This is not a weight loss story, unless you count an interwoven metaphor.
My whole life I have struggled with self-image. Even when I lost weight and felt confident, it was fleeting. I would feel good for a while and self sabotage. When I got pregnant, with both pregnancies, I took the liberty to eat whatever I wanted, as a lot of women do. I was told not to worry about it. I was told that I would lose the baby weight. This sounded like nice advice, but as I discussed in a previous post, I am an excuse monster. If I can find an excuse to do, or not do something, I will use it to my advantage.
Recently, I have been seeing a therapist, and doing a lot of self-reflection. Deep down, I knew the problem I was facing wasn’t my weight. It was much deeper than that, and I needed someone to help me figure out why I felt so terrible, even when I was working hard, doing the right things, and losing the weight.
The rest of this blog is going to focus on the one and ONLY dirty word in my vocabulary right now: expectation.
My therapist told me why this word was damaging how I view, not just myself, the the people and the world around me. Have you ever said to yourself, “I don’t know why I expect _____ to happen. It never does.”
Insert, “My husband to…”, “My kids to…”, “My mom/dad to…”
Also insert, “good things”, “luck”, “a break”, “rest”, “results”
Sound familiar? Yeah, they are all too familiar to me too.
The problem with expectation is that is doesn’t ever happen, and if it does, it’s never exactly how we wanted. The moral? Expectation will always lead to disappointment. Plus, an added layer of anxiety for me. ALWAYS.
If I expect my husband to be or do a certain thing, I will probably be disappointed. Not because he isn’t willing, not because he isn’t helpful, and especially not because he doesn’t care. None of those things are true about my husband.
I will expect him to pick up on clues that I need him to do something instead of just asking. When he doesn’t meet this expectation, it makes me upset. If I ask him to do it and he says he will, but forgets, it makes me upset. All of these are true and all of these are in a rightful place. But, REALLY consider where the frustration comes from. Isn’t it just as easy to ask instead of assume he will “know what I mean”, and isn’t it just as easy to forgive and move forward if he forgets? Don’t I forget things he asks of me sometimes too? Removing expectation, which is an unnecessary evil, relieves the tension from all of these situations.
Let me give you another example, incase marriage doesn’t resonate with you.
If I expect my mother/father to be a certain kind of mother/father and fit into a box or on a pedestal, I am going to be disappointed. Not because of what he/she does or doesn’t do, but because he/she is simply not able to meet an expectation I set. Me. I set the expectation.
I expected that meeting my biological father would fill a void or be a certain level of relationship that I had built up in my head before it was anything. I needed to get rid of the expectation of who I needed him to be and see who he actually was. This isn’t saying anything bad about him or my mom, and I am not saying that we shouldn’t have a standard for how we should be treated. In the specific example of parents or siblings, this can be especially hard, because the biological bond can be blinding. In reality, people are who they are, and they are not who we expect them to be. We can either love it, or we can’t and that is a decision we have to make.
I had to make this same distinction when it came to loving myself. I am an who I am outside of expectation or comparison. I am who I am outside of circumstance or background. I am who I am inherently. I can either love it, or I can’t. Honest moment–for longer than I’d like to admit, I couldn’t love me. I couldn’t love me because I thought I was them, or her, or another version of myself I thought I should be.
I had to start living outside of expectation.
I had to learn to love people in their fallibility and meet them right where they are, unconditionally.
Once I set an expectation, that is the same thing as setting a condition, and that is the opposite of loving unconditionally.
I had to learn to love myself without condition. I had to learn to love all the pieces that make me who I am.
Also, at the risk of sounding persnickety, the only relationship that I have that flourishes under expectation is my relationship with God. He is exactly who He says He is all of the time, and He keeps all of His promises without wavering. I can count on Him to be constant. So, when I feel like I NEED to expect something of someone, I know exactly who I can turn to who will deliver.
Are there things about myself that are unlovable? To the standards of people, yes.
But, living outside of expectation means being able to live outside of my expectations and other people’s expectations.
So, what does this look like?
- This means eating healthy and getting regular exercise without the expectation of weight loss. The less I stress about what the scale says, the better off I feel about my body. If I feel bloated, I drink more water. If I have a sweet tooth, but don’t think I can handle one treat, I eat an apple. If I don’t feel like going to yoga, but I haven’t exercised all week, I go to yoga anyway. I do these things because I am listening to what my body needs, and responding in a responsible manner without the pressure of result. I PROMISE you. The very minute I start expecting results is the exact minute I start going backwards.
- This means being proactive in my relationships. Controlling who gets what amount of my time, if any. Being active in my relationships that are naturally healthy and fruitful, and less active or setting boundaries in ones that are toxic or co-dependent. It also looks like doing what I can to give what I am able, and not expecting gratitude or repayment.
- This means setting goals for growth and being malleable to change.
- This means taking a freaking breath every once in a while–a deep belly breath.
- This means not getting things done or messing up and giving myself grace.
- This means being okay with not being okay.
- Lastly, it means loving the parts of myself I was too hard on before. Loving my awkward way of socializing, ambitious spirit, broken childhood, short legs, hormonal acne, split ends, critical nature, emotional reactions, introversion, neediness, guardedness, perfectionism…. all of it.
Loving it doesn’t mean accepting it either. It means letting it be what it is, but not letting it define me or control me. It means knowing it’s there and knowing how to grow away from it. It means recognizing it, and redefining it.
I hope this blog finds you well. I hope it helps challenge you to start thinking about expectations you set and how they could be hindering you from being the best you. What did you think about my take on expectations? What pieces of yourself are you hardest on?
With love and appreciation,