If you believe in these 8 societal myths, you’re setting yourself up for a life of frustration

There are societal rules we just accept to be true, and rarely question their veracity. We’re taught certain principles that are considered as true or inevitable and we just pretty much shrug our shoulders and accept it.

Why? 

Because we trust the sources we hear it from instead of our own judgment. There may be a bit of laziness thrown in as well. I know this to be true in my case, anyway.

For a lot of people, it’s because questioning authority would never cross their minds. 

Those in power count on us behaving this way, and we never let them down, because change is hard and the truth is scary. 

Let’s take a look at some of the societal myths we’re taught, and why we’d be wise to challenge them.

1) Happiness is our natural state

Have you heard the one about how human beings are naturally happy?

I’ve got to wonder about that assertion, as one out of ten adults will attempt suicide, and one in five will suffer from depression.

Wait! It gets better. 

Statistics show that there’s a 30% chance that you’ll develop a psychiatric disorder during some stage of your life.

That doesn’t sound like hardwired happiness to me.

And once you add all the misery caused by factors that are not classified as psychiatric disorders in and of themselves like loneliness, work stress, relationship issues, social isolation, low self-esteem, and having no discernable purpose in life…

…you start to finally realize just how rare happiness really is for most people. 

But, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, most people believe that everyone else is deliriously happy except for them.

This ingrained belief creates even more unhappiness. You’re comparing yourself to people who outwardly appear happy but are actually struggling as much as you are.

Go figure. 

2) Bad feelings bad

We live in a superficial feel-good culture obsessed with pursuing happiness. So naturally, we go out of our way to eliminate ‘negative’ feelings. 

On the surface, it would seem to make sense. I mean, who wants to deal with negative feelings? But here’s the catch (and there’s always a catch), the things we value most tend to elicit a wide range of emotions, both positive and negative.

During an intimate long-term relationship, you will experience love, contentment, and joy. But you will also endure disappointment, hurt, and frustration. Two sides, one coin.

There is no such thing as the perfect relationship no matter what the TV tells you. It’s inevitable that conflicts of interest will occur.

And it’s the same deal for almost every important life journey we embark on. We must accept that along with excitement and happiness comes stress and anxiety.

3) You should be able to control your emotions

Would have. Could have. Should have.

Here’s a hard truth. We have far less control over our feelings than we think. 

Now, we are certainly not powerless over our emotions, we just have less control over them than some ‘experts’ have led us to believe. 

The good thing is that we have far more control over our actions. Through taking action, you can create a rich and full life that’s meaningful to you. Sounds easy, but most often it isn’t. It’s worth it, but it’s work. 

To achieve happiness, we’re told all we have to do is banish the negative self-talk and use visualization to conjure the life we desire. 

It would be awesome if life were that simple. But unfortunately, it’s not, and no amount of positive affirmations will change that fact. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. These techniques aren’t completely without merit in the short term. But over the long haul, ‘love and light’ won’t cut it. 

You may already have invested a great deal of effort attempting to squash negative feelings to make room for positive ones. And you may have found that as long as you’re in a good place to start with, you could probably pull it off. 

You’ve probably also figured out that the higher your distress level is, the less capable you are of controlling your emotions. Then you feel like a failure when your efforts to control your thoughts and feelings are for naught.

Don’t fall for it! 

4) Hard work guarantees success

Since capitalism is king, the ‘work hard and you’ll succeed’ propaganda is spoon-fed from one generation to the next.

This patently untrue fairytale is beloved by those who romanticize working themselves to the bone and act like sacrificing their lives for some corporate entity is a flex.

How sad. 

The concept is marketed as rugged individualism. But did you notice this garbage is usually uttered by those looking down from the top of the food chain? Oversimplification of this kind is harmful. We don’t all enter the workforce on a level playing field. 

So, asserting that success is inevitable if you work hard enough is setting most people up for a vicious psychological cycle. They’ll blame themselves for not getting noticed by some middle management drone. 

So they work even harder, perpetuating the cycle until they finally burn out.

The false belief that more elbow grease will eventually pay off has damaged an untold number of worker bees. Hard work isn’t going to eliminate deliberate and systemic roadblocks designed to fill workplaces with people who all look and speak the same way. 

Most people who are successful had a head start over the rest of us poor slobs, and that’s a fact.

5) Work like you haven’t got kids and mother like you don’t have a job 

No. As a woman, I flat-out reject this toxic Superwoman notion. They sold it to a generation as “having it all,” but most didn’t realize “all” meant all the responsibilities you have now and a full-time job on top of that. 

So women are shamed for being stay-at-moms and reviled for being career women, but I’m not seeing any systems put in place to help mothers find a sweet spot that everyone can live with.

Mothers deserve flexible schedules and not being shamed for staying home with a sick kid. We need to assert that staying home with your children is most indeed ‘work.’

Because no one can be everything for everybody, not even Mom.

6) If you’re not happy, something’s wrong with you

Most people assume that emotional suffering is an abnormal state. Not true. It’s a universal part of the human experience. 

But, thanks to societal conditioning, when we experience painful thoughts and feelings (it’s inevitable), we’re apt to blame ourselves for being stupid or inadequate.

Mental illness is seen by far too many as weakness and the product of a defective mind. It’s even considered a character flaw or moral failing by those lucky enough not to know.

7) Depression is normal in older adults

As some people grow older, they may find themselves feeling isolated and alone. This can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and sadness.

Even though these feelings happen far too often, depression is most definitely not an inevitable part of the aging process.

Growing older can have many emotional benefits as well if you’re lucky, such as relationships with family and friends plus a lifetime full of memories and funny anecdotes.

In fact, studies reveal that seniors are actually less prone to depression than young adults are. 

It’s important to remember that depressed older adults may have less obvious symptoms than their younger counterparts. They’re also less likely to discuss their feelings or ask for help, so keep an eye on your senior loved ones. 

Just remember that depression and aging aren’t a package deal. 

8) You need less sleep as you age

As people grow older, they may have a harder time falling and staying asleep. In my experience, this is 100% true.

When I was in my early 40s, I remember telling my mother that I was having a hard time sleeping, a problem I’d never experienced before. My mother, who never pulled any punches, said, “You’ll rarely if ever see a full, unbroken night’s sleep ever again.”

And she was right.

The worst part is that people seem to think that a person’s need for sleep declines as you age. 

Not true. Older adults need the same amount of sleep as all adults, 7 to 9 hours nightly. 

Regular, restful sleep vastly improves your mental well-being. Who doesn’t feel great after a good sleep? But as you age, remember that just because sleep is harder to get doesn’t mean that you need it less. 

Final thoughts

I’ve barely scratched the surface here. There are so many half-truths and outright lies most people accept as words to live by, but hey, these are a good start. 

Question everything. It’s your best defense in this crazy world.

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