22 Entirely Normal Things That Society Treats as Totally Taboo

Open and honest communication about matters of life is the best policy. However, there are many seemingly ordinary things that society treats as taboo. Here are a handful of examples.

1. Discussing Salaries With Coworkers

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How else will you keep the business in line and honest? The idea that employees shouldn’t discuss wages is their best defense against paying everyone a fair and equal wage. Not talking about it benefits them, not you.

2. Paying Transparent Fair Wages

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Have you seen those job listings that say starting wage $x-$Z? What is that about? Are we selling cars here? I expect to know what you will pay me if I apply for a job. Your tactics set in place for me to undersell myself is insulting. The next time you are asked about your “expected salary,” be sure to reply, “What do you think I’m worth?”

3. Using Anatomical Names for Parts of the Body

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How are the curse words for anatomical parts less taboo than calling them what they are? Did you know clinicians’ consensus is that using the correct anatomical names enhances a child’s body image, confidence, and openness?

It also opens the lines of communication between parents and children, especially if something is going on with those parts or someone is trying to violate them. Equip your children with the words to speak directly (and teach them “NO”).

4. Death With Dignity

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After watching my mother go down quickly in hospice and my father in a dementia care home, I understand how horrible it is to watch someone decline into no quality of life. Death with dignity shouldn’t be taboo, but many still stigmatize it in society today.

5. Talking About Death

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Discussing death is created as taboo, and it shouldn’t be regarding many aspects. People who are dying — their friends and family — may feel a need to discuss death. But people clam up and change subjects when they are uncomfortable.

Also, it’s not unnatural or unreasonable to want to know what happened when you hear of someone dying. Some people have no idea how loved ones, friends, and acquaintances passed on.

I’m not saying go up to the closest person to the deceased and ask them to dictate every detail of their passing. Let’s not be morbid and insensitive. But imagine the compassion and empathy that may exist if people knew they had lost people who took their own lives or overdosed. So many people don’t realize they lost someone that way.

Usually, when you learn of someone’s death, you become overwhelmed and grieve, too. Vague Facebook statuses are the worst. I’ve seen the news of far too many people from rehab. You instantly grieve the people you survived those crucial days with. It’s an unspoken bond.

I will never ask, but not knowing if they relapsed or something else happened is unsettling. It leaves room to make assumptions, which is something I’m not trying to do. People don’t mean to be insensitive. They’re only trying to understand the overwhelming feelings they are sitting with by the news. Not talking about death may make processing, grieving, and healing more difficult.

6. Substance Abuse and Recovery

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Did you get uncomfortable or reserve judgment when I mentioned rehab? It’s not uncommon for people to freeze up when you openly discuss your addiction and recovery.

Many people will immediately change the subject. Others say, “Well, you’re all better now.” Which only indicates they do not understand abuse or recovery at all.

Do you realize these discussions may help more people understand themselves and their loved ones with substance abuse disorders? These conversations may influence some people to decide never to try a substance. They are important discussions but often dismissed as taboo.

7. Admitting When You Were Wrong and Changing Your Mind

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Part of your personal evolution and growth is your ability to admit when you are wrong about something and then change your mind. Somehow, the idea of changing your mind about something is hypocrisy, flip-flopping, or unable to exist. It’s frustrating.

We are living in a very divided world right now. This is due partly to a ton of stubborn people unwilling to step into another person’s shoes to gain a different perspective on what they “already know” because they will never change their minds.

Unfortunately, people act as though their religion, politics, and life philosophy are set in stone. Life experiences are one perspective. But you should also listen to your neighbor. Don’t be dismissive of things because it’s not your experience.

8. Admitting That You Don’t Know Something

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Similarly, admitting that you don’t know something is perfectly OK. Moreover, it’s honest. The notion that because you are an adult, you know everything already prohibits growth. But you’re never meant to stop evolving. Don’t let your ego get in your way.

9. Taking Time to Form Your Opinions

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The idea that you should have an opinion immediately without being fully informed on a matter should be normalized. We live in an age of information (and misinformation), and we all need to slow down and exercise critical thinking. Sit with the information. Process it. Pray about it. Then, you will develop your informed and honest opinion.

