Updated: Jan 5, 2021
Our personalities are shaped by many things, ranging from our DNA, our environment, the way our brain works, different experiences we encounter throughout our lifespan, and very importantly the people who surround us. From the moment our personality development process begins, we learn how to interact, behave, and act from the people around us. These people who surround us are our parents, grandparents, friends, relatives, teachers, partners, and many others who we encounter throughout our lifespan.If I were to term all the aforementioned people as a group, I would choose the word society. Society is the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community. From the time of mountain men, people have been living as a society, regardless of whether it be in huge gatherings of individuals, or as a family.
With time and new developments in our lives, social norms were introduced in society, social norms are the unwritten rules of behavior that are considered acceptable in a group or society. Norms function to provide order and predictability in society. These norms serve many purposes like they help guide and direct our behavior, provide order and predictability in social relationships, and to make sense of and understand each other's actions. .For example, let’s take gender-specific norms, There are certain norms expected for each gender that have existed for a long time. While these are examples of norms that have changed over time and are still changing, they still persist in many communities. A simple and rather common one could be that Men should do repairs at the house and be the ones to work and make money while women are expected to take care of the housework and children. Society has expected certain tasks from both these genders and in order to “maintain” society, they fulfill these tasks. Unfortunately, these social norms have cultivated and transformed into stereotypes that are to this date used to describe one another. This exact norm has made it extremely difficult for women to work and for men to not. Many people go on believing these norms to be peremptory and do not question the existence of these norms, they’re even passed on from one generation to another.
This has made, as antecedently established almost impossible for others to break this cycle along with strict belief systems, factors like fear of judgment, lack of self-acceptance, and support from others plays a massive role as well. The deep-rooted fear of being judged by society is the principal hindrance that one faces while stepping out of society’s box. Another instance where one seeks to be themselves but can't due to society’s abominable ability to overcome xenophobia is accepting one’s body. Let’s take beauty standards set for women to fulfill as an example. Beauty standards set by society have not only undermined women‟s self-worth but also pressured them to conform to the beauty practices of femininity in the attempt to emulate the ideal images of womanhood presented by media and society. When a woman ignores or fails to conform to the alleged standards of the ideal beauty, she is not only vulnerable to becoming an outcast from normality, desirability, and femininity but also she is blamed for resisting societal influences by accepting her body instead of changing it to fit the beauty ideal. Females have historically attempted to change their bodies to conform to a particular era‟s beauty ideal.
From the Rubenesque voluptuous body of the 1600s to the modern waif-like slender body, It is believed that the idealization of the woman‟s body is due to the “outcome of successful marketing” which plays a role in the standard of cultural beauty in Western and affluent societies. Therefore, a woman‟s body is not just perceived as an object but also is expected to undergo “constant self-surveillance and disciplinary practices” in the pursuit of the „perfect‟ body, ideals regarding beauty vary between societies and cultures as well as groups within a society such as “ideals for height, body shape, facial parts, hairstyles and skin tone”. For example, plumpness is a symbol of beauty and fertility in African and Eastern cultures where a plus-sized, usually big-boned and curvaceous, wife symbolized a happy and successful husband. Whereas, plumpness is considered un-ideal and symbolizes the lack of willpower in the Western culture which prides on smaller figures, slenderness in the Western norm represents social success, happiness, and social acceptability
From this I can go forward to conclude that society is contradictory, it simply cannot get itself to agree with itself. It expects you to be smart but don't be a smartass, be physically strong if you’re a man, be emotionally strong if you’re a woman, be good looking but only for others to appreciate because appreciating yourself will make you a narcissist, you need to be skinny but also be curvy in all the right places, nice but not a pushover, confident but not cocky. This but not too much or less or none or all. Society craves perfection, nay it craves the illusion of perfection. Its expectations from us have in a way plagued us, it’s vision has made its way to our eyes. We see ourselves through society’s eyes, that is why we feel we’re not good enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough, or nice enough. It makes us feel incompetent, incomplete, and invisible at times. But we need to resist this method to our madness, with time we too shall move forward, we too shall learn to accept each other and more importantly ourselves.
1. Harvey, Alexis. “Battling to Accept Our Bodies in a Toxic Society.” The Orion, 28 February 2020.
2. Mcleod, Saul. “Social Roles.” Social Roles and Social Norms: Simply Psychology, 1 January 1970.
3. Foo, Samantha."The Beauty Trap: How the pressure to conform to society’s and media’s standards of beauty leave women experiencing body dissatisfaction" Core UK, 2010.