Discarding the shackles of expectation

My husband’s motto, from early on in our relationship was, “expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed.” I found this hurtful as if I somehow had to settle for less than I deserved. Setting the bar so low seemed to let him off the hook in my mind for the standards of how I felt he should treat me, and later our kids.

I’m beginning now, after 30 years, to see the wisdom of that motto. As I navigate life and the knowledge I absorb from a variety of authors and insightful books and investigations, it seems to be free of expectations would allow us to experience more fully the authentic nature of our existence.

What I have become increasingly frustrated by, is other people’s expectations of me. An employer once reviewed my performance by saying I exceeded expectations in every category. As a result I wondered how low his expectations had been. As well, I find myself wondering why some people can’t give me the benefit of the doubt or why they don’t assume I have the best intentions instead of interpreting my actions in the worst possible way.

The journey to love myself had been a bumpy road. I can’t look at myself in the mirror and say those words; I can’t (yet) give myself permission to love myself. I don’t feel worthy. I tried to embrace Dr. Wayne Dyer’s idea that God lives within us; that he is the I AM and that any statement that comes after I AM must respect his existence within (my interpretation). That concept brought me a bit closer but still I am not totally able to embrace this.

cat hiding
Fraidy Cat

By allowing myself to let others define my worth and my value, I also allow their expectations to shackle me. Operating from fear of rejection, fear I won’t be liked, fear that I’ll cause anger in others, fear I’ll disappoint has caused me to forget myself. Who am I? Who was I? Who was I as a child free of judgment? If I can love her, maybe I can love me.

This video, How to Love Yourself by Ralph Smart, resonated with me. Ralph Smart explores familiar ideas like you can’t control what people do to you, you can only control how you react. Similar to Marianne Williamson, he refers to embracing your shadow self. But he goes beyond what seemed familiar to me. He says the greatest catalyst to loving yourself is embracing your uniqueness. He goes on to say we begin to love ourselves when we stop comparing ourselves to others. Further, he explains that letting go of societies’ expectations and investing in your happiness is how you can love yourself and that you must take 100% responsibility for how you feel.

I realize I can’t allow others to define my value anymore.  I want to find the courage now to love myself independently. Is it possible to become the source of my own happiness? What an empowering thought.

An ah-ha moment came at 7:04 in the video when Ralph Smart says once you depend on someone else for your happiness you give them authority over you. I listened to that phrase again and let it sink in. No wonder I have felt resentful, trapped and shackled by other’s expectations and frustrated that they don’t see me as I really am. I don’t see me authentically either because I see myself mostly through the filter of others’ opinions and I’m mostly happy when others are happy with me.

path by J. Wakutz
A new Path

If I’m no longer confined by others expectations, no longer shackled by their opinions, if I no longer allow people to have authority over me by depending on them for my value, can I be brave and worthy? Can I just be? Like John Candy in Planes, Trains & Automobiles, can I get to a place of self-love?

I’m excited to try and am confident that I’m at least worthy of the effort.