How your relationship with expectation is keeping you from being truly happy.
I know that you probably think that you understand happiness. I thought I did, too. Truth is, I still don’t completely understand it, (I probably never will) but I can say that I do know what happiness is not.
I’m not sure who you are, or what your current situation is. I don’t know about your family, friends, job or relationships. I don’t know if you have goals, a religious belief system or support in your endeavors. What I do know, though, is that if you can understand the concept I am about to present here in this article, you can take it into all areas of your life and do some major cleaning up. Consider this a way to overhaul your life, to #MarieKondo your way to a happier, healthier more beautiful life.
I want to start by giving you some key words. The first is expectation. To me, having an expectation is having a predetermined idea of what an outcome of a particular circumstance should be. I use this definition loosely, but if you’re most people, you’ll get what I mean. An expectation could be something like expecting to receive a certain dollar amount in exchange for work you are doing or expecting that your child will respond a certain way if you give them ice cream. On a less obvious level, you could also be expecting that someone give you a raise for all of the extra work you have been doing or expecting that your child will continue to respond the same way to the receipt of ice cream every single time.
The other words I use kind of interchangeably in my teachings are attachment and addiction. To me, these words are extremely similar, although in society, they may have different connotations, with different histories. In my work and in this article, though, I use these words in a way that describes our connection and relationship to something we cannot do without, so much so, that sometimes we choose this particular thing (that we are addicted or attached to) over other things. For example, it could be that we are extremely attached to our pets because we love them so much. We could also say that we are addicted to the way we feel when we spend time with our pets and loved ones. Notice the way you feel when reading the way I choose to use these words and realize that you most likely have a preferred word. Many find a stigma behind the word addiction, but the truth is, we are all addicted (or attached) to something.
The purpose of this very article is to shine light on my firm belief that we all have an unhealthy relationship with expectation – that we are addicted to it, attached. I believe that we are so attached to expectation that it is getting in the way of some of our most longed for experiences, the ability to be satisfied in our relationships and ultimately, takes us out of our happiness, with no exceptions. The interesting part about this is that although I know that each and every one of us struggles with this, the way that we experience it is absolutely unique on a case by case basis. Some of us are attached to expectations set forth by our families, some are addicted to the expectation that are homes should look exactly like our Pinterest boards and some of us create expectations all on our own that constantly remind us that we just aren’t enough.
My hope is that by the end of this article, you are more aware of your relationship with expectation and how it is affecting you in your own life. Depending on your level of commitment, this can (and will) get deep for you. Identifying where the expectation is coming from and unlocking the ability to honor it, bless it and let it go is lifelong work and will be a part of your practice forever. I will be providing you with tools to use that will assist you in pivoting away from the attachment and towards a life full of freedom and love.
Your wheels are turning, I know.
I hope that a light is coming on for you as I give words to something you have experienced before, but maybe could never, up to this point, describe.
It has taken me many years to realize that out of all of the ways society explains it, the words that I am relaying to you now to better understand this struggle resonate the most.
Maybe, like me, you have been diagnosed with some kind of anxiety or depression before. Maybe you were told that a prescription was the only way or that you should probably just ‘slow down.’ Maybe, you’ve often thought that it wasn’t you that had the problem but it was the way that your environment and life up to this point has conditioned you to be. Trust me when I say I hear you. I hear you LOUD AND CLEAR. What I want you to know is that I see you and believe you. You’re not crazy, you’re not alone and you are supported.
Anxiety, stress, drug and alcohol addictions, postpartum anxiety and depression and divorce rates are scaling. We have lost any sense of a supportive village and we are expected to be ‘on’ all day for our for our co-workers and then give to our family what is remaining of our energy. We are being pressured more than ever to perform exceptionally in all areas of our lives. The million-dollar question still remains, though: AT WHAT COST?
As a new mother in 2015, I was juggling the learning curve of becoming a mother, where I stood in my career and how this transformation into motherhood was going to affect my relationships. I had read all of the books, made all of the lists, created all of the registries. My baby was healthy, I had a supportive partner and everything else was ‘in place.’ So why was I still feeling so unsure and lost?
