We’ve all heard about how balance is key. And while it doesn’t seem like any of us truly know how to do that, especially when there’s this expectation based on how practically everybody’s life looks downright perfect.
What’s worse is we know it’s a sham. We know that in reality, their life is far from perfect. But regardless of that, we still let our expectations control and guide us, because some romanticize the struggle or disdain for it. We prefer looking at our life through rose-tinted glasses and complain about how things just aren’t what we expected them to be.
What I Need
Most of my adult life has been full of uncertainty, so expectations have been as common as my anxiety. And while I can make excuses, I think it is extremely glaring how I have no one else but myself to blame for this. I have so many unachievable expectations from my life, and I’m honestly not surprised about not having achieved any of those.
It’s so easy for most of us to say things like ‘Lower your expectations’, ‘You’re not doing enough to get what you want’, and so much more. But I don’t think it always has to be just that. Things don’t always have to be what they seem. And just because they expect us to do something, doesn’t mean we have to!
I know most millennials struggle with how they’re stable enough with their jobs, their money, or their lives. I know I do. I’m almost 25, and by the expectations I had, I have nothing going my way. I’m probably doing a good job by either working towards fulfilling this expectation, or I’m trying to logically figure out what my next step would be.
But jokes on you, I’m not doing either of that. All I’m doing is constantly stressing about how I’m just not good enough. In reality, I know I can achieve anything I put my mind to, but I falter every single time because I’m scared of royally fucking up. And even though I don’t have this pressure of beating the odds, or achieving the end goal or whatever, it does a number on me.
However, let’s avoid talking about myself for a bit (thank god, right?), seeing how complex people are, expectations are pretty inevitable. Society expects something out of men and women, bosses expect something out of their employees, partners expect something out of their relationships, and all of us expect something from life. And there’s always this debate of whether or not that’s a good thing.
The answer to that is, we will never know. Each of us are different people, with different thoughts, ideologies, and behaviour. All I know is that it isn’t ideal for me. It’s good to have expectations on most occasions. I just cannot deal with the idea of any of it coming true.
All That Way For This
I’ve always had these unrealistic expectations from relationships, work, even myself. I expected myself to be happy, content with whatever I had. I expected to work extremely well under pressure, to do incredibly well and be taken seriously at my job. And as Chandler Bing once said, “I’m hopeless and awkward, and desperate for love!”.
But the reality just stresses my already stressed-out mind some more. I know it sounds terrible, but it shouldn’t be. I knew I was good at what I did, but along with a horrible temper paired with crippling anxiety, the pressure just brought out the worst in me. I was taken seriously at my job, but it was always at their convenience. I was happy, but it almost felt like a sham on most occasions. But the only one who loved me at my awkward and hopeless best was my furry babies, and I wouldn’t hate that. But the biggest expectation would always be to become an adult, and I’m nowhere near that.
My friend Pronoy and I talk about what we think a responsible adult is in this episode of Life’s Lineup and seeing how we came to a conclusion I’d love to be happy with. The truth is, I’m not. See this is what expectations do, you’re allowed to have them, but at some point, they will take over you. Now, this doesn’t apply to every single person, but it happened for me.
Do I think that only added to my already existing anxiety? Perhaps. Is there any societal pressure? Possibly. But am I doing anything to make things any easier for me? Hell no. My reaction would be me keeping things to myself, getting mad at everything without really holding myself responsible, and throwing attitude at people.
I Wonder What Became of Me?
I feel like I haven’t said this enough, but the pressure of having higher expectations and living up to them come from within. Yes, we probably receive a “well-meaning” push from family or friends. Not everyone has to deal with the same thing, of course, but, it can be family or society who has unleashed these expectations on them.
But here’s the thing, everyone always talks about the positive outcome of these expectations. There are plans of what’s next, or even how you can go and achieve these. But everyone avoids the conversation about failing. What happens when they stay just that: expectations? What happens when things don’t go your way? What happens when you fail?
It’s good to have an idea of what you need to do to fulfil these expectations, but not knowing what to do if things don’t go your way is just straight up reckless. Take it from me, I know. Yes, the reality is an extremely bitter pill to swallow. But this doesn’t change things you still have to live through it. So what do you do?
Many call me a pessimist before because I tend to have a very negative outlook towards everything. While that can be true, I just feel like I look at things from the perspective less thought of. Like I pointed out earlier, not many people want to look at the outcome where you possibly might not succeed. While there could be so many reasons to go that way, let’s assume for a bit that it is because they don’t want to think of failure.
It could be a scenario where if they don’t think about it, it won’t happen. But every situation has a variety of positive and negative outcomes, and it always helps to look at every single one. Failure is a part of the process, just as much as success is.
And here’s the thing, expectations can just be that. They don’t always have to or will transform exactly how you want them to in your reality. But that’s on you. You can create your reality, incorporate the best and worst of what you want, and it’s still yours. It’s still something you did. And that’s fine.
Face The Failure
One of the most common things I’ve noticed in Asian upbringing is that we don’t want to disappoint our parents, yet here I am. Along with the fear of failing, there’s this fear of letting them know. I was so worried I dropped out of college (WITH their approval) that I ended up doing the weirdest things possible, just to divert their attention to that.
It’s the worst thing to do, and it didn’t work. But I was just so scared of not doing a good job, that I thought running away from my problems would help. I took up other things, but this time we had a plan for if or when things didn’t work out. That didn’t do shit for my anxiety, but I knew I had something to fall back on.
But now, with the whole pandemic situation, I’m out of a job. And it isn’t easy on my mum since she would keep bringing it up initially. She had this expectation of her 24-year-old daughter working, at a good place by now. And even though my dad does talk to me about finding work, I never sense a tone of urgency. It’s his way of checking on me, which I appreciate because I have been extremely anxious and just low because of this.
Yes, we obviously couldn’t predict the situation we are in now. But again, there are so many different positive and negative outcomes for one situation. And all we have to figure out is how to move forward from here. I know it looks like I’m just saying things because I can. But honestly, if it wasn’t for this situation, I wouldn’t have revisited what I enjoyed the most; writing. It isn’t the best outcome if you consider the fact that this isn’t my full time job, but it does help with my anxiety.
I expected having a pretty stable job that I loved, great self-esteem, and so much more. And even though the reality isn’t what I hoped for it to be, I’m not too mad. I know I have the luxury of not working right now, but I don’t want it to stay this way for too long. Working on that and myself is what I expect to be doing, and I’m halfway there. I’m unhappy, but I know I’ll get there.
Another extremely common thing is comparison. We come across comparisons almost regularly. We can see it at work, at home, or we end up doing it ourselves. And I look at comparisons like a toxic ex boyfriend; unnecessary and unwanted. You don’t need it in your life, because all it would do is make you feel like shit. And most of us already do that to ourselves. But comparisons also are partially what lead to unrealistic expectations.
Most of us always want what the others have, we make ourselves believe that it is the only thing that will truly make us happy. Especially with how often social media helps depict the “happiness” we’re looking for. However, after all of the things I’ve stated, I’ve realised that if I’m not happy with the reality I’m living, I’ll never be happy with the expectation I want.
Let me know if this post is exactly what you expected it to be, or do I have to do better? And if you enjoyed this read, you can find more of my work here!