Expectations are everywhere. As we go through our lives we build up layers of overt and subtle expectations about who we should be, adaptations we’ve made to please others, and priorities and preferences we’ve absorbed from society, organizations, family, or people we admire.
People have expectations of us for all sorts of reasons. Some truly want the best for us. They want us to have success and security. They want us to be liked and accepted.
Others look to us to meet needs they don’t know how to meet themselves. Maybe it’s parents who want their children to reflect well on them. Maybe it’s a friend who needs to be constantly assured she matters. Maybe it’s a teacher whose job security depends on the performance of his students.
Whatever forms they take, we all encounter expectations from someone outside of ourselves. We’re so used to them that we often don’t even notice the ones affecting us the most, but all these layers make it difficult to know who we really are at our core.
Being ourselves doesn’t mean rebelling against everything anyone else thinks we should do, but it does mean sifting through the layers of expectations to choose our response based on who we are instead of what will please others.
Without a solid foundation in our own identity, our sense of self is at the mercy of the ever changing people and environment around us. When we use others’ expectations to guide our lives, we may find ourselves living a life that just doesn’t fit.
We are all different. We each have a unique blend of strengths, values, interests, preferences, experiences, and perspectives to bring to the world. But sometimes we get busy focusing on what we think we’re supposed to have to offer and we don’t see the possibilities most suited to who we really are.
We pour our time and energy into something that just isn’t the best fit for us. What we’re working toward might be a very good thing—but we’re all different. What is a wonderful opportunity for one person to thrive and make the world a better place might leave someone else drained, discouraged, and hopeless.
Sorting through all those layers of expectations isn’t easy. It starts with getting to know ourselves so we can recognize which choices and actions will support who we are and which are better left for someone else.
Discovering who we are is a lifelong journey. I’ll keep sharing what is helping me along the way. In the meantime, click here , to get access to the self-trust library.
I’d love to hear…what expectations do you notice in your life? What has been most helpful for you in getting to know who you are?