Have you heard about the big strong man? The one who doesn’t cry, provides for his family, keeps his head down and works hard. But deep down he has fears and doubts, and in many ways would like a break and maybe talk to someone about what he is going through. But he can’t. Society says he can’t. He is trapped.
What about the little boy who should be ‘seen but not heard’? Or is told that he ‘shouldn’t speak until he is spoken to’? However, behind the silence is a boy who wants to scream out his opinions and ideas. But over time he learns to suppress them, and not express them. Because that’s what he has learned makes him a ‘good boy’.
Or the young girl who is so sick of watching movies and reading fairy-tales about how the male hero rescues the princess? Or from a very young age she is told how to act and how to play, and has been digesting schoolyard language such as ‘you throw like a girl’ or ‘girls don’t behave like that’. This girl really wants to run out into the yard and smash it, and play as hard as the boys. Here is a 3 minute video released by feminine products company ‘Always’ that shows how society has painted a picture of how girls are, and it has become second nature to us.
As people, we are shaped by the environment and relationships that surround us from a very young age. From before we can speak, we know how to interact. We know what earns us praise, get us attention and recognition. On a more extreme scale we learn quickly what gets us love, or food or shelter. All the while a script is formed that we follow seamlessly. Soon we don’t even have to glance down and turn the page. We are living the life that society has laid out for us.
As a Counsellor we see this on a daily basis. Men and women, boys and girls of all ages, and increasingly teenagers are laden down with the expectations that society has placed upon them. ‘Success’ seems to come in very superficial ways. How is my career going, how much did I earn this year, am I in a relationship, how many CAO points do I need, what will people think of me? Its not to say that these things are not important, but they can pave over people like concrete to the extent that they haven’t taken the time to ask themselves ‘why do I behave like I do’, or ‘why do I think like I do’. What makes we happy?
What scripts are you following? What expectations are you trying to live up to? One of the most fantastic things about counselling is that it offers a place for people to ask themselves these questions? And the Counsellor’s role is not to answer the questions but to guide people while they find the answers out for themselves. The judgement that is experienced in the outside world is not present in the counselling room. And it reinforces the message to both the Counsellor and the client that comparing ourselves to others is not helpful in most situations, and trying to live up to societies expectations is never helpful at all.
Start writing your own script. Princesses can be warriors, and the big strong man cries too.
The article is written by Noel, Low Cost Counsellor at The DMC Clinic. If you would like to discuss how any of the topics mentioned above are impacting your mental health, please contact The DMC Clinic to arrange an appointment.