This post was written by Volunteer Blogger Karin recruited via UN Volunteering Service.
Living Up to Societies Standards
“Not going to a good college means you’ll end up as a druggie.”
“Not having a successful job means you’re a failure.”
“Being overweight makes you a burden to society.”
Society’s standards vary
Depending on the time, culture, gender, preference, and sometimes just because society is fed up with a norm, the standard changes. It changes daily. Are we even capable of living up to these standard or do we fail in trying to do so?
Take a moment to think about today’s societal standards for women: Tall, long hair, skinny, high heels and maybe a little skirt, be able to hang out with the guys but at the same time don’t act too manly…
Now, think about how women were seen 50 years ago: The beauty standard for those women was to be curvy and advertising companies gave tips, how not to look too skinny (yes, people once thought that women not walking on toothpicks are actually pretty), additionally women wore clothes that didn’t reveal too much and were proud of what they were.
The same goes for men. They have always been the primary breadwinners for their families. Suddenly, their image changes and nowadays they have to be the sensitive stay-at-home-dad that supports his successful career wife. It does not matter if you are a guy or a girl: The standards will be set for both genders.
We all know and see that society’s standards are changing with times. But the vast majority of people, mostly women, see it as their life goal to reach standards set by society. Are they slaves to standards or is it in their best interest to reach this goal?
How do we reach a standard that is produced mostly by advertisements?
Advertising makes us believe that in this world there is no room for mistake. Society wants us to believe that every woman can be a size zero, have at least 2 children, and live happily married while being a successful full-time manager. On top of that, since shy and more emotional people are hard to be around with, we all have to be happy and grateful about our oh-so-perfect-lives. No complaining allowed! Other people have it harder in their life.
Can we ever live up to society’s standards?
I am not talking about personal standards. Personal standards are the ones we can reach. We set them ourselves; we can adapt our lives and goals to them. Some people are perfectly fine not reaching their standards; does that mean that they are failures? Probably not, because they decide how much effort and work they want to put into reaching their own personal standards.
Personally, I do not believe that we can ever live up to society’s standards. Moreover, I don’t know if this is really something we want. When did it become more important how you are perceived by the outside world, than by yourself? Isn’t it more valuable to be a nice person, than to smile in order to make others happy? As soon as we think we reached the bubble it pops and there will be a new standard. It’s a vicious cycle of wanting to be better and better, but deep down we do not set our personal standards, we copy what we see in advertisements.
The Good News
After all, we are still individual people and we can make a difference in this world. We take the sole decision of who we admire and what we want to reach. YOU DECIDE. Standards are good for society because it helps define our culture, but we don’t have to accept them. In the end, it is for us to decide what standard we want to live up to.
By Karin Philippczyk, UN Volunteers
Karin, 23, is a world traveler currently on search of a new travel goal. She is bilingual, having been raised by a German dad and a French mom - also reason for exceptional and unnecessary strict table manners. She is studying International Business Administration.
In her own words: "My friends would describe me as spontaneous, happy and highly organized. These traits are probably a consequence from being a full-time nanny in addition to my studies. I use a calendar meticulously; however, my calendar is my brain, which I carry around like a holy book. Every event/birthday/random appointment will end up in there. I love nights out with friends and reading for hours on rainy days. Additionally, I am a Quarterback on a local American Football Club."
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