How should we live for ourselves though we exist in a society?

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Have you ever thought about the potential contradictions that we might face almost everyday since we are living as an individual in a collected society? One simple example to illustrate this is the fact that many of us face differences in what we want to achieve and what we are expected to achieve. Some of these differences could arise from the expectations of our parents and family members. If you are raised in an “educated” family, there tends to be tendency for others to assume that you are “educated” yourself. The unfortunate fact is what if your background isn’t that great, then the expectations of you (or might I say the prejudice) might not have desirable outcomes and could even influence a young mind in the wrong direction. So how could we still live for ourselves and stay satisfied, or better, happy with our life?

1 — Understand that you always have a choice

Despite the expectations of us, you should keep in mind that you have control over yourself and you will always have a choice. Even if the consequences of a choice might be different and, sometimes, detrimental to relationships. You have a choice to choose what matters the most to you. That said, I believe that there is not right or wrong choice. Given that all of us have different priorities at different stages of our life, there is no one who can make a choice which everyone can understand and accept. You bound to meet people around you saying that you have made the “wrong” choice. There could even be mean ones who said you are made a “stupid” choice. To me, as long as you have thought it through and choose what you think its best and give it a try — nothing is wrong or stupid. After all, life in itself is an experiment and a learning journey.

2 — The good for the “collected” may not always be the same for “individual”

We faced these situations so often. It is so common that some of us might not even notice it. During schooling day, how many of us wanted to speak to our classroom about something important during class but was told to “be quiet” for the sake of the class. In Japan, I noticed that the collected needs are often prioritized before the individual in the workplace or even in public transportation. People tend to think about others first than themselves. Yes, these may be a result of cultural and societal norms. It could also be a result of regulations and laws in critical times like now given the COVID-19 outbreak such as the mandated mask wearing regulation imposed to all citizens across many countries around the globe.

It could be difficult for us to see the needs of the collected due to the lack of information, exposure, experience and more. Each of us, we faced constraints when making a decisions. Often, these decisions are just our “best guess”. Moreover, many of us are not in privileged position where we have all the necessary information that centralized authorities could have. Without these, we can’t really see the need to oppose certain rules and regulation in order to maximize the utility of the collected people instead of an individual. As long as we are living in a society, we are bound to experience this. For me, I have long accepted that there is no such thing as “fairness” as long as a society exists. We could move towards the ideal state of “fairness” but never really achieve it in the end. Hence, accepting some facts that we are unable to change is important while we live in a collected society.

3 — Strike a balance between expectation and aspiration

All I can say is that it is impossible to remove “expectation” of others from the equation. We live and interact with others all the time. Unless we are prepared to live with nature, expectations of others will continue to haunt us no matter where we are and where we go.

Since there is no way to eliminate, we need to think of a way to balance our aspiration and others’ expectation whenever it make sense to. For instance, it makes sense for employers and bosses to have certain expectations on us as long as we are working in the organization. We may have what we wanted to achieve but we need to balance with their expectations and what they would like us to achieve for them. After all, they are the ones who pay us. Yes, there could even be occasions where the expectations of your boss and your manager are drastically different (due to their respective agenda). All we need to do is think it through and balance their expectations with what we intend to achieve (e.g., job stability, gaining experience, learning opportunities, stable income). If we really want something else, we still have the choice of “walking away from them” and “towards our aspirations” if the circumstances that we are in are desirable. No pain, no gain.

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