When Social Norms No Longer Feel Normal

There are many societal norms that I questioned even as a young child. I remember the adults in my life complaining about their jobs and asking why they keep doing it. The response was always about money, or ‘that’s the way it is’, or something about how you are not supposed to like your job anyway and that retirement is when you start to enjoy life.

All of those responses created inner conflict for me.

I knew on a deep level that life was not meant to be lived by going to school, getting a job to pay your bills, get married, have kids, retiring and then dying. All of those are great. But it does not apply to everyone and not always in that order. My young, child mind could not see another way when the responses from the adults in my life were always similar.

And it’s either you conform and follow the crowd or you blaze your own trail against what everyone else says.

It is human nature for us to want to fit in, to have a community and family that backs you up. So I went along with it. I went to college, even though I knew that was not my path, and then I applied to jobs after graduation.

I landed some cool jobs. A small television station, and then moved on to a reputable national television station. I met my partner, bought a house, had a baby and then landed a job at a well-known, local mechanical contracting company and was promoted within there.

By all outward appearances, I was successful. Living the dream.

But a storm was brewing within.

That little knowing inside that had told me as a child that life can be anything you make it and that we do not have to follow all of those societal norms was speaking louder and louder.

I started to really listen to that little knowing and realized that I had been building a life that I did not really even want.

The turning point came when my daughter started school. After missing many of her school concerts or award ceremonies and having to comfort her when she came home disappointed that I was not there for her, again, I knew it was time to do something differently.

It came with heavy-heartedness.

I would have to let go of the job I had worked hard for. So much of my identity was tied into that job.

I had to deal with the disappointment that my partner felt to lose my income that was greatly contributing and providing to the family. This created feelings of rejection and failure for me. Why couldn’t I just be happy doing what I, and everyone else, were doing?

I would have to find the courage to do what I did not want to do in my teen and young adult years and venture down a path I had never been on. And potentially lose the support that I desperately wanted from my family and friends or worse yet, be met with naysayers.

I am going to be really honest, and I am going to preface this by saying this was my experience and may not be yours, nor does it have to be.

I decided to leave my job, start my own business (which I was not super clear on at the time), learn tools to be a better mom, and dive even deeper into my own personal development.

It was a much larger undertaking than anyone could have prepared me for.

I went through a couple of phases of depression, a lot of loneliness, my self-confidence plummeted, my relationship was tension-filled for months, and I was more broke than I had ever been in my life. I lost many friends along the way. Some did not support what I was doing and were vocal about it, others were just the natural life progression of people on different paths. All of this still hurt though.

It was messy and dark.

There was a part of me that wanted to run back to the safety, to find a job, to build back our relationship and lifestyle to what it used to be.

As a side note, I want to mention there is absolutely nothing wrong with a job. I am not implying that entrepreneurship is the only way but I am saying that working at a job that doesn’t bring you fulfillment, only for the sake of money, is not necessary.

But there was still that inner space within that kept me moving forward. Inching me closer to where I was aiming.

There is something about living a life true to yourself that keeps a spark lit within you.

When you feel like you are going insane, you find that quiet stillness that says that everything is okay.

A year and a half later, coming out on the other side is incredible. I have full-time work, I do what I love doing, I get to express myself in ways I was ashamed to and I have a strong support network.

What lessons have I learned along the way?

  • Even though everyone around you seems to be doing the same thing, living according to social norms, it is 100% okay for you to desire another way of living.
  • You are the only one that can go after the life you want. You can find support, you can talk to as many people but the one that does the work and shows up for yourself is you.
  • Keep going. There will be challenges, times you may feel like a failure, when nothing seems to be working, but push through those times. Stay firmly planted in who you are and where you are going. Honor where you are at.
  • It’s an evolution. I wish I could say it was a linear path, but there will be ups and downs and many pivots. Allow it to unfold as it does.
  • Be gentle with yourself. When I had no money coming in at all, I beat myself up. I had so much of my worth and identity tied into my job and income that I didn’t know how to be without it. That was the time I needed the most self-compassion and kindness.
  • Find people who lift you higher. You may lose friends along the way… grieve those friendships but know that others will come along and you will wonder how you ever lived without them.
  • Everyone is going through something. I got very caught up in the highlight reel of social media. I thought everyone had it together and there was something wrong with me. But I have also spoken to some very successful entrepreneurs who still share the same struggles but on a different level.
  • Stay present.

I am a much stronger person than I used to be. Of course, I wish the road to get to where I am currently was a lot less bumpy. But I am grateful.

I express gratitude every single day for the courage and strength I found inside to keep going even when it felt like everyone was against me or when everything was failing.

And I want you to know that you can do this too.

Stop conforming and live a life true to you.

It may get messy and dark. It may feel like your whole world is rocked.

But it will be worth it and you deserve to give yourself this opportunity.

What has been your experience? What advice can you give for others in a similar position?

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