Expectations for others quickly turn into disappointment.
Expectations for yourself immediately turn into paralysis.
Let me explain. Most people I know have huge expectations for themselves, what they should be able to achieve in a day, in a lifetime, what they should be able to deliver to their relationships, the impact they should be able to have.
Please note how much these expectations are inwardly focused. In fact, expectations for yourself keep you so wrapped up in you that it becomes hard to see anyone else. And it’s kind of fun, because you can be fully committed to what you think you should be able to do for others, which sounds an awful lot like being a good person. Except that it’s more about you than the people you are saying all of this angst is for.
Anyway, all of those inwardly-facing expectations have the opposite effect for most of us. We’re standing under this bar that we set at 10 or 20 feet tall and we’re reaching and all we can see is that yawning gap between what we think we should be able to manage and what we are capable of in any given moment.
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you are going to fail. You are going to hurt the people you love the most. You are not going to make all the money you think you should. You aren’t going to be able to protect anyone, or stop any earthquakes or save the world. You are going to fail.
Got it? I mean, really got it? Accepted it, owned it, ridden it like a rock on it’s way to the bottom of a well that you’re not going to climb out of? You have already failed, and you will do so time and time again.
Look around. It might be rock bottom, but the world hasn’t ceased to spin has it? There are still people around you that love you. There are still people around you that need you. There’s still a job that needs to be done.
Now that we’ve established that your expectations for yourself are a waste of time… Now that you know that you can’t possibly meet your own expectations for yourself, what can you do?
You can show up. It isn’t pretty, it isn’t spectacular, it isn’t glamorous, it isn’t shiny. In fact, more often than not, showing up is dirty and messy and ugly. It’s also more than you could manage while you were flogging yourself over the gap between your expectations and your accomplishments.
Even better, when your standard is showing up, suddenly you’ve got all this room for compassion, for kindness to others, for giving and receiving meaningful gifts. Like time. And presence.
So… You want to love someone? Set aside your high expectations. Own the fact that you’re going to f*ck it up. So long as you show up, the f*ckups don’t matter.
(Incidentally, I think the best thing I have to offer to the world is my resemblance to one of those punching clowns – you know the kind that you smack down and they just pop back up with that empty grin? Gee, that sucked. Let’s try it again. I’m not proud of much, but all the things I’m proud of started with showing up.)