As the days went on, my anxiety crept in. There was never enough time, never enough money, never enough help and support. In between these episodes I would experience, I would have bursts of freedom and love, but every so often the anxiety would creep in and before I even knew it, I’d be back to feeling lost and alone. The most significant change came after the birth of our second child, a couple of years later. Every thought and feeling that I had left unattended made its way to the surface. My anxiety shot through the roof. I had never felt so isolated and misunderstood in my life. Needless to say, it has been an interesting few years. I am excited to share with you now, though, that seeing my relationship with expectation clearly has helped me to navigate my life in a way that makes me feel more alive and less anxious.
The following five steps will lay out the way I’ve been able to get a grip on my relationship with expectation and ultimately, get happier.
1. Witnessing Your Experience
Witnessing your experience involves acknowledging that you are your own being and seeing that being through a lens of love. See yourself in a pure state, one full of light and love, one that craves serving others, experiencing miracles, and choosing to act from a heart-centered place always. Once you have a clear picture and feeling of your own true self, you are then more apt to witnessing the expectations and feelings that present themselves and trigger you to enter a place of fear, anxiety and worry. Seeing yourself as your truest you helps you to better identify anything that is not in alignment with you, your beliefs and desires. For example, next time you get bummed out when you are scrolling through your social media feed, ask yourself what that is about. See yourself as this pure being, your truest self and witness your anxiety, the comparison and shame come up. Ask yourself what is happening. Chances are, there is some kind of tie to expectation. Are you feeling less than enough when you see a friend out at the park with their kids while you are at work and are too exhausted to take your children out after a long day? Are you feeling envy when you see someone posting about their new vehicle or toy? What is it about that moment that is bringing these feelings to the surface? Can we agree that these feelings wouldn’t exist if you had never seen the image, post or comment that triggered you? Can we agree that social media is a highlight reel and there is no way or no reason for attaching ourselves to the expectation that we are not enough unless we have everything and do everything that our friends online do? Do you see how something so seemingly insignificant can send us on a spiral out of control and wind up affecting other areas of our lives if we are not awake to witness it?
2. Realizing That Expectation Comes From Everywhere
Now that we have discussed how attaching ourselves to expectation is an insidious human behavior, I want to chat about how we also need to understand this next important point: expectation comes from everywhere. It could be different for you each and every day, each and every moment. The point, though, is that you now KNOW that it exists and is keeping you from your ultimate birthright: happiness. Take a look at your current circumstances. Are you anxious over the amount of work around the house that is building up? What expectation are you comparing your current situation to? Is it ultimately worth being stressed and anxious over this particular thing? Maybe it is that you are constantly rushing to get yourself and your children ready in the morning. Are you stressing over things that are probably not important? Is someone else’s expectation ruining your ability to do things with ease and grace? The more you ask yourself these questions and witness the way expectation shows up in almost everything you do, the more you can do to ensure it doesn’t negatively affect your ability to live freely and make choices that stem from a place of love.
3. Releasing the Expectation
Years ago, I came across a book about Buddhism. I was in my teens and most likely still attending Catholic mass, as I had since I was young. As many do, I was exploring ‘my options’ and found appreciation for thoughts and ideas that I was finding from people all over the world. This book on Buddhism outlined The Four Noble Truths. Although I never studied Buddhism deeply, my largest takeaway from that book so many years ago was that suffering ceases when desire ceases. That statement sums up the way I explain releasing expectation. In addition, circling back to this information is an amazing validation and reminder to me that I am fully supported and that there are many others in the world who have a similar belief system who have been practicing that belief system for hundreds and thousands of years.
For me, releasing expectation begins with the witnessing. As we discussed above, witnessing the expectation gives us evidence that we are not the expectation, that we are separate from these thoughts and ideals and have somehow clung to them. As we do this work, we begin to find that expectations come from everywhere. As we get clearer about who we are (and who we are not) we begin to see that not only are we setting expectations for ourselves that are, well, quite ridiculous, but we are giving our power over to other people and other societal factors. By this point, though, the expectation begins to take the form of a bubble, something that when we now look at it, it is so very apparent that it is separate from us. We see the expectation floating around, bobbing, making its way closer or closer to us (or further and further from us). As we shift our gaze and begin to understand that this expectation is not ours or required, we know that we now have the choice to pass when it comes to receiving this expectation as part of our thought patterns and life.
