Releasing People’s Expectations Of Who They Think You Are
Change And The Expectations That Come With It
Here’s a truth that most of us weren’t really prepared for in the earlier stages of our lives:
We are always changing.
All the time, every single second of every day.
What a lot of us also don’t know, is that it’s okay. It’s okay to change. Sometimes we get to choose and sometimes life thrusts change upon us unexpectedly. You’re allowed to change your personality, your look, your major, or your career. You can change them all and it is fine as long as you’re okay with it. Seeing and presenting yourself as only one fixed, particular way can limit your experience as a human being that is inherently multifaceted and multi-dimensional. However, discovering and uncovering all these facets to yourself normally come with managing expectations, and a lot of the time, those expectations don’t belong to us.
These expectations are usually set from people that know you in some way. So, your family, your friends, your partners, and your peers usually set expectations based on how you present yourself to the world. We are generally socialized growing up by the people that take care of us, that we will either be rewarded or punished by our behaviour, and that is one the first expectations that are set for us in our lives. Because of this, we spend most of our time trying to seek that same reward – the validation that comes from being good and always performing our absolute best.
In this case, changing who we are can definitely come as a shock to the people who think they know us. Their response to who you are is not usually coming from a place of clarity, but more according to their longheld perception of you, their agendas, and their needs. Everyone’s perception of you and your life, in general, is completely different. It can also come as a shock to ourselves when we don’t live up to our own expectations, especially if they’re a little unrealistic. We can be setting ourselves up for disappointment in this way.
How Can We Manage The Expectations Others Have Of Us
Yes, it is true that expectations help us to navigate the world a little better because they inform our inner belief systems about who each person is, and what we’re all capable of doing. But the overload of constantly keeping up a particular idea, or image of who you, and other people think you are, can definitely be exhausting and anxiety-inducing. With all of these people expecting so much from us, all the time, how can we really manage these expectations and maintain a healthy sense of self?
A part of this involves acknowledging the importance of managing the expectations that you set for yourself. This includes considering what it means to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and by really getting to know who you are as a person. This sets the tone for the type of person you’re trying to present yourself as, and how others will see you. When you maintain a healthy relationship with yourself, you cultivate a deeper awareness of who you really are, and have a better understanding of what you want out of your life.
Cultivating A Deeper Awareness Of Self
Another truth is that a lot of us are living lives that aren’t really ours. It’s important for us to really check in with ourselves, and make sure we aren’t living our lives for other people and what they think is best for us. We can be so busy trying to please others that we lose touch with ourselves, forgetting our needs, wants, and what actually makes us happy. A way to do that is by cultivating a deeper awareness of self. You’re probably asking yourself, “Well how can I do that?”
- Be present. By doing this, we can really sit with ourselves in the present moment, assess where we are, and to let go of future expectations, because we’re so focused on what’s going on in the now.
- Create a space for yourself. This can simply mean mindfully spending time in solitude, so you can truly meet the various versions of yourself, through journaling and writing. This allows you to start processing your thoughts better.
- Gaining perspective. It’s good to receive feedback from others, about their perception of you, because it helps to give you a better picture of how you present yourself to the world. This can include habits and behaviours that you’re unaware of, and that might not serve you. However, it is extremely important to try not to take that feedback and critique too personally. Remember that it’s just to help you to see yourself better so that you can become the very best version of you.
“When we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behavior to our internal standards and values. We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves.”-Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund, Psychologists on the Theory of Self Awareness
Release And Letting Go
There comes a time where we have to decide if it’s really worth it and whether it’s important to us how people, even the ones that we are closest to, see us. Do they see us how we project ourselves into the world, or do we want to be seen as our authentic selves, whatever that may look like? Are their perceptions of you more valuable than how you see yourself? What do you truly value? Are you betraying yourself by not allowing yourself to become who you want to be?
Life can and will come at you very fast, to teach you all kinds of important lessons. It can be hard to learn those lessons and move forward when you carry the weight of trying to please everyone on your own path. This life is yours and yours alone, which means that you have the power choose to become whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do at any moment, regardless of what people have to say. If people’s expectations of who they think you have become are too heavy at any point in time, you’re allowed to let go and free yourself from being trapped in anyone’s expectations. Go out and create your own story!
Become an empty cup, as ancient Zen tradition suggests, so that by releasing others’ expectations of you, as well as the expectations that you set for yourself, (by emptying your cup), you allow the wonderful and spontaneous experiences of life to pour in and lead you in directions you never thought you’d be along your path to becoming your very best self.
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