It’s not called the ‘weight’ of expectations for nothing!
Expectations are 'rules' we grow up with.
They create boundaries and provide guidance.
For example you are expected to walk before the age of 12-15 months otherwise this is a clear sign of a problem with development.
You are expected to do your homework, obey the teacher, eat your dinner etc….
Society and families create many expectations to encourage behaviour and growth; for the good of your development and that of the broader community. The general aim is for you to become a functional human being who makes a positive contribution to society.
Then there are individual family differences of expectations based on culture, religion, family structure, birth order, personality etc.
As you entered adolescence you probably rebelled at many/some of these expectations, but you probably also carried many of them into adulthood.
Then you become an adult, and on top of family of origin and society expectations you now have expectations from your work place and expectations from your partner, and maybe your children.
Then comes expectations from schools, sporting clubs, after school activities. The more you are immersed in society, the bigger collection of expectations you are exposed to.
And, if that’s not enough you also have the thick layer of consumer ‘expectations’. In a world where economic growth is still valued above all else we seem to have really internalised the ‘greed is good’ doctrine in our society. You are encouraged to buy, to have more, to be good consumers. It is an insidious expectation.
So, what happens when you step back, when you become the observer, when you listen to your noticing self and see the reality of your expectations?
You can see the ‘shoulds’ and ‘have tos’ for what they really are; they aren’t rules by which you HAVE to live by, they aren’t absolute truths, they are just THOUGHTS AND BELIEFS your mind is holding on to.
By seeing this you can you can CHOOSE to let go of expectations that have no meaning or value for you.
Knowing this you can choose.
You CAN choose to participate in activities that you value, whilst saying NO to things you don’t.
You CAN choose to do things that bring joy to your heart and that of your family.
You CAN choose activities that focus on kindness, gratitude, togetherness.
There is a lot of freedom that comes with being an adult and having so many choices to make.
We might feel the heavy weight of expectations, but when we lose that weight it is not just freeing, it also exposes us and makes it vulnerable.
That is one reason why deciding to choose which expectations you will meet, and which you will leave behind is difficult.
It is your journey.
What expectations weigh on you?
Where do you find enforcing boundaries difficult?
What is most important to you in this world?
If you like this article, if these are questions that stir your soul, if you want to explore these and more issues that impact directly on your wellbeing, you are invited to join my new online Practical Wellbeing – 7 Simple Steps to Self-Care. Click here for more information.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy.. If you are experiencing stress please contact your GP or mental health professional.
Kim Ross is a Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds and Essential Self-Care for Psychologists.