I often feel as though there is a lot expected of me. If I were to sit down and make a list of all the things that other people wanted from me in any one moment, I would probably freeze up or freak out from the weight of it. The odd time I will check in with others about these expectations. My perceptions manage to elicit a few laughs, a bit of pity or sometimes a different perspective that often sets me free. Either way, what I assume others want from me is usually far, far, far off from what they actually ever took the time to imagine.
Under this boatload of great expectations, I often feel paralyzed. I can’t fathom adding another thing to this tall list. Often I do nothing. And feel a lot of guilt. I spend my days buried in these expectations.
But what has never come to light before now is that I expect very little of myself. I forge forward, deliver and produce, in all the areas that true life demands. I do what is asked of me. I duck out of extra responsibilities when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I take on tasks and carry them through whimsically but never under any set goal or pressure. I’ve never actually sat down and made a list of what I am capable of. Of what I could accomplish if I believed I could do it. I have never set expectations for myself. I suppose I was too busy responding to the imaginary desires of other people.
Before I go on, I want to separate doing charity work and helping out people in need from what I am talking about here. There is a lot of satisfaction to be gained from making your time, efforts and resources available to others. The world requires this of us. But I believe the trick is to do it from a place of real self worth and believing you have a lot to offer others. And not because we believe we are at the bottom of the totem pole and must give our own needs up for others. I have gone hungry or cold so that another could be fed or stay warm and been just fine about it. But when we give up our spot because we think another human is more valuable than us, Sister we have a problem.
It can be frustrating to believe yourself primarily and only at the service of other people, as though you are an empty shell of a human being. Husbands have capitalized on women not figuring out what they are worth for decades. In many countries this problem is extremely prevalent. And it still happens in our very own homes. Women don’t value the work they do, so they turn to the needs of others to feel that worth. I can’t begin to capture the story of women who are imprisoned by cultural or social restrictions that ‘tame’ them. I won’t even try. I refer only to this western affliction I seem to have acquired.
For now, I will talk about the women who stand at the stove while her family consumes a warm meal. Women who wear yesterday’s clothes because everyone else’s laundry was washed first. Women who don’t spend money on a haircut so that lunch money could be provided to her kid. Women who gave up their careers to support the home front. All noble efforts, but where did they come from?
I fear that there are others like me. Who have never once actually given themselves the opportunity to reveal their potential as a human being. Who sat in the shadow while their husband or children or neighbours or church or friends took the spotlight.
I am afraid to know what I am capable of. If I’m honest, I would find out that it is far more than I ever dreamed of. If I’m honest, I would admit that the only person ever holding me back was me. If I’m honest, I would realize that I could change this in a heartbeat. That I could set some goals. That I could pretend to believe and then fake it until I make it.
If I’m honest, I would know that in this country, it was only ever I who hid behind others to mask my abilities. If I’m honest, I would realize that it is easier to blame others for all that I am not, instead of doing the thing that I am afraid of and getting out there and applying myself 100% to my passions. If I fail, only I will be to blame. Ah, but if I succeed.
Gone are the days that I wish to blame age, my mood, my disposition, my children, my husband, my farm, my weight, my dogs, my height, my shampoo…for the things I have been too afraid to do.
Expectations? I will add more to my pile. Because the only expectations that matter are the ones that we place on ourselves that come from the heart. Those are the ones that maximize our contribution – and are in line with all that we truly have to offer the world.
As for what others will gain from it? Permission to do the same, I hope. Is this selfish? You bet! How will I be able to tell that this is the right thing to do? When I am done making excuses. When I find myself diving into the fray and my fear is nothing more than a clue that these uncharted waters are the ones with the buried treasure.
And that will be the best way to give myself to the world. I hope you would expect nothing less from me. To be clear, this is exactly what I expect from you.