"My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus." - Stephen Hawking
No ONE has it figured it out.
Seriously. No one has it all figured it out all the time.
I just attended a book launch for Mama Gena’s new book. It was raucous, energetic, bold, and empowering.
Something that unexpectedly stood out to me was when Marie Forleo said none of them have it all together. They’re all still figuring things out. They still have meltdowns, and crazy-long work days, and fights with their loved ones.
It seems to be a pretty common idea that we’ll have it all figured out when we reach a certain age, when we get married, when we have kids, when we reach a certain point in our career, or earn a certain salary. We attach expectations to milestones in our life of how life is supposed to be, what it’s supposed to look like, how we’re supposed to feel.
It made me think about our expectations and where they come from.
We’ve been raised with a fairy tale version of life and end up feeling like we missed the mark when our version of life looks a little messier.
We’ve been fed a photoshopped diet. We compare our lives to the smoke and mirror versions we see on TV and social media and think we’ve somehow dropped the ball.
We hide behind shame and guilt when our versions of life don’t match up to these expectations, and in doing so, perpetuate the idea to the outside world.
We set our expectations on pedestals with a timeline...When we get to that pedestal we think we'll be happy and everything else will fall into place.
When we have all of these expectations we’re not only deriving our happiness from an outside source, but we’re also setting ourselves up for massive disappointment.
Christine Hassler talks about this in Expectation Hangover: “We suffer when our reality does not match the expectations we are so attached to...We internalize the lack of desired external results by making it mean we did something wrong or were wronged.”
As we peer into the lives of others through the lens of social media it can appear as if everyone has a perfect life except for us.
We see perfect careers, perfect friendships, perfect relationships. We don’t usually see the missed job opportunities or the crazy long hours at work, we don’t see the friendships that have drifted apart over time or blown up in a fight, we don’t see the work that goes into a relationship behind closed doors, we don’t see the trials of raising a child.
We’re naturally wired to evaluate and compare ourselves, and often do so through social comparison. (Read more here. and here.) So, we put these areas of our life up on a pedestal with a grand expectation. The problem is it’s an unrealistic pedestal. It’s a pedestal that doesn’t exist. We’re striving, and trying, and expecting a reality that isn’t coming and feeling less than when our current reality doesn’t match up.
I want to propose that we knock these pedestals of expectation down. I want us to put a crack in the comparison that builds up our expectations.
Lodro Rinzler says in The Buddha Walks Into A Bar, “When you begin to solidify expectations you get frustrated because they are never met in the way you had hoped...With no set idea of how something is supposed to be it is hard to get stuck on things not happening in the time frame you desired. Instead, you’re just being there, open to the possibilities of life.”
Where in your life can you unclench your grip around an expectation? Where in your life can you let go of the idea of how it’s supposed to be?
The irony is, often by letting go of expectation, we end up with something that unfolds far better than we could have expected. Who knows, maybe by letting go of expectation, we’ll start to figure it all out.