“Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.” (Oscar Wilde)
The title of this blog, I’m sure, would be instigating thoughts in an inquisitive mind due its paradoxical nature. After all, in today’s world, where emancipation has transcended across borders and slavery is outlawed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this ideology does indeed seem a thing of the past (certainly not modern day). And yes, quite literally, it is a thing of the past. But then, a logical person may ask, what then do I mean by “modern day slavery”?
Expectations. Depending on the roots of the expectations, one may find its effects to be motivational or disastrous. When I say roots, what I mean is where the expectations stem from. Expectations, broadly speaking, can be categorized in two distinct forms: internal and external. Internal expectations are basically personal goals that comes into being due to one’s own self. These can be concrete milestones or abstract visions of one’s self. Examples include: dressing up in a certain fashion, incorporating certain behaviour, possessing certain items or other trends that is difficult to pinpoint as an achievement due to the result of a specific action but rather a course of action (trend) resulting from a series of decisions, actions and sometimes habits. On the other hand, external expectations are all the forms mentioned above except, it stems from an external source (not one’s own self). This is the key difference between the two.
Now that we’ve defined the purview of expectations, let’s analyze what the consequences of embodying the different kind of expectations are. Firstly, when a person strictly sets goals and visions for themselves on the basis of their own ideology regarding what the “gold standard” is for them, and then if they achieve the said expectations, it can be fair to say that they have reached the “gold version” of themselves. An ambitious person, typically, would then set another set of standards completely free of external pressure and would then continue to strive to achieve the new bar. And the process repeats. The key takeaway from this process is that, each time, the person satisfies his own wishes, goals, dreams, standards, etc. and not someone else’s.
If we were to take the same analysis as above and apply it to external expectations, we would get a similar (but not the same) process repeating itself. The only difference is that, it won’t be completely cyclical as in the previous case. A fair-minded person, at this point, would argue: how is that a process that repeats itself not be cyclical at the same time? First, let me be clear, I mentioned the phrase “completely cyclical”; by that, I do tacitly imply that in certain perspectives, we could see a cycle, but in other equally valid perspectives, the cycle is lacking. Second, to answer the question, I feel this would be best answered by an analogy describing a natural phenomenon. Water cycle is an natural phenomenon that describes how the water circulates in our environment (evaporation, condensation, precipitation). In every cycle, the 3 steps are constant but taking a closer look, we realize some variations. Easiest to point out is how precipitation is dictated by the external factors. Different external temperature enforces the method of precipitation to vary from a rainfall, to snowfall or even to hail. Analyzing at this level shows that there is not a complete cycle (the phenomena is not identical in all the different cases). Similarly, external expectations originating from different people (peers, parents, teachers, strangers, etc) all have different effects on an individual. At each stage, yes, an individual sets expectations and attempts to meet it but the results are haphazard due to the roots of the expectations. Maybe at one stage, the environment an individual is exposed to has many people excelling in academics (which naturally tends to make the individual focus on academics assuming the person accepts external expectations) and then at a later stage in life, the individual is surrounded by an environment of people who are failing at academics (which naturally tends to make the individual lose focus on academics as that is not perceived as an expectation from the external source). This (incomplete cycle) is critical to understanding how and why an individual who sets expectations from an external source can seem to be aimlessly moving forward in life due to the changing environment surrounding him/her at different stages in their lives.
And consequently, this precise aimlessness deriving from a tendency to continually fulfill others’ expectations is what I mean by “modern day slavery”. One of the definitions of “slave” given by Oxford Dictionaries states: “a person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something”. And this is exactly what is happening when someone is always trying to fulfill others’ expectations; they are being controlled by something (others’ expectations in this case). They are beholden to what others value. They are striving to make others happy. They have lost all self-esteem by not being themselves and trying to be someone who they are not by doing things they particularly would not do. Examples include: someone adopting a dress code because their parents force them to. By adhering to their parents’ expectations, this person kills their own dreams of their own fashion and, unfortunately, this could potentially lead to mental and emotional conflicts. Another example includes: changing the way you behave in order to impress someone. By being beholden or controlled by this person whom the person may be trying to impress ultimately enslaves the individual because every choice they make then is dictated not by their happiness but by an arbitrary person’s expectations. Ultimately, this can equally potentially lead to self-esteem and confidence issues. And from this, we can draw the underlying theme that there is a chance of a detrimental effect on one’s mental health and we, as a society, must be aware of this.
And we, as a society, need to stop this. Some may say that people need to stop judging. But is that really a pragmatic and viable solution? Let us not forget, attempting to stop simple judgments like that is an attempt to limit one’s basic freedom of speech and thought. No, I don’t believe this is the solution. Then, what is? First, we must understand that society will always pass a judgment. But at the same time, we must always remember that their judgment does not define who we are. We are defined by our actions. Not by what some think. Next, we must always put our personal goals and desires above everyone else’s views about us. Nobody else matters when we are trying to be satisfied in life except what we think and what we do. This sounds selfish but it really isn’t. It is the basic effect of understanding that if we want to live a life where we are are satisfied (not others), we need to listen to ourselves; not others. Lastly, a fundamental reminder that if our friends are constantly criticizing us in a negative manner (constructive criticisms should always be welcomed), and it always seems to attack the self-esteem rather than improve the confidence; then we must re-evaluate our peers. Are these the type of people who we want to spend our times with? Are they really the “friends” who are propelling us towards success? Furthermore, please note the change of the pronouns in my last paragraph; I started using we to encourage everyone (including myself) to start positively enacting the principles mentioned above and to put an end to this subtle but potentially adverse phenomenon of “modern day slavery”.
I hope everyone appreciated this piece as an effort by myself to make a positive impact in this world. Feel free to comment/like. Until next time, you might enjoy reading about this fun fact: did you know that our universe is continuously expanding till this day and its estimated rate of expansion currently is 73 km/s at a distance of 30,900,000,000,000,000,000 km away?
 “Slave.” Def. 1.2. Oxford Dictionaries. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 June 2016. <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/slave>.
Image citation: Historical clock. Digital image. A Brief History of Clocks. Gaukartifact, 2013. Web. 22 June 2016. <http://gaukartifact.com/2013/02/28/a-brief-history-of-clocks/>