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Free Yourself: How I Learned to Let Go of Others' Expectations

At the cornerstone of where I lose myself is the need to be who others want me to be and the failure to resist their expectations. Out of fear of disappointing others, I become a master at molding myself into anyone’s tight fitted assumption. Meeting others’ expectations seems to be the constant narrative over my life, beginning with childhood.

Being the oldest of three daughters, I was susceptible to others’ expectations around who they believed I should be. People often had boxes to put us in and expected me to do many things. Juggling these expectations over my life has been exhausting to my brain and confusing to my heart.

Existing in a space between my most real desires and others’ expectations made me doubt everything I was until I reshaped how I responded to those expectations. I have worked at trading their boxes for the freedom to live a life that I uniquely design--a life of which I can be proud.

The Cost of Keeping Up

Carrying around others’ expectations weighed me down mentally and emotionally, causing me to risk more than what was worth. I often struggled to find environments where I could be me authentically because the pressures of others’ expectations consumed me. Overthinking how to perform for others, I became paranoid of each move I made because I never wanted others to have a negative opinion of me.

The reality is that people change their opinions often.”

Recognizing the value of my time and energy, I gave up this song and dance. I found that keeping up with others’ expectations will cost time, spirit, and peace of mind--all invaluable things to squander on the fickleness of people’s opinions.

The reality is that people change their opinions often. When I learned how flighty, or unsteady, some people could be in their thoughts, I overcame this need to keep up with their expectations. If I solely exist to meet others’ expectations, my dreams and desires are guaranteed to fade away.

What Others Think of Me is Important, What I Think of Myself Matters More

It seemed like there were people in my life who became attached to one side of me, never allowing me to be more. I like to believe that we all have layers to pull back so that we, and others, can explore our different sides.

“...those who can only imagine us in their narrow framework offer a love that is limiting and conditional.”

The people who love us most welcome us to express these sides of ourselves. However, those who can only imagine us in their narrow framework offer a love that is limiting and conditional. The expectations of those who loved me most never countered my real desires. These people’s expectations made me feel grander and challenged me to reach new heights that brought me closer to myself.

The expectations of those who had a narrow framework of who I was made me feel small and unfamiliar with myself. I discovered that others’ positive expectations make us rethink what we expect of ourselves and those around us. Taking the time to consider the expectations I have for myself, I made this list:

>I expect myself to realize my forgotten dreams

>I expect myself to show up for me consistently

>I expect myself to be honest and communicate when I need help achieving my expectations

>I expect myself to hold space for all of the parts that make me unique

>I expect myself to honor the time taken to rid myself of others’ expectations by practicing forgiveness

Whenever I feel myself retreating to my people-pleasing nature, I take time to think about what I expect of myself. Which expectations are worth meeting or denying? Which expectations allow me to stay true to myself?

Release and Be Free

In the process of letting go of others’ expectations, I forgave myself for time spent living someone else’s life. The doubt and self-pity I experienced was a direct result of the regret I felt.

I learned to appreciate my struggle of letting go because it taught me more about myself. It became simpler to say ‘no’ to limiting expectations because I had a greater ‘yes’ burning inside me.

This ‘yes’ allowed me to explore who I am, what my real desires are, and how I could build a life where I felt free.

When I evaluated the connection I had to others’ expectations, I found many weak ties.

“...people will always have an opinion of you, and will hold an expectation that mirrors that opinion whether they express it to you or not.”

I asked myself, “why am I trying to impress this person?” I had to reconsider who was giving the expectation. Many of the expectations I let go of came from people whose perception of me revolved around who I was as a child. They did not have the slightest idea about the adult I had grown to be.

I accepted this inevitable truth: people will always have an opinion of me and will hold an expectation that mirrors that opinion whether they express it to me or not. When I accepted this, I knew I held the key to letting go. Though, I also remembered to have greater expectations of myself to live my dreams and stay true to everything that makes me unique.

I have learned a great deal about letting go of others’ expectations. It seemed like others’ expectations plagued both my childhood and young adulthood--yet, I am still learning to be free and releasing the guilt. Each day, with each step in the direction of my heart’s most real desires, it gets easier.

When I free myself, I experience the confidence to dream bigger and expect greater. The greatest gift I receive in letting go of others’ expectations is the renewed sense of self once I recognize my heart’s most real desires.

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