There are important lessons at every twist and turn in my life, and often these are lessons I have been ignoring for years. Most recently, I have been focusing on expectations – how they affect me every day, and what I can learn from them.
I have previously written posts about managing other people’s expectations* and about managing our own expectations** of what we believe we can or should do in a particular situation. There are still lessons for me to learn about these two types of expectations, but in recent weeks I have been more interested in a third category – living up to what I think others expect of me. It has become clear to me that I put considerable pressure on myself (and unrealistic demands on my time) by meeting what I believe other people expect of me rather than what they have explicitly said they expect. Why? Why do I make assumptions about others’ expectations and then do my best to live up to them? The answer is embarrassingly simple. I never want to disappoint anyone and because of this I have set an unrealistic bar for myself that exceeds virtually everyone else’s expectations of me. It is a chronic and exhausting condition. Do you have it, too?
As many of us prepare for holiday and New Year dinners, parties, and other events, all three categories of expectations step into the spotlight as we make our plans. Most of us have learned to navigate these brief periods of over-commitment, but what I have realized in recent weeks is that, in fact, expectations take the center stage spotlight every day of my life. Every single day. Living up to what I believe other people expect of me is a huge burden that (up until now) I have voluntarily carried most of the days of my adult life. I know I am not alone in this expectation syndrome. I recognize it in many people.
So, as we prepare for a New Year, and for new beginnings, I invite you to consider joining me in making a bright and shiny new commitment that I will make no assumptions about what others need or want from me. When the many people I love, value and respect want or need me to do something for them, they will ask or I will offer. The change will be that these will be actual conversations, real questions and responses, rather than the phantom variety that weigh heavily – and unnecessarily – on our choices and our time.
Happy New Year! May each day of 2020 be full of love, light, joy, compassion, and forgiveness for ourselves and for all.
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* Invisible Hoops; Learning to Say “No”…AGAIN!; Who Stands Between You and Your Dreams?; Feeling Good About “No”; Navigating Others’ Expectations; Asking “Do I really, really want to do this?”
** Saying Goodbye to the Little Red Hen; Not Exactly a Vacation Day!