“Expectation is the root of all heartache” – Shakespeare
Ugh. Expectations. I’m sure that every person reading this post knows about expectations: the burdensome ideals place upon your life by other people (and oftentimes, yourself): All those things you’re supposed-to do. The way you’re supposed-to live. The way you’re supposed-to look. The company you ought-to keep. All the stuff you ought to do. The things you’re supposed-to say (or not say). The ways you’re supposed-to raise your kidlets. The things you’re supposed-to want. All the flaming hoops you’re expected to jump through – in order to please other people and keep everyone happy.
In order to be liked. In order to fit-in. In order not to piss-people-off. In order to keep-the-peace.
I understand why Shakespeare said that expectation is the root of all heartache. Because it is.
Expectations hurt BOTH the people doing the expecting… AND the person upon whose shoulders the expectation has been placed.
But first – a differentiation (my wise friend, Charise, reminded me of this yesterday). There is a difference between agreed-upon expectations… and the other kind… (the damaging kind).
An agreed-upon expectation looks like this:
- Charise and I have a discussion and make a plan to meet for lunch.
- We both agree to meet at 12pm at a certain venue.
- Because we have agreed… Charise will now *expect* me to arrive on time at said venue.
- If I don’t arrive on time… and if I’m hopelessly late (or – if I forget completely… like I once did with my friend Ryley)… then I’m going to owe my friend an apology (and, in the case of Ryley, who sat waiting for me in a coffee shop for two hours… a fair bit of grovelling!)
Another agreed-upon expectation is – say – a wedding vow. When Nick and I got married, we both promised to be faithful to each other. This is now an agreed-upon expectation. I expect him not to cheat on me. He expects me not to cheat either. Fair’s fair.
However… it’s the unspoken expectations that are the vile and insidious ones. Those are the ones that – I believe – are the root of all heartache.
Here’s how they look (I’m sure you’ll find a number of these very familiar):
- “You didn’t call me on my birthday”
- “You didn’t send condolences when my dog died”
- “You didn’t greet me at church on Sunday”
- “You didn’t thank me publicly during your acceptance speech”
In the case of relationships, unspoken-expectations can wreak absolute havoc. Here’s what some of those look like:
- “I expect you to clean up after yourself and not just leave your clothes on the floor”
- “I expect you to do the dishes after I cook. After all, I’m not the house-slave”
- “I expect you to bring me flowers”
- “I expect you to be well-groomed at all times”
- “I expect sex. And I expect you to enjoy it”
- “I expect you to change poo nappies”
- “I expect you to be good with children”
- “I expect you to get up and see to the baby when he cries at night. I’m not the only parent in this relationship”
- “I expect you to fill the car with petrol when the tank gets low and not just leave it for me to deal with”
- “I expect you to be a fabulous hostess”
- “I expect you to visit your mother on your own – without expecting me to come with!”
- “I expect you to dish up my supper for me”
There are, of course, gazillions of examples of unspoken-expectations. And, unless they are all discussed and agreed-upon… (and preferably before one skips merrily down the aisle) it’s just going to cause a whole LOT of simmering resentment!
Here’s how unspoken-expectations hurt the person (upon whom the expectations have been placed): Firstly… it feels stifling, limiting… it feels like we can never measure up… we’re never “enough”… we always seem to be doing something wrong… it feels as though we’re followed by a constant stream of judgement and condemnation. It feels as though we’re constantly disappointing others. It feels as though we just…. can’t… truly…. BE… ourselves.
And here’s how unspoken-expectations hurt the person who is doing the expecting: They feel offended. They feel disappointed. They feel as though the person in question just doesn’t care about them – or their feelings. They feel frustrated… ie: “Why can’t they see what they’re doing wrong?”… or … “They’re being deliberately obstinate! They’re doing this just to piss me off because they know I don’t like it!”
See how unspoken expectations cause such hurt? And, I think we’re all guilty of placing unfair, unspoken expectations upon others. I know I have. And I don’t want to do it any more.
Okay… so now I’m going to speak personally.
In the interests of NOT feeling as though I’m living under a cloud of expectation… both with my blog… my book… my workshops… my shows…
I need to make it abundantly clear who Heather – or “Hat” IS… (and who Hat is NOT)…
That way, if I say “fuck”… or if I talk about (or draw) uncouth things like Dream-Poo’ers… I’m not going to receive howls of offended protest… long, earnest e-mails from folk expressing their disappointment in me (this has already happened a few times).
So… in the interests of being as real and honest as I can possibly be… here are some of my scribbles that can possibly express my Hat’ness (better than a long-worded post)… and will (hopefully) put to rest any unspoken expectations of who folk think I’m supposed to be… or what I’m supposed to believe… or how I’m supposed to live… and what-not….
I’m going to end this post with that wonderful Anthony Hopkins quote (I aspire to live this quote):
“My philosophy is: It’s none of my business what other people say about me or what other people think about me. I am who I am and I do what I do. I expect nothing and accept everything. And it makes life so much easier”.
PS: I’d love to hear any of YOUR stories about expectations… how they’ve hurt or limited you… or any other lessons you’ve learned about how to politely extract yourself from other people’s expectations… X