I have been wanting to write this blog about expectations for the past month. I have felt the pressure to finish it because it has been a month since I’ve posted my last blog. With my priorities shifting in the past few months, my goal was to post a blog every two weeks. However, there has been a lot of unexpected events happening recently which has made it difficult for me to follow through with that intention.
I used to burn the midnight oil as the saying goes and had unrealistic expectations of myself in the past. This time around, I’ve chosen to give myself grace during this time of transitioning. I am allowing myself the luxury to change my mind when what I’ve decided at one point in time doesn’t serve me anymore. Taking care of my mental health is my top priority.
It is interesting to think how expectations have a huge part in our day to day lives, as well as in the course of our entire lifetime. Let’s first define the word expectation. It’s a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future; the state of looking forward to or waiting for something. As humans, we have expectations for the people in our lives and for ourselves, and we expect for our lives to unfold in a certain way.
It is natural for us to have expectations of how other people in our lives should behave. In turn, other people in our lives have expectations of us. Most of it is unspoken and often unexamined. But when people don’t do or say what we expect them to, we get upset or disappointed. If only other people would behave in a way that makes it easy for us to like them, the world would be a peaceful place, at least in our own minds. Unfortunately, that isn’t how life works.
Other people can act however they want and you can be unaffected. What others do, or don’t do, don’t impact you until you have a thought about it. The story your mind creates about their behavior is what causes you to feel either good or bad. For instance, if someone bought you a gift, you may think that person loves you. This thought will create a positive emotion in you. On the other hand, if someone important to you forgot your birthday; you may think that person doesn’t care about you. That thought will subsequently make you feel bad. It is all in the way we think about the circumstance that causes our emotions. The story we tell ourselves is often not the truth, and usually not even close.
I have been practicing letting go of expectations for the people in my life. I am working on accepting people for who they are instead. The truth is, people will continue to be who they are regardless of my acceptance. I can save myself a lot of heartache if I am able to love them unconditionally. This is not an easy feat by any means, and sometimes I catch myself reverting back to being judgmental. However, the awareness that people get to be who they are, and I don’t have to react in a certain way, has made all the difference in my relationships on all levels.
Most of us have some kind of expectations of ourselves; who we want to be and who we think we should be in order to be accepted. The two don’t always align. I spent a good portion of my life trying to live up to my dad’s expectations. Some of which I met and others I realize I never will. I was coached on never feeling good enough for my dad by one of my favorite coaches last year.
She showed me his thinking has nothing to do with me, it has to do with his own beliefs. It’s possible that having a daughter that lives with a mental illness was difficult for him to accept. Maybe this was his own coping mechanism over the fact that his daughter has to struggle with something he has no control over. As a result, he puts a bubble around this entire part of my life as a way of protecting his own vulnerability and helplessness.
I would love to make my dad proud of me, but I understand it’s not something I have control over. He gets to think the way he thinks and nothing I say or do can change his mind if his opinion was made up a long time ago. When I reflected on whether his expectation of me is the same as what I want for myself, I realized it wasn’t. That was when I was able to drop all the resentment I felt for working so hard to only fall short of who he thought I was–not who I really was. And I don't have to be angry towards him for having his own beliefs.
In a lot of ways, being diagnosed with bipolar at 18 made me determined to find out what I was made of and who I wanted to be from that moment on. At the time, it felt like I was given the worst news I could imagine receiving. Looking back, it was the start of a lifelong journey of finding meaning and purpose in my life. It only took about 20 years to get here, but I can now say I am happy with the person I am today. I will continue to work on being a better version of myself because I believe there is always more to learn and we should never stop growing as a person.
On a granular level, we expect our day to go a certain way and when things don’t, we become frustrated. On a grander scale, when we look back on how our life has turned out so far, how we choose to think about it depends on what our expectations of our life were. The reality of it is, life often doesn’t go as we plan it. If we are being honest with ourselves, we probably wouldn’t want to be handed a script outlining how our life will play out and it unfolding exactly that way. How boring would life be without its twists and turns? Even though the struggles may be challenging to navigate while you are experiencing it, when you look back at your life, those are the moments you discovered your strength. When you get off the roller coaster, the reflection of the ride is where you gain the gratitude for the experience.
“Live your life, sing your song. Not full of expectations. Not for the ovations. But for the joy of it.” – Rasheed Ogunlaru