The Social Clock

Lifespan development series continues. Im covering key topics from the lifespan that impact mental health.

You’ve heard of the biological clock, but the social clock also impacts us all. The social clock is a culturally defined timeline for social milestones. Think first job, marriage, having a child, graduating from college, buying a home, retiring, etc.

How is this impactful? The research shows people who fall in line with the social clock have less negative impact than those who don’t. Following the social clock lends to confidence and self-esteem. (It’s all “achievement” based and isn’t real self-worth btw).

What age do you ‘think’ you’re “supposed” to be married? I live in Utah, the state with the lowest marriage age. I REGULARLY hear about the PRESSURE AND SHAME experienced from folks feeling “too old” and single.

What if you don’t hit the social clocks timing? Typically we see this culturally constructed expectation lead to shame, guilt, comparison, depression & anxiety, and feeling like a failure.

This also causes generational disconnect, as social clocks differ between generations and cultures. The “shoulds” hurt us.

The social clock isn’t truth (it’s literally culturally constructed and changes). DO NOT let the comparison determine your value or worthiness.

A key component of longevity and health is resilience and optimism, which I’ll talk about later. Practice mindful acceptance, reflection, and honest evaluation of YOUR PERSONAL life goals. Don’t let the social clock tell you you’re less than. Some things we can control, like applying to jobs or working toward graduation. But that doesn’t guarantee the arbitrary age cutoffs will line up with our particular life circumstances.

The social clock is an issue of privilege and socioeconomic status in so many ways! Purchasing a home? Financial independence? Getting pregnant (which costs a lot of us tens of thousands of dollars on top of reproductive technologies and even getting access based on body size).

The social clock is so narrow. Humans love predictability and control. The social clock isn’t a worth measure, lining up with it doesn’t define you!

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♥️ My Therapy thoughts are for educational purposes only and are not a replacement for a therapeutic relationship or individualized mental health or medical care.

Therapy and tacos for all,

T. Roe