As we approach the new year, take a moment to reflect on the past year. What did you learn, what did you accomplish, did you feel fulfilled? If you find the answer to that last question to be lackluster, you may want to examine that further. In a previous blog, I discussed what it means to live a life of fulfillment. It means living a life according to your authentic self. However, I didn’t elaborate on why we end up living in discordance with our authentic selves. Let’s face it, we all want to be liked by others. We often try to make sure people approve of us by living up to their expectations. Maybe you’re an aspiring entrepreneur with family and friends who don’t understand your passion and want something different for you, or you’re concerned your friends will judge you for liking sci-fi novels more than literature classics. Whatever the case, by meeting these expectations, all you’re really doing is putting on a mask in hopes of receiving approval from others. While approval can feel temporarily good, if it hides our authentic selves, we’re hindering our self-discovery, which can lead to feeling unfulfilled.
If you resonate with this sentiment, read on to see how you can learn to not dictate your life according to the expectations of others.
First, you need to become aware of why you’re doing what you’re doing. You could easily live your whole life without knowing why. If you’ve been pretending to be someone else for most of your life, you might not even realize it. That is why I stress the importance of becoming aware of your inner experience. Being able to sit with your feelings and emotions without pushing them away is key to understanding your inner experience. What does your inner self want and are you ignoring it?
You Are Enough
Once you have a better understanding of your inner experience, the next step is knowing what you can and cannot control. You can’t control your own feelings, but you can control how you act on them. Likewise, you also can’t control how others think of you, but you can control how you choose to talk to yourself. One great practice is to tell yourself that you are enough just the way you are. Seriously, look in the mirror and say “I am enough.” You want to stress to yourself, even if you don’t believe it at first, that you have self-worth. Write this message down where you’re sure to see it every day to serve as a daily reminder. Over time, you should feel the message sink in.
If you feel yourself plagued by expectations in general, yours and other’s, perhaps take the approach of removing expectations altogether. High expectations can often lead to undue pressure and disappointment. You may think expecting the worst would help you avoid disappointment, but that will only fuel negative emotions about yourself and others. Try to accept whatever happens and realize that life isn’t perfect, but you can always make the most of it. Also, if you don’t want others to have expectations for you, you need to learn how to not have expectations for them.
At the end of the day, the approval of others won’t make you truly happy. So, is living up to others’ expectations really worth your happiness? Also, realize that your happiness not only affects you but the people around you. Learn to embrace your authentic self for you and for your loved ones.
Loving and accepting yourself while living free from the expectations of others is key to your journey of self-discovery. Please feel free to contact me if you think you need help with this. It is my job to assist with your journey. I offer in-person appointments as well as HIPAA-compliant virtual options.