I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the expectations that we are set with in our lifetime; the ones people put on us and the ones we put on ourselves.
People, as a species, have this strong desire to box everything into corresponding categories and once things are boxed, we don’t want them to stray. We somehow manage to do this for everything; from personality to animals (one of the many reasons people can be so narrow minded, btw). Once something has a box, we don’t want it to unbox.
Expectations are a form of these boxes. Take career paths, for example: if you say you want to be a doctor when you’re five years old after seeing an ad on TV, then for the rest of your schooling, people expect you to want to be a doctor. Or if your parents tell you that you are going to be a veterinarian when you grow up, then they’re going to expect you to follow through with that career. If we or others set one course for our lives, even when we’re too young to really understand what life has in store for us, people expect us to continue on that course with no variation.
These expectations, more likely than not, eventually become burdens for us. Humans are ever-changing beings with each part of our lives differing from another. So why do we expect something that was once true about a person when they were five to be the same when they’re twenty?
The boxes that we construct for our world are inhibitory and they minimize all the things that we are capable of, while simultaneously inhibiting the lives of others as well. Our expectations limit us from becoming enlightened, joyful, and free people by tethering us to a singular identity that we are pressured to never stray from. This restrictiveness suffocates our potential and our happiness because it leaves no room for a person to grow.
I was blessed with a family that never pressured me to pursue a certain career in life, but I was pressured to be the smartest and most talented person that I could be. While this has not always been a harmful thing (because it did lead me to succeed further in my young life), the pressure of always having to be the best made me feel as if I could only be happy in life if I was successful monetarily and academically. There wasn’t a lot of room for me to open my view beyond just those worldly ideas of success because I grew up in that box.
It took me a few years to realize that there are so many other ways that a person could find their unique happiness, without making the highest paycheck or being the smartest person in the room. Although I am thankful that my parents pushed me, sometimes I wonder if my viewpoint on life would have been different if there had been other avenues that taught me that there are so many ways to live a successful life.
I challenged the ideas and the expectations that I grew up with (like most rebellious, recently high school graduates), and although I didn’t always do this in a healthy way, I’m glad that I did. By challenging these expectations, I came to realize that the way that I wanted to live my life was different than the Ph.D in Neuroscience I thought I had wanted, and that my true desire was to be a creative in whatever form that took. This shift outside of my box growing up changed the entire course of my life and my future.
And I have never been more successful or joyful.
Breaking out of the expectations that had been set for me gave me the freedom to truly find my happiness and learn what it means to be myself for myself. Over the next couple of days (or weeks or months) I hope that you seriously think about how you’re living your life and whether or not you’re truly happy inside whatever box you’re in. If you are, and you are being your true self in whatever way that is, then power to you. But if not, I want you to think about what is keeping you from the freedom of being yourself, and what expectations are limiting you from breaking outside of your box (woohoo, another cliche). Our time here is not very long, I mean sea turtles live for three of our lifespans basically, and I don’t want any of us to be trapped inside a prison of our making for the whole time without realizing that the door to freedom is right beside us.
Over and Out,