Updated: Dec 3, 2019
“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.”
A few months ago, a few of my coworkers and I were asked to speak at a women’s conference in the area to share about “Self-Compassion for Moms.” As a mother myself, I am all too familiar with the “super hero mom” myth that runs so rampant in our culture today. Therefore, it was an easy yes to have the opportunity to shed light on the impossible expectations so often placed on motherhood. Understandably so, a large portion of the discussion was on realistic expectations. At the end of the day, expectations are really at the root of so many of the struggles we face as parents, spouses, friends, professionals, etc.
As I shared with women of all ages and seasons of life, my goal was that they would walk away feeling encouraged and empowered, free to reclaim the right to set their own expectations for themselves and their families. There is no shortage of opinion, input, or critique in the world we live in. There are countless different articles and experts telling us exactly what we should do, when we should do it, and the exact steps we should take in order to do it right! How helpful is that actually? The way I see it, trouble and confusion come when you realize that every single perspective is different. If you stop just long enough to observe the evidence, you will see that it is quite literally impossible to meet the standard or expectation of everyone simultaneously. There is always going to be a third party with a second opinion telling you what you should have done differently, done better, or maybe not done at all! We can’t win! So now what?! We live in a culture saturated, drowning even, with information and yet we are gasping for a breath of wisdom in it all. Do you remember who you were before the world started telling you who you should be?
My encouragement to you today would be to rest in your freedom and power to decide. You get a voice and a choice in where you set your expectations and standards. You also have the power to choose to be kind to yourself and to be flexible as you learn what works and what doesn’t for you. It is no surprise that you can ALWAYS find someone to tell you what they think. It goes without saying that I’m not suggesting we dismiss wise counsel. Even when listening to wise counsel, we can take what is congruent with our own values and beliefs and mold it to fit our lifestyle and who we want to be without taking the whole of what others offer. With the influx of input, we can often realize that we have been losing ourselves in the chaos of it all. Is it uncommon? Not at all. Is it ideal? Not really.
I don’t believe we are born with anxiety about meeting the expectations of others. This is something we learn as we age. As children, we learn what our parents expect and either comply or rebel. As adolescents, we learn what is accepted and unaccecptable from our peer groups and either conform to fit in or rebel. As adults, though we experience expectations from a variety of sources and to varying degrees, the desire to either fit it or rebel is the same. We tend to lose ourselves in the overwhelming collection of "hats" we wear and work tirelessly to meet expectations. We tend to forget what it means to be our best self and instead strive to be the self we think others want us or expect us to be.
As you face this week, this month, the upcoming new year, I encourage you to set your own bar. It can be higher, lower, or sideways and upside down from what others feel it should be, and that’s OK! You have the power to decide what is best for you, and what is best for your family. In that freedom, you just might catch a glimpse of the YOU that existed before you started trying to meet everyone else’s expectations and standards. You were created to be different, to be just YOU, so be that! Some will support you. Some will disagree. Some will fight you to the death. You can rest in the peace that you did what you needed to do, and if it doesn’t pan out well, then be kind to yourself, try again, and learn as you go. The quote above by Donald Miller can apply to ourselves as well as others!
I leave you with this: Be yourself. Set your own expectations. Allow others to set theirs. Compare yourself to the you that you’d like to be and no one else. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Never stop learning. If you’d like some support as you begin stepping into your own expectations, feel free to reach out! I’d love to hear from you.
May God bless you and yours in 2020!
Bethany Schaefer, LPC Intern Supervised by Leah McDill, PhD, LPC-S
BethanySchaefer@nlcc1.com 512-238-1700 ext. 313