As a new week begins I find myself thinking a bit about expectations, both big and small. We all have them and many of us often find ourselves sorely disappointed when our expectations are not met. In the last few days I’ve come to realize that when it comes to expectations, mine are probably higher than most; I expect so much of others and of myself that often I am left disappointed.
When I was in ninth grade I had a teacher who pushed every single one of her students to excel in all aspects of their lives. Her honors class was one of the first classes that made me truly work for the grade that I wanted. The first few weeks of the school year brought with it low grades and even lower self-esteem. I remember sitting in her class thinking that it was going to be a horrible year if my grades continued to fall below the norm.
One day, however, after noticing that many of us were still “adjusting” to the rigors of her class, she told us something that I will never forget so long as I live. She said that in all her years of teaching she had learned one important thing: when we raise the bar for those around us, in almost all cases those around us will rise to meet that bar. Some may fall back and some may simply remain where they are, but most will rise.
Looking back I think that in that moment something inside of me changed. Instead of falling back I started reaching for some invisible bar in life, expecting more of myself and more of those around me. In many ways it became a driving force; something that began to define me and set me apart from others, but not in the way that one would expect.
Instead of becoming the ideal student, I developed a thirst for knowledge and a never-ending hunger for more out of life as a whole. I started setting standards for myself and standards for every other person in my life. For a while this was a good thing; my rise in expectations brought with it success and motivation for both myself and others. It forced me to evaluate friendships and opportunities more critically and to “cut the fat” in some instances. But it didn’t take long for me to see the downside of this as well. I started seeing the flaws in others more clearly than their merits.
I find myself at a point in life now, wondering if maybe my expectations are becoming less realistic and more idealistic, less attainable and more on the ridiculous side. I think in some ways I have developed a need for perfection; a need to reach some point where I can say that I am at the height of who I can be. I’m starting to question if this need to rise and meet some invisible bar is actually taking more from me than it is giving. This in turn makes me think about the bar itself and the decisions that come from where we set it.
When we set the bar low, we may be avoiding disappointment, but we may be shying away from possible success and opportunities as well. It also seems like we would be ignoring the potential within ourselves and others. Conversely, when we set the bar high, we may be setting it too high and ultimately setting ourselves up for failure. It also may be compelling us to make decisions based on our expectations rather than other factors that may be more important in the decision making process.
With expectations so high, it begins to seem like most people will never measure up and that nothing will ever be good enough. At what point do we say that the bar is too high or even too low? And how can we know which side is better? Furthermore is it right to have expectations that vary from one person to another?
These questions just keep bouncing around in my head and I’m left feeling unfulfilled with my own perspective on the answers. I’m left wondering how to find the happy medium that keeps me from expecting too much or too little from myself or those close to me. I’m left wondering if maybe my expectations are simply getting in the way of me living the life I want to live.
Well those are some of my thoughts for today. Take them or leave them. You decide. I am more than happy to hear some of yours as well. Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry