(published in Hedra News)
“Expectations lead to disappointment, so expect nothing and you will never be disappointed!” An officer in the Air Force shared this wisdom with me in my early years of service. This seemed good advice at the time and I tried to apply it. The difficulty was that I did have high standards of the world around me. I felt that leaving expectations at the back of the stove would be lowering my own standards.
For example, I expected to be treated with equality and respect. I expected to be compensated for my effort and work. I expected to have a right to my own feelings, voice and body. So I decided that I would rather be disappointed in life than disrespected. Which was fine–until recently.
I read an article about Gandhi. A mother went in search of Gandhi’s wisdom for her son, who was diabetic and had a difficult time giving up sugar. They sought advice from this spiritual leader who her son admired. When they arrived, they waited for several hours before they were invited to see the great leader. After the mother shared their dilemma, Gandhi looked at her and said softly, “Please come back in 30 days.”
When 30 days passed, they returned to Gandhi’s home. This time Gandhi addressed the young boy, “My son, you must stop eating sugar.” The mother was furious. She asked Gandhi, after all this time, why this was his only advice.
He replied, “Madam, I could not ask your son to do something that I myself could not do. Only yesterday was I able to completely cut sugar out of my diet.”
We cannot expect others to do things that we are unable to commit to for ourselves. With this thought, I reflected on my list from my Air Force days. Here is my short list that contains the expectations that I had held for others, but had not quite mastered for myself…
Treating Myself with Equality and Respect: I spent years battling an eating disorder, regrouping from a torn childhood and trying to learn to take care of myself instead of self-destructing. I could not expect others to treat me kindly when I treated myself with unkindness.
Compensation for Effort and Work: Abundance Theory is that there is enough wealth for all of us. In my early 20’s I embraced poverty mentality. I have learned over the last decade, the art of giving and receiving with grace. This is a continuing lesson.
Rights to Feelings, Voice and Body: It wasn’t until after the birth of my disabled son when I began to listening to my inner voice, acknowledging my feelings. In other words, I was in my mid-thirties when I started to tune in with myself. I could not expect others to allow me to be authentic, when I was afraid to be me. I could not ask others to listen to my voice, when I did not know the sound of it.
After reading Gandhi’s story, I realized that the challenge for many of us is not in the expectations we have of others, but instead it is with the expectations we have of ourselves. We often do not meet our own criteria and then we spend our lives beating ourselves to bits because we do not meet our own standards.
Switch your self-expectations to self-empowerment and treat yourself how you want others to treat you. Take time this month to explore your own limiting beliefs when it comes to what you really expect from you!