Have you ever suffered from expectations?

flow game makes me think story as a map storymaking the story dojo Feb 03, 2024

Most of us have had to carry the expectations of others at some point during our lives. Perhaps it was the expectation of your parents for you to follow in their footsteps or take up a specific kind of work.

Maybe the teachers you experienced expected you to be an exceptional student like one of your siblings. Or you are the caregiver in your network, so everyone expects you to be the "Fix-It" person.

I remember a series of jobs right at the beginning of full-time employment. In the first I was seen as an intern, so no one expected much. They assigned me to a high performer, but he was never in the office, then when he was, it felt like being in the presence of a hurricane at full force.

So they moved me to another manager who was exactly the opposite. I was so bored. I made up things to do and got given the pro bono work. One of my colleagues at the time said: "You're like a Porsche and they won't give you any oil."

When I was headhunted by my next boss I came in as the golden girl. But that meant when I got myself in over my head I felt I couldn't ask for help. My boss became a bully and acted like I couldn't do anything right. I had to give my suggestions to other people to voice. The frustration was like a thick layer of ice on my life.

It must be so much harder for anyone who carries the expectations of the world on their shoulders.

Just recently I read an article about how controlling fans are to Asian stars. They not only mob and stalk them, but also consider they have a right to decide who they can be with and what they look like. Such a storm of opinion can sink anyone.

In choosing fame, it seems a person must also contend with the overwhelming flood of expectation from others.

I've experienced this only once. It was when I was part of the Women's Circus in Wellington, New Zealand.

Yes, I've been on the trapeze and I learned how to throw knives (I remember I was pretty good at it). But the time I want to tell about happened when the first Lord of the Rings movie premiered.

Since New Zealand was the home of the filmmaker and the movies, the premier took place in Wellington, not far from Director Peter Jackson's and Weta Workshop's home bases. Most of the stars of the film were attending a red carpet event at the Embassy Theatre.

We were invited to be part of the parade which crawled through town and ended at the theatre. I was marching with a group of musicians and playing a snare drum. Thousands of people lined the parade route.

As we got closer and closer to the final stop, I became more and more aware of the sense of expectation. It had a particular weight to it, as people focused ever more intently on the open vehicles carrying the actors coming behind us. 

It was like marching willingly into a tunnel that was becoming smaller and smaller and more intense with each step. Maybe this is what it is like to be a deep sea diver and feel the pressure of the ocean. I can only imagine what that might have felt like for the people the crowd really wanted to see.

In a sense, all of us in life have been conditioned to be performers.

We want the love and attention of others. We want to feel successful and be admired. We have been trained to compare ourselves, and so often we feel like we come up lacking.

Small wonder. All of this expectation is outwardly focused, so it never comes close to filling the gap most of us feel inside ourselves.

The most important relationship to attend to in life is the one you have with yourself. And that means you especially need to attend the stories you tell yourself, because they directly impact your agency in the world -- your ability to know yourself as valued and valuable, and to take action when and where it is called for.

Your inner relationship is the foundation for all others. It makes the difference to whether you over perform and therefore overwhelm people with your energy or you are settled in who you are and therefore become a compelling invitation in the world.

Is it time to set your story free?


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