Losing body weight is easier than getting rid of the weight of expectations. I’m mainly referring to the silent expectations people have towards one another, that are rarely verbalized but also the ones we have towards ourselves, that we barely know are even there or where they came from.
Let’s start with the ones given to us by other people. Here I always think about family first, you’re expected to call on birthdays, text your parents back, but also live up to certain standards – to live a life that is validated by others. That usually means having a job with steady pay, being a steady monogamous (and often also heterosexual) relationship, being healthy and generous with your time, love and as well money towards your family. The extent of these pressures and expectations vary from person to person. Yet they are there, silently lingering and determining how you live your life. It’s not that necessary that you don’t want to do these things, but that you often don’t even check in if you want to or not – they feel mandatory and like a chore.
Often these expectations are internalized. We tend to think these are a standard of which we need to live up to and we live with guilt towards ourselves, sometimes even anger and hatred towards ourselves. It’s almost tragic if you think how much of our lives are lived in accordance to others. But then there are also the expectations we set up ourselves. They can range from how we expect to look, what kind of life we should lead, what kind of career we should have. As you can see they often align with the expectation others have towards us, yet we often add our own spin to things. And additional cherry on top of the already existing mountain of expectations. We tend to add an idea of what kind of person we want to be to the mix. How often do you hear yourself say “I should have done better” or “I should have done this different”. Traveled more, had more friends, read more books. Why isn’t what you have already done enough? Why aren’t we enough for ourselves and yet hold ourselves to a higher bar? I believe it’s these external pressures that we have integrated so much into ourselves we can no longer distinguish where they come from, and where do we begin.
I find the hardest thing about expectations are that they are so integrated in us, we barely realize that they are there and that we are adhering to them, letting them guide us into living a certain kind of life.
One way to recognize them, is how you feel (yes, I am talking about being mindful again, yes I believe it’s the core to everything). If you feel angry at yourself or guilty, ask yourself why. And then, where this is coming from? Often we won’t know. For example:
“Damn! I’m such an idiot I forgot to write to mum for her birthday”
Ask yourself, is it really that bad if you write the next day? And say Happy Belated? Sure she might be sad, but is it worth feeling that way yourself? Why are you so hard on yourself? And where on earth is this coming from? No one has called you an idiot for forgetting a Birthday why are you doing it?
All honesty, I do not know where these come from. I can’t answer these questions, and I also don’t know yet how to live a life without expectations. All I know is that life is so short, do you really want to beat yourself up for simply existing?