Feeling left behind while all of your friends are off getting married or having kids or getting promoted is no joke! Okay, maybe it’s a joke when it’s in a meme.
But the reality is, this “joke” touches on a phenomenon that causes us to compare ourselves to others. And triggers us to feel inadequate when we aren’t on the same “track” as everyone else in our lives.
And this social phenomenon is called The Social Clock.
So what exactly is The Social Clock?
The social clock is a made up timeline that we impose upon ourselves. We receive subliminal messages that tell us where we should be in our lives. These messages are influenced by what what society deems as “normal.”
So, when thoughts pop up in your head, like you “should be married by 30.” Or you “should have kids by 32.” Or you “should own a house.” It’s because the social clock is taking over your thought process.
Back in my 20s and also my early 30s, the social clock was ticking very loudly in the forefront of my mind. It was not great for my anxiety or my self esteem, to say the least.
I was the friend who was still single while all of my friends from high school and college were getting engaged. And I was the friend who changed career paths and was just starting out when everyone else seemed to be getting promotions.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t really want those things right then and there. One day, sure. But because everyone seemed to have these things by a certain time, while I felt so far from it, made me feel very isolated. And like something was wrong with me.
The narrative that took over my brain was “I’m being left behind.”
But looking back, the more truthful narrative was “I’m carving my own path.”
I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but I think I’m kind of grateful for that nagging social clock! Because it forced me to examine my feelings about where I was in my life, and what I truly wanted.
And I learned I either had to accept those feelings or do something about them. And, admit that maybe some of the expectations I had for my life weren’t actually my expectations, but someone else’s.
Learning to quiet the tick-tock of the social clock will help you to better hear the sound of your own voice.
Over time, I have been able to strip away those mistaken beliefs about the way my life should be, and get in better touch with what it is that I want.
And after years of inner turmoil, mistakes, failures, and roadblocks, I do, for the most part, am living the life that I want.
What feels so good about my life is that it’s just so me. And there is no better feeling in this world than when your life is aligned with who you are.
If you’re feeling pressure to accomplish certain goals by a certain time, I encourage you to explore where that pressure is coming from and why.
You can start by asking yourself:
- What comes up for me when I think about other people who have these things?
- Why is it important for me to have this thing by this time?
- What would it mean if I had these things? What would it mean if I didn’t?
- How do I feel when I think about having or not having this thing by a certain time?
And lastly, I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Carl Jung.
“I am what I choose to become.”
So much of my growth in this area came from talking with my therapist. If this is something that you struggle with, please don’t hesitate to reach out!