Sometimes people surprise us by going beyond our expectations. When we talk about expectations for ourselves, however, they can be quite draining. Often women are overburdened and overwhelmed by expectations from every direction—ourselves, our parents, friends, family, colleagues, society, strangers. I suppose our partners and spouses as well. Leslie M. McIntyre writes, “Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-groomed and un-aggressive.” It is not enough to simply be good at one area of our lives; we must do it all. This has led to so much of the anxiety I feel today. Once I realize many of these expectations for perfection come from myself and not those I love, that I don’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectations, life becomes much easier. It’s hard to remember though.
On the topic of expectations, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“Right! So what’s the problem? It’s not easy to be well-groomed when we have toddlers running around . . . but we try. It’s not easy to be good-tempered and unaggressive when we have deadlines at work and at home . . . but we try. It is not easy to produce children and be svelte and good-looking . . . but we try.
There is probably no group of people in this society who try harder than women to meet the expectations of others. As a result, we are always looking outside for validation, and no matter how much we get, it isn’t enough. In always trying to be what others think we should be, we have lost ourselves and end up having little to bring to any relationship or task.”
How true! I have often wondered why it is that I seek so much validation from others outside myself. It makes sense that it is because I try so hard to meet the expectations of others. I’m so focused on what everyone around me thinks of me that I spend very little time thinking of myself. What do I think of myself? Why do I have to be enough for others? Aren’t I enough for myself?
Anxiety has been getting the better of me lately, and one reason is that I have been so concerned with impressing the people around me that I haven’t stopped to consider my own needs. I’ve also made a lot of assumptions lately about what other people think of me that likely aren’t true. I let my own guilt and high expectations trick me into believing I am a disappointment to others—I’m not doing enough, I’m not enough—when that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am more than enough, and the people who really matter, including myself, love me.
In trying to attain my goals, I haven’t been very nice to myself. I’ve been berating and belittling myself again. Snide comments inside my head, critical judgments made at a moment’s notice and carelessly hurled… I’ve been beating myself up to try to motivate myself to do more to reach my goals. What a terrible way to achieve anything! How do I expect myself to enjoy life, let alone be productive, if this is the way I operate? I would never manage other people this way. With others, I am encouraging and kind to bring out the best in them. I should do myself the same kindness. This February 14th, I vow to love myself. I will start with more reasonable expectations.