Releasing an expectation is a delicate practice for me. When we try to control too much of the process or do it from a place of anger or resentment, it is never sustainable. In my Releasing Expectation Meditation (that you will get access to at the end of this article), I walk you through a guided meditation that helps you to gently release anything that may be keeping you from moving forward. Ultimately, once you begin practicing becoming aware of what thoughts and feelings are truly yours versus what may be stemming from an expectation, you will have an easier time acknowledging, honoring and releasing those feelings and beliefs that do not serve you.
4. Utilizing Pivot Tools
So by this point you are probably wondering, “How do I release the expectation? Show me!” Well, this is where I give you some of my personally tried and true Pivot Tools. I originally shared these Pivot Tools in my Purpose Workshop that I hosted in November of 2018. I learned about pivoting from my teacher Gabby Bernstein. Abraham Hicks also often uses this verbiage to describe the action of shifting from wherever you are to a place of love and light. So, when you begin to notice yourself becoming attached to ideals and thoughts that stem from expectation, you can use these tools to pivot back in the direction of your true alignment. Some tools that help me the most are essential oils, smudging, meditation, and music. I pivot the quickest, though, when I am in the energy of my teachers. Anytime I become aware of getting caught up in my addiction to expectation, listening to people like Gabby, Abraham Hicks, Will Smith, Steve Harvey and Oprah (just to name a few) help me to pivot out of my downward spiral and back towards a place of freedom and love.
5. Remaining Aware
If you are new to this kind of work, everything that I have mentioned up to this point may seem kind of vague or abstract. Even after years of honing these skills, I still find it difficult to explain and practice this kind of energy work, these things that aren’t extremely tangible. Trust me, though. Once you are aware of what I have described here, you will never be able to not know it. Without effort, you will begin to witness the attachment you have to expectation in your life, in all areas of your life. The beautiful part about this, though, is now you have information that can help you to not only witness and identify the expectation, but to actually release it and remove it from prohibiting you living your best life.
This last section, remaining aware, is extremely important. As I mentioned before, this addiction to expectation is insidious. It sneaks in when you least expect it and many of us are blind to the reality of how it is currently ruling our lives. Whether it is as a new mother, a spouse, an employee, a friend, I guarantee you that you are only doing certain things in your life because you feel the absolute need to meet or exceed an expectation, creating a high and a ‘good-enoughness’ that otherwise wouldn’t be felt. The reason I use the words attachment or addiction is because I can also guarantee that if you do not meet or exceed these particular expectations, you will feel some kind of anxiety, stress, fear, or shame. These feelings then have the potential to invade other areas of your life and soon, the addiction to expectation leaves you feeling helpless and out of control.
This is why remaining aware is so crucial. Just when you think you have handled one bout with a certain expectation and that you have ‘won,’ another issue may present itself. There is also a potential for us, in our true human capacity, to drift into an auto-pilot state where we aren’t paying attention to much of anything. If we aren’t being deliberate with our thoughts and actions, expectation will creep in and present itself and we will be back in a situation of wondering if we are good enough, doing the right things or comparing ourselves to other peoples’ circumstances.
For me, my strongest awareness comes with being diligent and intentional. When I begin my mornings with a quick prayer and meditation that asks for guidance and protection, I am signaling to God and the universe that I am ready to tap in to my truest self that day and that I am ready and willing to partner in co-creating a beautiful and abundant day. How you choose to prime yourself for remaining aware is up to you, the important part is that you do it.
I feel such a sense of relief sharing these thoughts with you and getting them out into the world. I have struggled with anxiety and episodes of depression for most of my adult life and have been scared and ashamed to talk publicly about it until recently. Many people in today’s world do not believe in the significance and seriousness of maternal mental health and mental health in general. In my experience, even the professionals in this field never completely took me seriously and I left visits with doctors second-guessing everything I had been thinking and felt guilty for taking up these professionals’ time from those who really needed them. After having my children, educating myself more and becoming more and more aligned with my truth and my mission, I am no longer ashamed and I am definitely not as quiet about sharing my story. I don’t really care if anyone believes me or agrees with me, what I care about is helping just one more person, one more person who is just like me.
I would love to know how this article has resonated with you and what parts you will take home to your practice.