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Saying No to Expectations

Stepping into who you are is tricky. It’s hard to separate out what society and the prevailing culture wants for us, what it tells us to do, what it tells us is right. We get weighed down by the should’s and squish down our own truth. We get swept up in expectations and process that we often don’t even critically assess beforehand. It all just sweeps us away. And before you know it, we have lost track of who we really are.

Even worse, we are hard on ourselves when we don’t fit into those expectations. We should be doing this, we should be doing that. We should live here, we should do this job, we should live this lifestyle, we should think this certain way. When we don’t meet those should’s we cast ourselves as failures. We failed the should’s. We didn’t fit in with the should’s. We missed the mark on those should’s.

We become anxious, we become depressed. Our brains are a jumbled mess. A conflicts of external should’s (that we’ve internalised and falsely assumed to be our own) and then the deep, more truthful, fact of who we actually are.

We become ill. We become angry. We become unhappy. We become dysfunctional. We end up in a cycle of inefficiency, unhealthiness, and pain. We have a faint idea that something isn’t right, but we can’t place our finger on what it is that is wrong. It’s buried so deep. We have internalised since birth the should’s. We can’t untangle what is us, and what is the should’s.

Follow this path, make the journey from education to career. Learn to fit in with this group of people. Take this kind of holiday. Go to this place at the weekends. Watch this programme. Eat this food. Say these mottos. Follow this person. Stick to this routine. Walk this line.

What if your true authentic self is mutable? What if she is adaptable to change? What if she has a wide range of interests? What if she questions? What if she is curious? What if she doesn’t fit in? What if she wanders off the path? What if her strength is her flexibility? What if her path is to lead where the path isn’t well trodden? What if she thrives outside the should’s?

Untangle from the should’s and you reveal a strength and a power that can take you on a journey that is healthier, happier, and more productive. Work with the changeable nature of your mind. Know that your instinct is strong. Trust that the path beyond the should’s is just as valid. Have strength in moving towards a place that centres your authenticity, and that, in itself, creates ripples of impact for so many others.

Live without the should’s. Be kinder to yourself. Encourage your inner self, the one that knows what you’re really about. The only expectation you need is to be willing to work on your truth. Leave the should’s outside of your vocabulary. Focus on the now, and move forward. One small step at a time.

Look at yourself in the mirror and say ‘This is me, society’s expectations are inconsequential. I come from a place of strength, kindness, and calm. I am here to work with my own unique set of traits. I will honour them. And I will not squish them down to fit in. There are no should’s in my world.’


This is a a musing on how we need to separate the expectations we have internalised by society from the true nature of our self.