“You can't do that!” or “You can't do it this way!” are sure two sentences everyone got told in their lives at least a couple of times. Although this is most often well-meant advice, it is also complete bollocks. Okay...maybe not for some facts like “You can't grow wings. You just can't do that!”. But there are many moments in life when others tell you you can't do something just because they think you shouldn't do it. There are moments when these people have the best intentions, knowing that their path brought them happiness and they want you to be happy too. But there will be many moments when it's just about social and cultural norms.
1.1 (usually norms) A standard or pattern, especially of social behaviour, that is typical or expected.
1.2 A required standard; a level to be complied with or reached.
Which is directly related to:
1 Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.
Over the last two weeks I had a bunch of conversations about my work or the work of others, their paths in life, what they/I want to do and where everyone of us is heading. What I always came back to was “What makes you happy?”
Fulfilling expectations and social norms are satisfactory because we as humans like to do what other humans do. We want to be accepted into society and we don't want conflict. Disharmony and friction is irritating. It costs precious energy you would rather use for something else. That's why we just move along without current: take the same classes as our friends in school, join a prestigious university or the university our friends are attending, get a decent job, get kids at the appropriate age yada yada yada.
There is nothing wrong with that. Not if that is what you want. It's alright if that makes you happy. But what if this makes you miserable. What if you think “Man, why do I feel so unsatisfied while everybody around me seems so pleased? What's wrong with me, I should be happy!” and unless you have a depression or any other mental health issue, it may just be that this is not making you happy. So why don't you just find out what does? It may be difficult, it may involve getting disappointed and it may require some hard work to get where you want. We got taught that we can't do so much. Young kids are not yet so self-conscious that they know they should be humble, that they know they are not the best or prettiest or fastest kid in the class. They still believe that they can be it someday. We get taught that we should behave according to a social norm. As a grown up, many of us stick to these norms.
Now comes the part which may be depressing, but can also be refreshingly comforting. All these norms, all these social behaviours we got taught which keep us from exploiting our full potential and being content with who we are is: None of this matters. Everybody will die eventually, you and the people who are satisfied living the norm. To be even more radical: In the end the human race will probably go extinct and our planet will explode. It doesn't matter if you lived your life as others expected you to or not. They will not put on your gravestone “And she lived an average, normal life.”.
So why bother? Live your life to the fullest because it's the only one you've got. Don't live as mediocre as possible.