I’ve talked a lot about our inner battles and how our relationship that we have with ourselves is ultimately the most important relationship in our lifetime. We can’t escape from ourselves, we have to live with who we are, whether we are happy with that or not. When I talk to clients it always comes down to how they view themselves. What they think they are capable of, if they think they can succeed or not.
Attached to these feelings of success or failure is the values that these individuals have. Do they see themselves as an inherently good person, or do they hate the ethos that they have when they think about particular situations. The internal workings of our head alter how we view everything around us. Today I want to get really specific with how our expectations of ourselves shape us into the people we are now and in the future.
The internal workings of our head alter how we view everything around us.
Our expectations of what we feel we should and can achieve is a constantly changing landscape. There are a multitude of variables that are computed in our minds to give us the end result of what our ‘expectation’ is. In our society we are conditioned to focus on continuous improvement and to analyse the things we get wrong so that we can improve on them in the future. Whilst it’s a great model for being able to identify what we can improve on, it is quite shallow in acknowledging what we got right and make us feel good for doing things.
All the adverts in the media focuses on the negative implications of not doing something. ‘If you don’t join our gym programme you’ll never get the body you want (and therefore not feel good)’, ‘If you don’t buy our product then your life won’t have X, Y, Z’. ‘If you don’t study, you won’t get the grades you want and you’ll have a crap life.’ This is the general format of the society we live in. Why does it matter what our society is telling us though? Well, because this message of the fear of not being who we want and what other people will think of us seeps into our unconscious and starts to affect how we think about other areas of our life. We begin to believe what an avert tells us is true when the advertisers have never met us, we start accepting that if we screw up one test then our life will fall apart.
I’ve never signed up for a gym and I’m ok. I don’t feel like I missed out on that programme that they’re selling me. Ever screwed up a test and thought your life was spiralling? Richard Branson did pretty well and he dropped out of school, later to build the ‘Virgin’ empire as we know it today. We are told we must become better by others and it becomes absorbed by most of us that others need to validate who we are and when we’ve done well. I don’t know about you but that sounds pretty exhausting! To only be able to feel good when others let me, by saying what I’m doing is right.
Another key factor in how we form our expectations is through our parental figures when we are growing up. Did we crave one of our parents love more than the others? Not because we didn’t love them but maybe perhaps the behaviours we were displaying didn’t please them. This is just one of many examples of why we might crave a parent’s love. As we are brought up our parental figures have an impact on how we interact in the world and the beliefs and values that we install in ourselves that will shape our future. These might be absorbed by us by being told directly how to behave or what is right and wrong. Such as ‘don’t talk to strangers’, ‘Stealing is bad’, ‘Don’t ask people how much they earn’. The other main way that we create our internal set of rules is by observing behaviours of parental figures, peers and role models and then drawing a conclusion of what these actions mean to give us a rule that can be applied to future situations.
The values and beliefs that we install in ourselves are carried through our lives with us and play a key role in drawing out what our expectations of ourselves are to be. Do we expect that we should be the top employee at our firm? Should we be expected to look after others and be selfless? We expect our work to be perfect. A lot of the time our unconscious expectations of what we expect of ourselves and what we want to do clash. You could think of something you want to do and that differs from the expectation then a pang of negativity can wave through yourself. That pang might be something being said to you in your head, a gut feeling, guilt, sadness, fear, anger, hurt, it will make itself known in one way or another. Some people are very sensitive to these pangs and some people only notice when they have built them up and they are on the brink of a breakdown. This clash, that pang, is a conflict between what your values and beliefs are vs what you think consciously and decide to do while you’re awake.
This inner battle that goes on is exhausting, it wears you down mentally. It’s quite easy to see when people have these conflicts going on too, if someone says ‘Well on one hand I think X and on the other hand I think Y.’ This simulates the two minds pushing their arguments forward. The longer this conflict goes on the more and more entrenched it gets with in our minds. If we are to combat how we view our own destructive expectations, we must look at the root of those expectations. Not to place blame, but so we can unpick the stitching at the source and unravel the emotional tapestry that we have woven ourselves.
This inner battle that goes on is exhausting, it wears you down mentally.
Living up to our expectations can be an enjoyable experience and I am by no means suggesting that all the expectations that we have of ourselves are negative in our lives. Rather, it’s about identifying those expectations that don’t give us joy or drive and being able to rebuild a new way of observing ourselves. I feel it’s worth saying that whilst we want to build positive expectations of ourselves we shouldn’t obsess over every little thing that makes us feel less than euphoric. Life will inevitably have highs and lows, it’s how we respond to these events that allows us to have a more congruent and full life. Let yourself be and change what isn’t serving you. Only you can do that and only you can know what is right for you. Embrace the pangs and trust that you are working to protect and serve yourself.
Further posts on listening to your inner self.