why and how to break with social convention

So we have just started the new year. In those first few days, you wish everyone a Happy New Year, naturally. But apparently once we’re passed the “Hey, I just met you”-stage, we should be kissing. And this is crazy.

This is just one example where social convention seems to trump personal boundaries. Birthdays are another. My sister said to me the other day she dreaded going to work the next day, because “everyone wants to kiss you” once they know the reason for you bringing cake. This obligation to bring cake being another of these forced conventions.

There is no law stating what you should and shouldn’t do in these situations, they even differ per country or culture. But once you openly express you’d rather not fit into this box, people start eyeing you strangely. “Why not?” or “Don’t be weird!” are common expressions when you say you rather not have people kissing you. And somehow, somewhere, you are led into this guilt trip if you do not bring the much anticipated cake.

Why then, do we put so much pressure on each other, when we are more than capable of doing that for ourselves? I have known my sister baking and decorating until deep in the night to produce a decent birthday cake to bring to work the next day. At work, obviously, too tired to do anything, let alone eat a piece of that damn cake!

These social conventions keep us from speaking up, respecting our own boundaries. These examples may seem trivial, but if we can’t even speak up for ourselves regarding these subjects, how the hell are we supposed to do so for the real big ones?

I would like to end this with a twofold request: 1) If you do not feel comfortable within the social-convention-box, step out and speak up! Practice on “trivial” things if need be. 2) When you see someone stepping out en speaking up, respect their decision and compliment them on their bravery, either openly or privately.

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