Trying to be what is expected. THIS has pretty much been my way of being up to this point in my life. Be what is expected or mostly – be what I ASSUME is expected of me by others. My motivation is simple, if I get it “right”, I will get what it is I am seeking: Love, acceptance, and belonging. The problem with this equation is that I am seeking what I desire everywhere but where it actually must come from… within.
“Stay out of the way.” “I’m busy, go play in the other room.” “Be quiet.” Sometimes these messages we receive early in life are verbal and sometimes just shown to us by example or even just a vibe we feel. My parents were older when I came along and I even though I had two siblings, they were both out of the house by the time I arrived. So much of my time was spent with adults until probably age ten. Older parents are often more adept at having patience but they also might have a certain amount of “I’ve got nothing left in my emotional tank to handle this full strength girl! I need her to go play and be quiet.” Which I became very good at, sometimes.
I seem to have created this equation of meeting expectations to get love very early on. My dad was very athletic in his youth and by being in sports or having athletic accomplishments I received more attention from him, more love. My focus on being athletic has continued well after he was gone, still trying my old method of gaining love and attention by sports or fitness accomplishments.
Mom was busy. Perhaps trying to be what SHE thought was expected of her. Stay out of her way, play on my own and she will love me and give me attention later. While she never said it to me I think the message I got was “Tone your shit down Sandy.” This too is a message I have still hung onto well after she was gone. We all get this message to some extent, even if our parents did the very best they could, most of us learn to suppress parts of ourselves to be accepted and meet the expectations of our parents.
Of course! This pattern I developed continued into my romantic relationships. Over and over and over again. If I can just be what this person wants and expects me to be, they will reward me with their love and acceptance. I kind of see it like riding a merry-go-round on the playground. You get on the “Be what they expect” ride slowly at first. Then as you contort yourself to be what others want, it starts to speed up, going faster and faster as they need you to change in more and more and more ways in order to meet their expectations. Or even worse, if there are multiple people who all expect something different from you at the same time, you start to feel like you’re going to puke as the life gets sucked out of you and you emotionally abandon yourself. Eventually the only option is to let go and get flung off onto the ground. As much as this hurts, you just can’t stay on the “I must meet their expectations of me to get love” ride any longer without losing yourself, and your lunch!
None of this is the other person’s "fault". These other people are simply reflecting back to us our own feelings and view of OURSELVES. If I don’t meet someone’s expectations, I withdraw my own love from myself. I judge myself. The other person didn’t turn away from me… I did.
If you are super practiced at hanging on to the "please others merry-go-round" handle like I am, giving yourself permission to choose yourself and let go of trying to meet another person’s expectations is beyond scary. It’s devastating. The reason it is so horrifying is because we have not found a way to access our own approval, acceptance and love for ourselves and it all rides on this other person’s view of us. The merry-go-round or the other person isn’t what’s causing my pain, it’s my beliefs about what it means about me and my feelings about myself that are the source of my suffering.
So was/is it the real me to be athletic? Of course, that IS a PART of me. Was it the real me to tone my shit down? Yes, that IS a PART of me. Is it the real me to be strong and confident? Indeed, that is a PART of me. Is it the real me to be scared, sad, even confused into seemingly long-term inaction. Yes, this is PART of me too. The integration of all the parts of ourselves, accepting even those parts that are uncomfortable for ourselves and others is what it means to be wholly ourselves. Or maybe that should be HOLY ourselves.
ALL of us are both dark and light. We all have parts of us that we embrace and qualities or parts that we try to deny or hide. When we deny those parts of ourselves we deem “bad” or what Jung called “the Shadow Self”, we will judge those qualities or behaviors in other people. We will run away from being who we are and this is not the kind of running that leads to freedom. Freedom is about feeling safe to be yourself – ALL of yourself. Without fear of being blamed or criticized for it. Others are going to blame and criticize us. That’s just a fact. We have to find a way to not join in on the dog-pile when this comes our way. We ALL mess up, and sometimes in super important moments and this can be hard to give ourselves compassion in those times. Yet, if we don't, we can get very stalled in our journey.
Sometimes other people in our lives, people who are incredibly important to us, have big, even unconscious expectations of us to fit a profile they have created about us in their mind. This is often about what they believe our showing up in that way means about THEM.
When we vary form that profile, as we inevitably will, they can become very uncomfortable and even judge us and actually withdraw their love for us. And again, this is not about the other person, but about how we don’t accept all of OURSELVES when we fall short in some way. The other person in our relationships is always showing us something about ourselves if we are courageous enough to look down there in the darkness.
We all need other people. That’s part of being human. But, when we make meeting the expectations (or assumed expectations) of others our route to feeling loved, it will suck the sweet life right out of you. This has been the most challenging part of my journey to date – learning to choose myself, which can mean letting go of the merry-go-round and getting a pretty devastating bounce on the cement in the aftermath. This takes a great deal of courage for sure because you KNOW it’s going to hurt like hell. It takes time to recover from that kind of damage because you lost a part of yourself on the ride. You have to dig deep to rediscover it within yourself. No one took that part from you, you gave it away in approval seeking & trying to get the love from someone else when you weren’t giving it to yourself.
Tracy McMillan posted a great video on Instagram today about coming home to yourself and what that means. It means we stop looking outside ourselves in other people and other things to gain the approval and acceptance that we seek because we are not giving it to ourselves.
All next week Spencer and I will be diving into this topic on The Double X Factor. I invite you to listen, comment and see if there is anything I am learning on my journey that may be helpful for you to feel less alone. When we shut down parts of who we are to make others more comfortable, we aren't giving the world what we came here to give. Write yourself a permission slip. Remind yourself that it's not only okay to be you, the beautiful, messy, hard, soft, entirety of who you are - it's a must if you want to live your purpose in this life.
Sandy Edie Hansen
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