Whose expectations are you trying to fulfill?
One of the main conversations we have in our minds is about expectations.
Even if these conversations seem silent, and we never even notice them, I think they are a big part of our daily lives — perhaps even affecting us more than we believe.
What are expectations? As the term itself implies, expectations are basically something we expect (action/result/etc.).
The ambiguity of the term can be clarified when it’s applied to specific situations. For example, if you have expectations from someone in a relationship — the who and about what is answered from the situation. If you, in another case, have expectations from yourself about your career or relationships, then the expectation is now focused on you and the current topic of interest.
This seemingly pointless explanation, I just made, is to point out that expectations can have different faces. Not only in context — what you expect but also in person — who you expect it from.
Today, I have come to a subtle realization. One that has perhaps been circling my mind for years now, but just now became crystal clear.
Growing up, we all have had to live up to or fulfill the expectations of other people. And, please bear in mind, that I’m not saying this as though it is something negative. It is what it is. That’s how human interactions are sometimes — we expect stuff from each other.
A lot of the expectations we have forced on our backs are like the wind. They touch us lightly and then leave. However, some of the expectations we are asked to live up to or even hunch down to, make their mark on our sense of self.
This is the time where perhaps some of those expectations coming from external forces — friends, family, society — become our own.
We take these expectations, of having to be obedient, or having to conform or to not be too loud, or this, or that, and we view them as an undeniable part of ourselves. Soon enough, some of these expectations shift from being just expected from us to becoming part of us.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that we enjoy the nature of the expectation. I might hate being obedient. But if my whole life I was taught to be obedient and never talk back, obedience is now part of who I am. What if that's one of the reasons why we have such a hard time loving some parts of ourselves? What if it’s partly because they aren’t intuitively ours?
And one of the most worrying things about this is that we often view these behaviors/values/traits as completely unchangeable.
Even though some traits are somewhat unchangeable, due to biological implications (genes), I believe that expectations and learned behaviors don’t fall into that category.
Perhaps the question we need to ask here is: can you unlearn something you learned?
Can I unlearn the expectations that I’ve adopted as being such a huge part of who I am?
Can I even realize what is internalized expectation and what is truly me?
For this last question, I think I have an idea. I believe the ‘who we are’ topic is fascinating. And one of the reasons it is so fascinating to me is perhaps that we have no idea what we are talking about. Psychologists have tried to dig into personality for years now, and they also came up with a bunch of traits to explain it.
But I don’t think people fit into the boxes quite as nicely as we would want them to.
We thrive on understanding ourselves. But sometimes, the intellectual and cognitive understanding and labeling are just insufficient. I think this question, the who are you? question, is one of those you cannot grasp merely through intellectual ideas.
And taking this discussion a step further, I’d also argue that the self and who we truly are, are two separate things. For me, the self is who you identified as. This is exactly why I also mentioned above that expectations become sometimes so deeply ingrained in our lives, that they become part of our self or our sense of self.
On the contrary, who you truly are is so deep, so beautiful and out of this world, that cannot be confined by a bunch of adjectives.
Who we are, is perhaps a deep presence. Maybe who we are is just part of the world and part of each other, and for those who believe, part of God. Who you are, in the core, through your eyes, in your soul, cannot be altered by expectations and actions, and behaviors. All of that is just a bunch of layers. Layers covering up the very simple, pure, and yet mesmerizing being that you are.
So, before I drift even more off-topic, I want to share something last.
Maybe some of the expectations you have for yourself were initially introduced to you by those around you.
Maybe if you always expect yourself to be a high achiever, you learned it from somewhere. Perhaps someone showed you that only when you achieve the impossible of the impossible you are worthy. (P.S. I promise you are worthy, no matter what.)
Pay attention to what the conversation is in your mind though. Why is it so important to reach the expectations you have for yourself? Who’s expectation is it? Does it make you happy? Is the goal truly important to you? Or is it an attempt to achieve something else — maybe acceptance, love, inclusion?
Ask yourself genuine questions. As if you want to meet yourself better. As if you are a mystery you are trying to solve. Maybe if you listen closely and actually pay attention to what you feel and where these ideas are coming from, you might get a better understanding of your behaviors, and desires.
Lastly, you might be wondering… why should I care about all this?
And actually, you shouldn’t!
However, this ‘digging’ might come in handy if you feel like you are living your life on autopilot. If you feel that you are simply going about stuff that don’t make you feel alive, fulfilled, or grateful. If you feel disconnected or feel like you don’t know who you are.
I’m not saying that the answer to all of this is figuring out where your self-expectations came from.
I’m simply suggesting that if you are trying to desperately achieve something you don’t care about, or be someone that isn’t even appealing to yourself; then maybe you are trying to fulfill someone else's expectations, disguised as your own.
I just want to remind you that your true self is what the world needs, not more people wrapped up in expectations and fake masks :)