Mackenzie Hurlbert — Staff Writer
Take a second and think about the things you want out of your life and what you expect in your near future. In high school we probably would’ve said college. Then a job. Then a husband or wife. Then a family. But is that really what you want or is it what society has pressured us all to think we want? Is it what we actually desire, or what we believe others expect us to desire?
I read a passage in an English textbook this week which caused me to reflect on my own identity. It said that as children, we see ourselves as our parents see us; for example, the daughter who’s good at fishing. Then we see ourselves as our friends see us—you’re the girl who’s abnormally tall. Then we see ourselves as society sees us—the average American woman is 5-foot- 4-inches, has a waist size of 34-35 inches and weighs between 140-150 pounds (definitely not me). Now we, as a generation verging on adulthood and independence, must make a choice to either continue to define ourselves by society’s definitions, or discover our own identities, without the influence of outside sources (friends, family, society). I don’t want to be a creation of my society; I want to live on my own terms and have a future that fits what I want, not what’s expected of me. Don’t let society’s expectations determine who you are or your future.
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of what society expects from a person our age is a college education. We are told repeatedly during our earlier years that we can’t get a good job without a college education and that our next step after high school should be toward a university or college. I believe there is truth behind the statistics showing the relationship between success ratings and college degrees, but I also believe a lot of this particular presumed responsibility is only because of society’s influence.
In my opinion, I believe college isn’t for everyone, at least not right after high school. What’s the point of someone who has no interest in a career field, hates school, or who is still living in their teen years blowing their parents’ and their own money on an education they’ll only complain about on Facebook? Why does the immediate step after high school need to be toward college when it could be toward a technical school, a break off to work to figure out what career field they would like, or a year in the Peace Corps or Navy? Of course our parents and family want the best for us, but is it really fair to them and to ourselves to spend all of this time and money fulfilling society’s expectations?
The next thing that struck me was that as a woman, I feel obligated to get married and start a family. I can’t say that I’ll want this 10 years from now, but I still feel pressured to want it. I feel as if I should want to start a family because that is, in our society, what a woman does. If 10 years from now I chose not to have children, society would pity me. They would be sympathetic, guessing of infertility and thinking of the great loss I am taking by not bringing another life into this already overpopulated world. Why would choosing not to have a child be a negative thing? Why do TV ads depicting happiness usually include a smiling threesome—mother, father, and son? Because it is the natural, normal, expected way in which our society expects us to live our lives.
To finally end this philosophical tirade on a more personal note, I must include that after reading about our identity and perceptions I tried to analyze how I perceive myself. Looking at my insecurities, I admitted that the main thing I am most uncomfortable about is my height, a trait that has plagued me since elementary school. I feel I stick out like a sore thumb. I’m awkward and gawky, but most importantly, I feel that being tall is not seen as a positive thing for a woman in today’s society. Unless you can utilize your height advantage for a purpose, such as basketball or modeling, people have little interest or attraction toward height. Growing up, usually the first thing an adult would ask me is if I played basketball, and when I replied no (I’m honestly horrible at it), they’d tend to lose interest and stray off into other conversations. To understand my aversion to my own height, I tried to understand why I wanted to be smaller: short women are considered “fun-sized,” petite, slight and feminine by today’s society. Other than the fact that they have more shoe choices, can wear heels, and can sit on their boyfriend’s lap without having their knees tucked up by their ears, I realized that my envious state for a shorter stature was purely a society-driven mindset.
Society has always seen me as tragically tall, and that has manipulated my opinion of myself. So take a look at what you want out of your life: what you view as beautiful, normal, and precious. Perhaps, if you come to a similar realization as mine, you will choose to redefine your opinions of your life, your future and maybe even yourself.