Even I find myself falling for social norms.
Social norms suck! I have been thinking a lot lately about how we trap ourselves into certain ways of doing things, ways of being, and just general life. We don’t mean to and often we don’t even know we are trapped and have in some way become a victim of social norming and acceptable behaviour, both of which I have spent my whole life fighting, only to find often that I had succumbed to what life had expected of me.
I don’t like boxes, and I don’t like social norms.
For those who have been around me for a while you will know my journey over the last year and how much I struggled with the life I had created for myself, or should I say the business I had created for myself. I had tried for too long to grow something I was no longer passionate about, an idea that had gone on too long. I wrote at length about how I hated having to come up with a title for myself and why being an expert sucked. And then I shocked everyone by declaring I was just dropping everything I had worked my life to discover what I loved again. It was hard, it was tricky but I realized I had trapped myself into a box that was expected of me by the media and other professionals, people wanting to hire me, etc. I had so many problems with all the business advice which tells you to find out what your audience likes and give it to them. I mean what if you don’t want to give them what they want? I also have a hatred for the word and expert, because while I know it works for some, most of us are so much more complex that any expertise or niche can accommodate.
IF I DON’T MAKE SENSE, SO WHAT?
People want to constantly put us in boxes to make sense of us, to understand us more, but actually we don’t really need to be understood and if we don’t make sense to them, so what?
Over the last month, I have found myself trapped again and as I started to deconstruct how I even got here yet again it became so clear how social norming works.
So let me share my Instagram journey with you as I think it shows this perfectly.
About 18 months ago I knew nothing about Instagram and I wanted to, I could see the value of this platform, particularly for my daughter, so I wanted to understand it more. I took courses, I delved in and I watched. Just like we all do when we go or take part in something new, we watch the people around us to show us how it works, to show what the rules are in the place, the norms that people stick to, so I did that. What I saw was pretty bright pictures, particularly of flowers, and flatlays did well so I started off on my journey to learn how to do this. 18 months later and I can produce a brilliant flatlay, take great pictures of flowers and can when pushed produce creativity to boot. I helped grow my daughter’s account and put most of my efforts there, really breaking the mould of the community she was in and loved every minute of it. Now her account is growing, we know what her aesthetic is and we pretty much have it nailed, so it takes less headspace.
Meanwhile, I’m still putting flowers in teacups and not really knowing why.
What the hell was I doing
I then turned my attention to my own account and while pretty, what the hell was I doing? Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m anything but pretty flowers and teacups; I’m gritty, gutsy, challenging, provocative, all mixed with a side of youthful crazy, Yet my account was just like every other account and didn’t really match the real-life experience of me, although I am partial to a little 1950’s twee and teacups.
It wasn’t me at all; there was no sense of my deep thinking, my bias busting, or my rebellious nature. I had like most of us so easily do, fallen into line. Without even knowing it I had conformed to unspoken, unwritten rules just by following everyone else. I had fallen victim to social norming and I didn’t like it.
But I did giggle a little at how easy it was even for me (who prides herself in causing a stir and not going with the flow) had fallen in line behind every other pretty teacup, and there is nothing wrong with pretty teacups if they are your thing.
I’M REFUSING TO PLAY
So here I am, noticing where I am, refusing to play anymore and not sure where I will be going, but feeling a need to express all these thoughts, feelings, and what stirs in my soul through visual representation. Who knows where this will lead, but I for one am so glad I caught myself, perhaps a little later than I should have but who’s counting? 😊
Even I seem to be affected by social norms and that is truly shocking.