Why Respecting Different Lifestyles Is So Important

Recently, while scrolling through my Twitter feed and trying to avoid my responsibilities (as per usual), a Tweet by user @hakeypham stood out to me and inspired me to write this article. The tweet reads: 

Courtesy of Jordan Kadish

​I, as well as many others (according to the comment section), instantly felt a sense of relief after reading this tweet. Whether it is a constant occurrence or not, I think we can all agree that we have doubted our lifestyle decisions or felt that we were “behind” in life compared to others. 

There seems to be a set timeline that is ideal: move out at 18, go to a prestigious university, start your perfect career right after, get married around 27, have kids about 2 years after, move into a beautiful home that looks like it came right out of a magazine, so on and so forth. The fact of the matter, which most of us know, is that this life “plan” is simply not doable for most of us. The problem is, many feel constant shame for not being able to follow this path, and compare themselves to the few people who are (seemingly) living this perfect life. 

If you feel like this, you are not alone. I have definitely felt this way many times in my life, and though it may not seem like it, I’m sure that many of these “perfect” people with “perfect” lives also share these same feelings. These feelings stem from a lack of gratitude for what you do have/are able to do at this point in your life, and, of course, comparison to unrealistic expectations.

My past discontents always stemmed from comparing myself to my friends’ supposedly fun and adventurous lives. When sharing stories of what we did over the summer, I felt deep-rooted jealousy in their privileges to travel the world and visit places I could only ever dream of going. Meanwhile, I was in my hometown most summers, working. Something that did not help with my feelings of inadequacy were questions resembling: 

“Why don’t you travel more?” “Don’t you get bored of just working?” “I could never just work all summer and stay in New Jersey. How can you stand it?” 

Whether they were asked with malicious intent or not, these questions made me feel even worse. I felt like the people I surrounded myself with could not understand that my lifestyle was just a bit different than theirs.

I think it’s important for us as a society to relearn a way of respecting how different everyone’s lives are, and how we all have no idea what people are going through, which may as well be the reason for these differences. It is no secret that many students are scared to attend community college, or even a less prestigious university than what is expected of us. I’m sure a lot of TCNJ students can relate to the look of disappointment we are sometimes given when we say that we go to college in-state, or that we go home some weekends and do not live the “classic college experience.” I’m also sure that some of us may be the ones giving out those same looks when someone reports that they go to a community college 5 minutes away from their house, or don’t go to college at all. 

Humans are inherently judgemental. It’s just the way we are. So, it takes effort in everyone to rewire judgment into acceptance. Ask yourself, “Why do I feel the need to question their lifestyle?” when you find yourself feeling judgemental. If more people practiced this type of self-talk, there would surely be fewer feelings of inadequacy or less of a perceived norm for how one should live their life.

Being able to spread acceptance and congratulate people on their lifestyles, no matter how different from yours or the “norm” they are, will make people feel more positive and loved on both ends of the interaction.