Growing up most of us get asked a well-intentioned but somewhat silly question by adults: What do you want to be when you grow up? Really! How is a 10-year old supposed to really know what they want to become at that stage of their life unless they are a genius? The Irony of that question is that most adults are still trying to figure out what they want to do with their adult life but they expect a 10-year-old to answer the question.
Young children answer the question with much self-assuredness and confidence, believing that anything is possible. They come up with answers such as I want to become an astronaut, engineer, medical doctor, lawyer, footballer, or basketballer. They answer the question based on their mental conditioning, media programming, societal indoctrination, religious dogma, and most importantly they aspire to be like their parents, caregivers, teachers, and their environmental definition of success, prestige, and honor.
From a very early age, we aspire to become what our parents expect us to be. Sometimes our parents live their lives through us, they want us to do well and conform to the dictates of the herd, the group, and the society. The challenge most of the time is that we live the role self instead of following our bliss to find our true north or true self. The result is a life lived in apprehension, anxiety, fear, obligation, shoulds, musts, guilt, shame, and conformity. Based on our answer to the “What do you want to become when you grow up question? We try very hard in adolescence to be consistent with that answer, even when the reality is now different. We continue to want to become a lawyer even though, we are a not passionate about the profession.
At every stage of our lives we make decisions that will profoundly influence the lives of the people we’re going to become, and then when we become those people, we’re not always thrilled with the decisions we made
So young people pay good money to get tattoos removed that teenagers paid good money to get. Middle-aged people rushed to divorce people who young adults rushed to marry. Older adults work hard to lose what middle-aged adults worked hard to gain. On and on and on.
The question is, as a psychologist, that fascinates me is, why do we make decisions that our future selves so often regret?” –Daniel Gilbert, Harvard Psychologist
We get sucked into the societal lies that we are here to just pay bills, drop two or 3 kids, pay a mortgage for 25 years, save for your retirement till 65, by which time you would be dealing with health-related issues. We slave our youth in the rat race of life, busy paying bills, working in jobs that are not fulfilling for us and we settle for less than we can become. We continuously put on the mask, play the role expected by our family, society, religion, and the world at large. We are afraid of becoming the black sheep, scapegoat hence we lack the courage to live life on our own terms. We settle and do not follow or explore our passions and inclination to become great.
“The trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” – Lily Tomlin.
In our bid to live up to the expectations and obligations of the world around us. We use the mask as a coping mechanism: we pretend, lie, mask, create a persona, project, gaslight, fake it, and we do not show our vulnerabilities and weaknesses. We want to fit in with the crowd, the peer and societal pressure are very strong, hence we conform and settle for less than we can become. We project an aura of perfectionism based on the fear of failure in the world.