MENTAL HEALTH TIPS: Battling the Social Clock

“Clocks slay time…time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.” – William Faulkner

By Counseling Intern, Sarah Trocki

The “social clock” has been described as a timeline of societal norms and cultural expectations throughout the lifespan (Neugarten, 1976). Often, people try to mold their lives to fit these expected norms. A particular timeline has been laid out for us, you go onto college after high school, get your first job, find the love of your life and settle down and so on. We all fall into the trap of believing that we must live by this elusive timeline.

Social media can exacerbate these expectations as we scroll through photos of our peers “perfect” lives. We compare our shortcomings or setbacks to other’s highlight reels. Often, our perception of whether we are “on time” can greatly impact our mental health. If we are ahead of the game, we feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose. On the other hand, if we are not keeping pace with the “social clock,” we find ourselves feeling ostracized or broken as we haven’t met societal expectations. These perceptions can lead to increased anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. So, how do we battle this “social clock” and take back the timeline of our own lives?

Here’s some things to keep in mind:

  1. You aren’t alone! Everyone experiences their own struggles with not meeting the expectations of society.
  2. Not meeting the pace of the clock does NOT equate to failure. The right time for you, does not mean that it is the right time for everyone.
  3. Try to stop comparing yourself to others. It can be difficult, but often it’s the comparisons that contribute to these negative views of ourselves. We are all human which means we are all different!
  4. Take time to self-reflect on what is best for you. Are you financially prepared to go to school or buy a home? Do you have the time to dedicate to a full-time career? Are you ready to give up the freedom you have being single, to be in a relationship? Every person is going to answer questions like these very differently.
  5. Fulfilling societal expectations does not always lead to happiness.

REFERENCE: Neugarten, B. (1976). Adaptation and the life cycle. Counseling Psychologist, 6, 16-20.

Anchorpoint’s family counseling services are here to help during this difficult time. If you or someone you know is struggling with loneliness, anxiety or depression, give us a call at 412-366-1300 or complete our Digital Intake form to take the first step today!