Breaking Social Norms

We may not intentionally conform to the ways of our society but it is obvious that these rules give us some order and predictability to our lives. The reactions from others help control the behavior of people in society. Sanctions, which are reward or punishment for following or deviating from custom behavior, are critical in keeping people operating on standard behavior. It could be as simple as an accepting smile or a shake of the head. This is a system of social control, which is the various means by which the members of a society encourage conformity to norms.

As we learn the norms of our culture and society we also gain the capacity to evaluate our own behavior; such as by doing something wrong can lead to the feelings of either shame or guilt. These are also elements that help control the behavior of a society and bring balance into a culture. It was difficult at first to decide which norm in our society I wanted to violate. Then unfortunately I injured my knee in a volleyball match and this limited me even more in my choices for violations. However, the more I thought about it I saw that I could use my misfortuneto my advantage. Walking around on crutches for a weekend I obviously already stuck out in the crowd, but I wanted to do something a little different. If I got rid of my crutches and did not have to walk around I would look like any normal healthy athletic individual. This then brought me to Pick N Save.

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I could not shop around the store with my crutches and carry all my groceries, so I hopped onto one of the handicapped shopping cart scooter. Typically in our society the elderly, handicapped, or physically impaired often need the aid of a motorized cart to assist them at a shopping center while shopping for groceries.Since this group of people is usually older, our society has come to accept seeing the elderly use these types of motorized carts for assistance. However, when a young healthy individual uses the aid of a cart society does not expect this and some people will even frown and look down on the young person driving the cart. People in our society do not like to see others take advantage of situations when they are very capable of managing on their own.

For example it is like seeing a person park in a handicapped space in front of the store and then very spiritedly and healthily walk inside. We do not know for sure why this person is parking there but from what we see they are very capable of making the walk into the store.Just as it appears that the person parking in the handicapped space does not need a handicapped permit at all, it definitely appears that I do not need to be driving around a handicapped cart at our local Pick N Save. With this experience I was violating the norm in our society that it is wrong to take advantage of a situation especially when that person is physically able to accomplish the task without extra assistance. Driving around in the handicapped scooter at Pick N Save was an experience I will not forget for a while. I was a little embarrassed at first to be climbing onto a motorized cart because just as most of our society I associate their carts with the elderly. Also first starting to use the cart I did not know what I was doing and did not know how to operate the machine. With a few jolting starts, stops, and crazy turns, though, I was on a roll, literally.

 zigzagged back and forth through Pick N Save. I was surprised to see that none of the store clerks or managers questioned my riding the scooter. By doing this act I could have caused people to conform to what I was doing and go against the norms of not riding the scooters and saving them for those who need them, if one person saw me doing it, other people may think it is ok for them as well. Although I am not paralyzed but was injured I did feel guilty while doing the act. I do not believe I was completely in the wrong for using the scooter and believe in situations like mine it is ok to use them but I do believe that first and foremost these scooters should be reserved for only handicapped and paralyzed store patrons.After I concluded my deviant act I left the store promptly. Engaging in a behavior that lasted no longer than 20 minutes I no longer wanted to be seen.

I wanted people to forget and I hoped no one I know saw me or that anyone will remember me behaving that way. It is amazing just how acutely distressed I felt. I sensed other’s disapproval of my actions even if they did not make contact with me, but also noted that I also disapproved of my actions. That internal disapproval is very powerful. I realized from as early as I can remember wanting to do well, to receive praise from my teachers, and parents and peers. I remember feeling ashamed, and embarrassed when I did something others didn’t approve of.

I also remember how hard I tried and still do try, to do well in my efforts. I don’t think that will ever change because I am driven by an internal force and society reinforces my behavior by encouraging these attitudes.