In a momentary lapse of judgement, clarity . . .sanity, I surrendered my happiness to the expectations of someone else. Actually, it wasn’t even that person’s expectations that I surrendered to, but my assumption of what those expectations were.
There are many lessons to be learned from this about assumptions, expectations, happiness, and sacrifice. I am going to focus on expectations.
In this world, there are few things more powerful than expectations. They govern our emotions, our actions, and our reactions. If they are not met, we feel fear, anger, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and sometimes. . . relief. When they are met, we feel elated, satisfied, happy, relieved, and sometimes. . . disappointed. The emotional reaction is relative to the expectations.
Expectations are complicated and more powerful than this world would have you believe. Society expects specific behaviour of people who belong to any given collective, including racial identity, gender identity, sex, ability status, economic status, education level, age, religion, etc. Failure to meet these expectations is often met with fear and persecution. The expectations form the box within which each person is (awkwardly) placed. The boxes, built with expectations, are all labeled and neatly stacked with others that are presumably the same – in nice homogeneous stacks. At least, that is what this would would have you believe.
Society also expects things of individuals. Individuals expect things of individuals. These expectations vary relative to the individual for whom they are created. Parents have expectations of their children – from cleaning up, to getting married. Teachers have expectations of their individual students. Children have expectations of their parents and their teachers. The general public has expectations of public figures, athletes, politicians, artists, musicians. Bosses have expectations of their employees. Employees have expectations of their bosses – respect, money. Customers have expectations of service providers, etc. The list is endless.
They say that money makes the world go ’round, but no one tells you that the structure that money flows within is built on expectations. It’s deep and it’s complex and it’s powerful.
If this sounds confusing, that is because it is; it’s supposed to be.
Manage your expectations – check them. Where do they come from?
Of whom do you expect things? Why?
Who expects things of you? Why?
Are your expectations reasonable? Are they just? Assess your reactions to unmet expectations of other people. Are they reasonable? Are they just?
I will tell you that meeting expectations, or at least appearing to, is far easier than not. It is difficult and sometimes dangerous to defy them – it can lead to jail, death, but also freedom.
We are bound by expectations. They keep us in our boxes and make us safe and predictable. But in so doing, they leave us crumpled, trapped, and gasping for air.
Be aware of what is expected of you. As often as possible, manage the expectations others have of you as an individual. Don’t imply that you will when you won’t. Don’t suggest you won’t if you intend to.
If this seems daunting, it’s because it is. Expectations are hard to navigate and this world will condition you to not even realise that they are there.
Be strong. Be you. Be free to seek your true happiness based on what you know to be true, not on what someone else expects you to believe. Above all, be.