Not-so-Great Expectations

Today, like my laptop (which is six years old and often refuses to work), my brain took forever to start up. I attempted to get up this morning like a normal human being, and then realised how awful I felt, and that my heart had forgotten how to human (as a result the rest of me was having a protest), so I curled up under the covers again and slept away most of the day. (Even hearts have bad days, but I’ve been having a run of extremely good days, so I don’t mind.)

Today I stopped looking backwards, and I stopped thinking about everyone else. I let myself fall short of my own expectations. I forgot to care about anybody else’s. I let myself think about the future (not the immediate future that lacks awesomeness, but the more distant future that I’m sure will be full of it). I let myself hope that I will be well enough to start my first year of university, and that somehow, by the skin of my teeth, I might just get the grades I need to earn my place. My friend is having a house party right now. I’m in bed. It no longer bothers me. (I wish I knew why so that I could replicate the achievement)

We have expectations of each other. We have expectations of ourselves. Which expectations are more unrealistic? I always thought it was everybody else’s. I thought I knew myself better than they did. People expect me to be able to do normal things. The thing that bothers me most about that isn’t that I can’t do those things, it is that I am still expected to be able to do them, and that I can’t possibly meet those expectations any more.

Then I realised that people don’t expect much from me at the moment. They don’t expect me to walk very far, they don’t expect me to be able to deal with their freak outs about friends or relationships or whatever, because they know that at the moment I’m still trying to figure out how to be there for myself. We become what people expect of us. We are all self-fulfilling prophecies. And when nothing is expected of us, that is what we deliver. Isn’t it? It’s nice, when people stop expecting you to do things. But it also makes you realise how much you have lost. It makes you feel like less of a person.

I’ve been beating myself up about letting people down. How could I let their expectations of me get so low? How could I keep failing them over and over? And then I had another thought. Firstly, that’s just people backing off, realising that when something is breaking you don’t put any more pressure on it until it is fixed. I guess it is people… understanding. Secondly, I realised that the only expectations that I have been falling short of lately are my own. I have been putting pressure on myself, missing the bar that I have set out of my own reach, failing myself. Most people seem to have accepted that this is who I am right now. They get that sometimes I just don’t want to talk about how great the party they went to last night was, or sometimes about anything at all. They get that I can’t go to the funfair with them, or stay up late on the phone while they melt down about their love life. I’m a rubbish friend right now. It kills me that I can’t be there for all of those things, that I sleep through my friends crises and struggle to get excited about their relationship developments. But they don’t mind. They seem to think that I’m a great friend for still trying to do those things, even though they are no longer expected of me.

I am the one who can’t let go. I am the only one who still expects me to be there for everyone else in the way that I was before, or to be able to stay awake for the whole day, or to go out and do things. I expect myself to be able to act like a normal teenager. And that is an expectation that I can never meet.

We all do this to ourselves – we set idealistic expectations that we can never fulfil, but will never stop reaching for. We kick ourselves every time we fail to be the person that we wish we could be. We look at the people around us and aspire to be like them, especially at a young age. We are impressionable things, and we never seem to be satisfied with ourselves – with who we are, with how we look, with how other people might perceive us. And the ridiculous thing is, that we can’t change those things. Not significantly. And even when we do we still can’t meet our own expectations. Because we are our harshest critics. We expect far more of ourselves than anyone else ever could, and we fragment under the pressure that we put ourselves under. We think that other people expect these things of us too. We think they matter as much to everyone else as they do to us. And they don’t.

Step 9 to getting out of a rut in life:

Everybody has expectations of you. But yours are going to be the highest, because your expectations are a sum of your own ideals and everybody else’s (or at least, the ideals that you perceive those around you to expect you to match) . Firstly, forget everybody else; you might be falling short of their expectations, but they will also be falling short of their own expectations (because they are human). Secondly, unless you can fly, stop aiming for the stratosphere. As awesome as it would be, you are not a superhero, and as a result you don’t have to carry the weight of the world either. Don’t compare yourself to everyone else around you, or even to the person that you used to be, and especially not to the person that you want to be. Compare yourself to the person you were yesterday, or the person you were when you woke up. And then think ‘wow, that person was really up against it, and they’re still here.’ Because that is an expectation you probably never had of yourself. And you will surpass it every time.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is […] It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, and sometimes you do” – Harper Lee, To Kill A Mocking Bird

We never expect ourselves to be courageous on a daily basis. But when you really don’t want to face the world, just getting out of bed is a pretty courageous thing to do (Especially on a Monday!)


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