out of sight, to conveniently forget about the mess we are making.
We do this as though we are above and more important than the natural world. As though we don’t depend on or need our fellow Earthly beings for our own survival.
But we do. Without plants and animals, humans would die.
But as we can only be bothered to think about our moment to moment needs, we forget about the impact of what our consumption habits are doing to our world.
We are slowly destroying it, to leave it lifeless and empty for the upcoming generations to deal with.
What to do instead
Stop buying useless shit. Consume consciously. Consider your environmental impact. And for God sack, take the extra 3 seconds it takes to recycle.
Social norm to break #6: Following the herd
We’re scared to out-shine, to be too weird, to not be accepted and have to walk on our paths solo, so we conform. We mold the most beautiful and unique aspects of our personality to fit in and fly amongst the pack.
We learn the limits that determine how much of ourselves we can show and still stay “normal” and force ourselves to stay within that. Even if that means clipping our wings and limiting our potential.
But you can be totally yourself, wacky ways and all, and still be surrounded by amazing people. In fact, the most inspiring people will mainly gravitate towards others who live authentically true to who they are. So you can walk amongst a herd, but still keep your beauty and uniqueness.
What to do instead
Be you! Dare to go after your dreams and build a life meant exactly for you.
Surround yourself with people who love who you are, and give you the strength and support to be the most authentic version of yourself.
These social norms are just a few of so many standard ways of doing things, that aren’t benefiting us as individuals, nor as a society. We can’t just accept things as they are with the reasoning that it’s just how it’s done. We need to have the strength to question norms and choose paths that are right for us and the world, even if the trail seems quite hidden at times.
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