No matter who you are, someone expects something from you. Some expectations are reasonable, some are unavoidable, and some are simply not your problem. All of them get tiresome after a while, especially when you're trying to be yourself and stay true to what you believe in. It's often harder than it sounds. If your parents expect something of you, how can you say no? What does your boss expect from you? How about your partner? Even if you consider the expectations of the people whose opinions you value, you can still be your authentic self.
1. Consider What Interests You but Don't Feel Obligated
So, like I mentioned, sometimes you feel compelled to live up to the expectations of others. If your parents expect the best from you, for example, you don't want to let them down – right? Well, that depends on lots of things, such as your relationship with your parents, their definition of what's best for you (more on that in a minute), and what they expect. Replace “parents” with “boyfriend,” “wife,” or “boss” and the considerations are the same. You don't have to live up to any expectations you don't want to. Think about how the expectations of others mesh with your interests and what you expect of yourself.
2. Don't Let Anyone else Define Your Happiness
“We only want what's best for you,” most parents say to their children at one time or another. There are dozens of reasons children want to live up to their parents' expectations, even into adulthood. You may hear the same thing from your best friend or your spouse. That's great – it's wonderful when someone wants the best for you. The thing is, you know what's best for you now. What if your mom's idea of what's best for you involves medical school and years of training, but you want to focus on photography? You know what makes you happy better than anyone else. Again, think about which expectations actually fit in with what you want. To hell with the rest. Anyone who truly wants what's best for you won't care how you define it. They just want to actually see you happy.
3. Don't Let Anyone Define Your Reality, Either
Society has expectations of everyone, too. Women have to meet society's expectation of what they should be, from the standard of beauty to the ideal way to behave. The same is true for men, along with different races, different religions, different sexual preferences – it never ends. If society expects you to look like Barbie, but you don't have a thigh gap, a year-round tan, and perpetually pointed toes, that just doesn't fit into your reality. You define that reality, by the way. It's all yours. That means you can resist any expectation, whether it's society's or your grandfather's, if it isn't at all relevant to your life.
4. Pay No Attention to Anyone's Ill-Mannered “I Told You so”
Isn't that a grating phrase? People say “I told you so” in myriad ways, especially when you don't do something they expect of you and it turns out they were right. Don't worry about it. Ignore the words, ignore that often insufferable “I told you so” attitude, and ignore the subtle implication that there's something wrong with making mistakes. Don't fulfill someone's expectations just because you're worried about the risk of someone being smug. To hell with that, too. You never learn if you don't make mistakes. Sometimes you learn more from them so don't let anyone take a learning opportunity away from you. The more you know, right?
5. Try to Surround Yourself with People Who Believe in You
Everybody gets by with a little help from their friends. It's well and good for me to sit here behind a screen and say that you should stay true to yourself all by yourself without any input from others, but come on. Sometimes you need encouragement to keep doing you. I'm not advising you to hang around a bunch of enablers who will happily give you the go ahead no matter what because that would be really stupid of me. You need people who can tell you when you're veering off-course and making potentially destructive decisions. The key is to make sure they're positive forces. Then you end up with a loving, honest cheering section ready and willing to bolster and support you when you doubt yourself.
6. Stand Firm for the Things That Matter to You
I'm not going to tell you how to demur or quietly pass off someone's unrealistic expectations. You don't have to be quiet – even if you're dealing with a husband who expects you to defer to him on every subject or a grandmother who expects you to vote Republican even though you're a Democrat. You don't have to scrap or climb up on a soapbox but if someone expects you to do something you don't believe in, stand firm for your convictions. Be vocal about it, even if you do it respectfully. You'll feel stronger and more confident about the things for which you stand.
7. Don't do Unto Others as You Would Not Have Done to Yourself
Being true to yourself means being as authentic as possible, right? So pay it forward. Don't expect too much from others. You can't be all things to all people and neither can anyone else. Keep your expectations open and realistic but don't expect perfection from anyone else and don't project your own desires on them, either.
The urge to meet the expectations of the people who matter is strong, but those expectations aren't always right. Even if they are, you're under no obligation to live your life by them. Don't lose yourself because you feel like you're being pulled in too many different directions. Take a step back, breathe, and think about what makes you happy. What's the most unrealistic expectation you've ever dealt with?