We often worry about living up to other peoples expectations of us, whether that be the expectations of our parents, our other half, our friends or even complete strangers (hands up if you’ve ever worried about what a stranger thinks of your looks or weight!).
But what about when we don’t live up to our own expectations of ourselves?
When I was really young I had lofty expectations of being a princess when I grew up. OK, so I don’t beat myself up about not achieving that ambition! When I grew up a bit I lowered my expectations, but still, I thought by that by my current age I’d own my own detached house, have a cute car which I’d drive to brunch, be married or engaged and be thinking about having children. I’d be in a job that I loved, feeling secure in what I was doing. I’d have figured out my style, be confident in who I was and have hundreds of friends. Oh, and I definitely, DEFINITELY, would not be living in London.
So let’s recap on reality.
I do not own a house, flat…not even a brick. I don’t own a car. I rarely go for brunch. I’m not engaged or married (though I am in a wonderful relationship), and because of the all of that and the fact I still feel like I’m only just managing to look after myself I in no way feel prepared for a child (that doesn’t mean I don’t coo over every baby I see). I do have a job (don’t love it, don’t hate it – lets end it there) but I definitely don’t feel like an expert – most of the time I feel like I’m floundering! I have no idea how to dress myself, am still working on my self confidence, and have few friends (and a grand total of zero close friends who live within close distance). Oh, and I definitely AM living in London.
So in terms of meeting my own childhood expectations…well I pretty much failed on all accounts.
So how does that make me feel? Well there are some things that I don’t match up on because I chose it that way. Brunch, I’m looking at you. Why would I want one meal when I could have two?! As for a car – I loved my car (ah, Norbert, my first true love) – but you have to be a maniac to drive in London!
The other things where I fell short – well, let me be honest, they frustrate me. Every. Single. Day. It makes it worse when you see friends who are living the life you wanted – and you think “what am I doing wrong?!” But we shouldn’t let it frustrate us, and we shouldn’t think we’re doing anything wrong.
It’s important to remember that the expectations that we develop when we’re younger are based on films and stories that have the happiest of happy endings. We look to our parents’ lifestyles, yet out parents are much older, grew up in a different economy, and likely had different ambitions to us. The friends who we seeing living the life that we thought we’d have may have had to make sacrifices to get there: perhaps they sacrificed their education; their career; their work-life balance.
There’s no right way to live a life. No clever algorithm that says that if you do A and B then you’ll get to Z. Age is just a number, and saying we’ll achieve certain goals by a certain number is not a productive way to live. We may have failed to meet some of our expectations but we may have achieved other things in their place.
One day hopefully we’ll all achieve our expectations, or our expectations will change. But feeling down about our lives will not make things better, and instead we’ll waste days in sadness. And actually, life is pretty good as it is.
What was your craziest childhood expectation?