Are you ready to stop being afraid?
Before you read what I’ve written, take a moment to answer these questions.
-What are your expectations– as an employee, a woman, a mother, a sister, a wife or partner, a friend?
-Do these expectations help you or hurt you?
I’ve spoken to hundreds of women, from all walks of life. The one thing that is constant for all of us is that in small and large ways we’ve been influenced (some might say brainwashed) by our culture, society, colleagues, family, friends and even our kids to believe that what others expect, need and want from us is more urgent, valued, or important than what we want for ourselves. Often women say yes when they really want to say no!
Where do your expectations come from?
Maybe you don’t want to seem selfish, or bitchy, or ‘god forbid’ manipulative or controlling by asking for what you want. With the recent #metoo movement inviting women to discuss how expectations and fear have played out in the area of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace, it’s given all of us a chance to look more closely at ALL the ways we let the expectations and demands of others plot the course of our daily lives.
What are you afraid will happen if you STOP doing what’s expected? The women I spoke with answered:
What are your expectations?
To be available (whenever) for anyone who needs you
To be promoted, get a bonus, get hired, be a valued team member
To be skilled at cooking, housekeeping, and child-raising
To volunteer with a smile, contribute to the community, and be knowledgeable in all areas
To be polite, not too demanding, pleasant while being assertive
To be attractive
To be good at problem-solving, conflict resolution and family mediation
To be a great listener, even when the subject matter bores you to death
Your list may include other answers and it might much longer than this. Take some time to really ruminate on the concept. Go back to your childhood or wherever the messages began. When did you start to believe that being liked, valued, promoted (an unfortunate goal that keeps most women stuck for our whole lives) was necessary. Maybe even the most important thing for a girl/woman. If you’re thinking now that you are someone who doesn’t care if people like you–ask yourself this–In the last 48 hours, did you do anything you really did not want to do? Why?
Do the expectations you have come to accept as your own help or hurt you?
Will they lead you to where you want to go? Do they help you grow stronger, more yourself, more independent, and able to create the life you want? Or do they hold you in place, like treading water indefinitely, waiting for some event to happen in your life that will allow you the chance to swim freely away to the island in the distance?
The first step toward change is to notice.
Pay attention to the way you think, what triggers you, where does fear show up, especially with expectations. Rest assured; I understand you have responsibilities. The path we are on is not about shirking them or running away. It is about noticing why you feel the way you do and how you can learn to value yourself while you live up to the responsibilities YOU choose. So for the next few days notice each time you say yes to someone’s expectations when you really want to say NO. Note where the idea came from, to begin with that filling this expectation is your job. Then ask yourself if acting this way is helping you become the person you want to be.