20 Social Norms We Secretly Dislike, But Still Follow

We all have things we do not want to do but feel compelled to because of societal expectations. Many of these activities and behaviors people engage in, not out of desire, but because they feel obligated by social norms.

We all have our list of undesired activities. Take a look at some common ones that many of us can relate to.

1. Being Physically Present at Work

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At a time when remote work is becoming more common, many still feel the pressure to be physically present at the office. This is not always necessary and can often lead to wasted time and resources.

It is important to assess whether physical presence is genuinely required for a task or if it can be completed remotely.

2. Participating In Office Politics

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Office politics can be draining and counterproductive, yet many feel obligated to participate to secure their position or gain favor.

Maintaining professional relationships is the norm, but so is setting boundaries and not getting caught up in unnecessary drama.

3. Singing Happy Birthday

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While it may seem trivial, many people dislike singing ‘Happy Birthday’ but do it anyway to avoid appearing rude or unsociable. Remember that it is okay to opt out of activities that make you uncomfortable, even if they seem insignificant.

4. Attending Mandatory Fun Events

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Mandatory fun events like company dinners or team-building activities can often feel forced and inauthentic. While it is important to bond with colleagues, it is also important to recognize when an event is genuinely enjoyable and beneficial or if it is just a box-ticking exercise.

5. Networking

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Networking is often seen as essential for career progression, but it can feel insincere and transactional. Build meaningful relationships rather than collecting business cards for the sake of it.

6. Waking Up Early for Work

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Many people feel obligated to start their workday early, even if they are more productive later in the day. Recognize your own natural rhythm and advocate for a schedule that suits you best.

7. Being Nice to Authority Figures Who Treat You Poorly

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It is common to feel obligated to be respectful and polite to authority figures, even when they treat you poorly. As a human being, you deserve respect and it is okay to set boundaries and stand up for yourself.

8. Wishing People Happy Birthday on Facebook

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Social media can create pressure to publicly acknowledge people’s birthdays, even if you do not have a close relationship with them. The next time you see birthday greetings on an acquaintance’s social media page, remember that genuine relationships are not determined by social media interactions.

9. Building Rectangular Doorways

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While this may seem odd, the norm of building rectangular doorways is an example of how we often follow conventions without questioning them even for practical reasons. Sometimes creativity and thinking critically could lead to unique and fun ideas.

10. Giving Up Your Seat

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While it is polite to offer your seat to someone who may need it more, it is also important to consider your own needs. If you are feeling unwell or particularly tired, it is okay to sit comfortably in your seat.

11. Making Small Talk

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Small talk can often feel forced and insincere, yet many feel obligated to engage in it to appear friendly and sociable. Meaningful conversations are more valuable than superficial ones.

12. Attending Social Events You’re Not Interested In

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There is often pressure to attend social events, even if you are not interested in them or do not enjoy the company of the people attending. Always prioritize your happiness and do not feel obligated to attend events that do not bring you joy.

13. Dressing a Certain Way

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Societal norms often dictate how we should dress, but fashion should not compromise comfort and personal style. It is okay to dress in a way that makes you feel confident and comfortable, even if it does not align with societal expectations.

14. Agreeing with Popular Opinion

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There is often pressure to agree with popular opinion, even if you do not genuinely agree. Think critically and form your own opinions, even if they are unpopular. Do not be afraid to challenge the norms.

15. Eating Foods You Don’t Like

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Sometimes people make you eat certain foods at social events, even if you do not like them. Prioritize your own preferences and dietary needs and not feel obligated to eat something you do not enjoy.

16. Accepting Unwanted Friend Requests

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There is no need to accept friend requests on social media from people you may not have a close relationship with or may not want to share your personal life with. It is okay to be selective about who you connect with online, especially since safety is also a concern.

17. Participating in Gift Exchanges

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Participating in gift exchanges, especially in the workplace, usually happens around the holidays. Nobody wants to be labeled as a Grinch, but remember that it is okay to opt out if it does not bring you joy or if it causes financial stress.

18. Saying ‘Yes’ When You Want to Say ‘No’

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Social expectations often make you agree to requests or invitations, even when you do not want to. Think about your own needs and do not overcommit yourself.

19. Hiding Your Emotions

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Society often encourages us to suppress our emotions, especially negative ones. Sometimes, people will also make you feel ashamed of it. Expressing your emotions is healthy, so seek support when needed.

20. Staying In a Job You Hate

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Staying in a job that you do not enjoy because of financial security or fear of change might eventually become more draining in the long run. Consider if other opportunities may be a better fit.

Understanding Why We Follow Social Norms

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After exploring the societal norms that we often follow despite our personal reservations, it’s crucial to delve into the psychology and sociology behind why we adhere to these norms in the first place.

Scientific research offers some compelling insights into this behavior. Here are some of the theories behind norm following:


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One of the primary reasons people follow norms is through the process of internalization. This means that the norms are ingrained in us through socialization from a young age.

For example, children learn moral conduct rules from their parents and are capable of predicting the cooperativeness of others.

This internalization process can also trigger emotional reactions like guilt or shame, reducing the likelihood of violating norms.

Social & Self-Image

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Another theory suggests that people follow norms to maintain a positive social and self-image. We often want to be seen as fair, honest, or decent by others, which can be beneficial for us in various social interactions.

Social Learning

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This theory takes into account that norms and the degree of norm adherence depend on beliefs about and observations of others.

For instance, in social dilemmas where cooperation is beneficial for the group but costly for the individual, many people are willing to cooperate only when others do. This reveals an essential requirement for individual and collective norm adherence.

Societal norms [1] often dictate our actions, even when they conflict with our personal desires. We all encounter situations where we feel compelled to conform.

Understanding the psychology behind norm adherence can empower us to make more conscious decisions.

Ultimately, it’s important to question the norms we follow, set boundaries, and prioritize our well-being. Remember, it’s okay to challenge societal expectations and live a life that is true to yourself.

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  1. reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/69x9zg/whats_something_you_actually_dont_want_to_do_but/
  2. sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352250X21001494?via%3Dihub

This article was produced and syndicated by Viral Chatter.

Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.