Ever notice how genuinely difficult it is to be our “best self” around those people we care about most?
We journal, set intentions, meditate, pray, religiously attend yoga—then someone we care about deeply irks us in the tiniest way, and we are thrown off our spiritual high horse!
Rationally, one would think that the people who make our hearts sing would bring out the “real” person within us.
So why is it then, that the “real me” is so uptight, quick to judge, and easily angered with my most favorite people?
The answer is: Expectations.
Let’s start from the beginning—who is the “real” me anyway? At work we may be the shy one who quietly bakes those bangin’ cupcakes. At Zumba, perhaps we are that woman who always has to be in the front and center. At home, we are Super-Mom and the household boss.
With our girlfriends we might be the loud one who needs to put down that tequila shot (immediately).
Every day, we each take on a myriad of roles.
Different situations inspire different roles, and different roles have different expectations—right? We humans love expectations because they help us categorize people and their behavior, into nice little boxes in our brain.
We love those little boxes, because when everything is “as it should be”—we feel like we have control! After all, when we are in control, nothing can go wrong, right? (Ha!)
The truth is—who we truly are is not defined by our roles.
We are constantly evolving human beings! Every one of us is a beautiful spirit, inside of a body-machine, constantly learning and adapting based on outside stimuli.
How can we possibly have specific expectations for ourselves, when we’re learning and evolving every moment of every day?
Which leads me to this—how can we have these expectations for other people? Particularly, those people whom we love the most? (Hint: It’s not fair).
The people we love dearly anger us most easily because we have very defined expectations about how that person should think, speak and act, according to their role in our lives. Because these people mean so much to us, we have a greater attachment to how our relationship “should be.”
We love our neat little boxes, so we also create conditions and stipulations which attempt to coerce the person we love into fitting that mold.
When they fit the mold, we know what’s coming, and we know we can’t get hurt. The more attached we are to keeping this person in our lives, the more attached we get to our expectations, stipulations and conditions.
Here’s an example—I come home from work, and the sink is full of dirty dishes.
My progression of thought goes:
1. [Boyfriend] was home all day—why couldn’t he clean up after himself?
2. Doesn’t he know I just busted my buns at work for 10 hours? He should want to take care of me, not add on to my stress.
3. He doesn’t want to take care of me! My boyfriend should be busting his buns to secure this relationship. After all, he’s the lucky one! He needs to step it up to keep his woman.
And now I’m in a funky, stinky mood for the rest of the night…
Since he violated my condition (take care of me, so I know I am loved and this relationship is secure), I am suddenly exceedingly angry about “the dishes.”
Am I truly that furious about the dishes? No, I’m angry that he stepped out of the little mental box I’ve created for him. The next time we find ourselves being a crab-apple toward someone we love dearly, let’s try to drop the expectations.
Let’s take a moment to breathe, close our eyes, and think (or say) the following:
“[Loved one] is doing the best he/she can. I love and support him/her unconditionally.”
This mini-surrender can be immensely helpful in reminding us of the “human-ness” of being human!
How can we continue disregard the conditions and expectations? By staying in the present, and finding gratitude in the now.
Author’s note: the aforementioned story really happened—I even cried over the dishes! This applies to your own expectations of yourself too—let them go. We aren’t always perfect. Forgive, forget, move on to the present.
Author: Tory Dube
Assistant Editor: Yoli Ramazzina / Editor: Catherine Monkman