10. Cognitive Disabilities and Mental Health

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Cognitive disabilities refer to a broad range of conditions, including intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorders, severe, persistent mental illness, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementias. Discussing these things shouldn’t be taboo.

However, people instantly shut down and make subject changes when you do. Sometimes, even people in your own family. Just because a conversation is uncomfortable doesn’t mean it is unwarranted.

11. Not Wanting or Having Any Children

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Countless women are tired of society pressuring them to have children. Some women do not want kids, but it’s rarely accepted as truth. Men and other women love to tell you that you will change your mind one day. It shouldn’t be so taboo not to want or have children.

12. Regretting Having Children

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On the contrary, admitting you regret having children shouldn’t be taboo. It’s difficult to discuss because talking negatively about parenthood is unacceptable. But a confession of regret isn’t an admittance of not loving your child, and people treat it as such. There are a multitude of life circumstances that may make a parent feel this way.

13. Miscarriages

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Considering one in four pregnancies ends with a miscarriage, it shouldn’t be taboo to discuss openly. Everyone wants to know about your family planning, but nobody wants to discuss how many people suffer through the physical, mental, and emotional turmoil of having a miscarriage. Despite the significant impact, people expect you to act and show up to life and work as if nothing happened.

14. Talking About Periods

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Periods are natural and should be the easiest thing to talk about, but they’re one of the most taboo subjects in the world. Countless women wish men knew more about periods and didn’t shy away like it was a scarlet letter. Making a woman feel gross or insecure about something that is a natural part of being a woman is cruel.

15. Reproductive Health and Sex Education

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Similarly, discussing reproductive health and sex education is often dismissed as taboo or inappropriate. Why? These are necessary life conversations for your health and well-being. They shouldn’t be forbidden.

Parents who believe that not talking about it or telling them not to do it will keep them from doing it are blissfully ignorant. It’s important they understand the physical and mental aspects before being met with the opportunity and acting mindlessly.

16. Liking Things Outside Target Demographics

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From parents who enjoy Bluey to adults who love Disney to Star Wars geeks and Marvel fans — there are many pop culture passions that people judge as taboo or stupid. For example, I loved reading The Hunger Games series, but it’s a young adult series. Twilight is my guilty pleasure and is aimed at young adults. It shouldn’t be taboo for me to appreciate good writing or an interesting story. 

17. Being a Loving Dad in Public

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The number of dads looked at funny in parks or schools for having regular, loving interactions with their kids is unfortunate. Somehow, people immediately entertain worst-case scenarios and ascribe predator motives without knowing anything about the man.

18. Grief

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Have you ever heard someone talk about “Grieving periods?” As if there are only specific measures of time deemed acceptable. Still, some people say things like: “It’s been six months,” dismissing a longer grieving period as unacceptable.

Grief is a strange phenomenon. It can hit you at random moments, at any time, at any place. There is no set time for someone to be “over it.” I appreciate this quote: “Grief is love with no place to go.” Just like unconditional love doesn’t go away, neither does certain grievances.

19. Profanity

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Who decided which words were offensive swear words? Some people dismiss it as scriptural. But nothing in the Bible defines a list of “curse” words. I understand there are generational differences and a time and a place. I wouldn’t walk into church and drop an F-bomb. But only because society has shamed the word. Does God really care?

20. Breastfeeding

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Breasts were made for breastfeeding your baby. Yet, some people treat it as taboo. From openly discussing the topic to publicly engaging in the act, somebody always has something to say about why you shouldn’t do that. That’s what God created them for.

21. Telling Your Friends That You Love Them

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Why do some people reject telling friends that you love them? Especially concerning men. God created us to love one another, and with all the hostile, judgmental, hateful rhetoric in the world, hearing “I love you” from people who mean it goes a long way.

22. Faith

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Why is discussing your faith in God taboo outside of church circles? It shouldn’t be. There have been times when I shared a spiritual experience and received strange looks or dismissive statements like: “I’m not religious.”

What does that have to do with me being open about things like how prayer journaling has helped me? I’m not a lot of things. I’m not car savvy, but I wouldn’t dismiss what you said about cars. I’m not a science expert, but I don’t dismiss science because I don’t understand it.

I’m not talking about thumping someone over the head with a Bible, judging their sins, or trying to convert or condemn them. I’m just sharing what makes me me.

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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and Jesus.