In Western societies the levels of fulfillment that individuals feel are greatly limited by advertisement and social conditioning. Both of these factors show how society limits our happiness and can lead to low self-esteem, self-sabotage, and a continuous yearning for more.
Chasing Pleasurable Experiences:
For a second I’d like you to use your imagination. I’d like you to imagine that at this very moment, you are visiting Time Square for the first time. The billboards are glistening, there is a buzz in the air, beautiful people are walking in every direction, and the levels of excitement that you feel remind you of Christmas morning when you were a child.
Your mind starts to wander as you see a Budweiser video run across one of the electronic screens with stunningly good-looking people drinking Budweiser and enjoying the time of their lives. “That looks awesome,” you say to yourself before turning your head to see a different Ad with a Calvin Klein underwear model who has the perfect physic and you tell yourself, “Maybe I should buy some of those.” As you scan the various Ads in Time Square, your senses are lit up and your mind runs wild with thoughts of potential exhilaration in your near future.
From the time you are a child until this very day, you have been the subject of a conditioning process, conducted by advertisers, that aims to link pleasurable experiences with particular products. While this is not breaking news, we oftentimes forget to truly realize how we have been trapped in a game of chasing pleasure and avoiding pain.
This game, of constantly seeking new pleasurable experiences, is a problem in its own right and can begin to show us why so many citizens feel unfulfilled with their lives. When you take this into account and consider how much of society base their actions on ideals and norms, it is all too apparent to see that a large portion of our dissatisfaction with life stems from the environments we grow up in.
How Ideals and Norms Limit Us:
When you think about how society and advertisements cause us to feel discontented with life, you can observe how ‘ideals,’ that we are all supposed to aim for, have been imprinted in our minds. The celebrity has the ‘ideal life’ or the ‘ideal partner,’ and the supermodel has ‘the ideal body.’ These ideals are ingrained into our minds through TV, tabloids, advertisement, and the Internet. Seeing what these people have, and look like, makes us feel like our current situation and circumstances are not good enough. For many people, this can often result in low self-esteem or self-sabotage.
For example, a teenage girl, who is a few pounds overweight, is constantly subjected to images of superimposed supermodels who are un-humanly skinny and beautiful. Unfortunately, this teenage girl doesn’t realize that 99% of people don’t look like that and the images they are seeing have been altered through computer programs. Frequently, young girls in this situation come to falsely believe that they are not good enough, that they aren’t deserving of love, and they shouldn’t be accepted by their peers. This is obviously bad, but the situation can turn much worse when the girl begins to do everything necessary to become that supermodel even if it means self-mutilation.
This societal ideal is one example of how our behaviors are oftentimes dictated by outer sources but it certainly isn’t the only one. We can also analyze how the vast majority of people in Western countries do things because it is ‘what people my age are supposed to be doing.’
The divorce statistics in the United States clearly show this reality. It is estimated that a staggering 45% to 50% of first marriages end in divorce, which is often the result of young kids thinking that ‘this is what people my age do.’ Individuals falsely believe that marriage is their only option or else they will be doomed to loneliness.
Likewise, our career paths are oftentimes chosen by what is perceived as a ‘cool job’ or what jobs will bring us the greatest financial benefit. A big bank account is valued by our society, but the reality is that a big bank account doesn’t equate to happiness. Too often we conform to the norm because ‘we are supposed to be doing these things,’ and don’t even realize why we feel unfulfilled and dissatisfied.
Be Weary of How Society Limits Our Happiness:
Societal ideals and norms both obviously play a part in our constant yearning for more, but these are not the only things that contribute to these feelings. Advertisers are all too good at making us believe that the levels of fulfillment that we are searching for can be finally had through their products. The billboards in Time Square clearly show this.
The truth is that our levels of dissatisfaction, as a society, stem from the beliefs that we have formed around these ideals, norms, and advertisement pitches. However, there are plenty of examples that show how these things WILL NOT lead to happiness and fulfillment. Just think about how many celebrities struggle with addiction, depression, and failed marriages.
Start Searching Within:
If you want to increase the levels of fulfillment that you have, one of the first things that you can do is to open your eyes and start looking at how your actions are oftentimes dictated by society and advertisements. There is nothing wrong with getting married at a young age or becoming the CEO of a Fortune 500 company if that is what you truly want, but don’t let your life path be determined by others.
To reach new and increasing levels of happiness you need to start basing your actions on what you actually think is important and beneficial for you. Don’t stay in a relationship because you are scared to be alone, don’t keep working at a well-paying job when you despise the work, and don’t abuse yourself physically because you aren’t pretty or skinny enough.
Now is the time to take the societal blinders off and start acting in ways that bring us true and lasting happiness. I challenge you to look deep within yourself each and every day to figure out the types of relationships, jobs, exercise routines, food choices, and personal hobbies that will make you happy. When you do this and listen to the answers of your heart, you will be on your way to true fulfillment.
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