Don’t Live Your Life Trying to Meet Other People's Expectations

Rachel Yerks by Chris Galbraith on Unsplash

Everyone lives with the expectations others set for them. Maybe your parents wanted you to become a doctor. Your second-grade teacher didn’t think you would amount to anything.

Whatever the expectations, they weigh on you, even if you don’t want to accomplish them. It’s especially difficult to push expectations away if you love the people who set them.

It’s hard to push other people’s expectations away when you’re a child. But when you’re an adult, it’s time to re-evaluate meeting these expectations.

Living your life to meet someone else’s goals is no way to live.

Realize Expectations From People Who Love You Are [Likely] In Your Best Interest — And Disregard Them Anyway

Being a doctor is associated with prestige, high income, and a higher standard of living. A parent expecting their child to be a doctor is a common movie trope nowadays because it’s so common.

The expectations set for you by your loved ones are usually in your best interest. They are set to lead you in what your loved ones believe is the right direction to create a better life than they had.

But, there are family members who may be living their dreams vicariously through you, too.

You can be prestigious, have a high income, and a high standard of living as a mechanic. You may very well be one of the top mechanics in the industry and be respected, and high income. Old status symbol jobs don't mean as much today, and it isn't worth it to have a job that makes others happy and you miserable.

Recognize you can accomplish a better standard of living through many paths, often not the ones you’re told to travel. Create your own path — cliché, I know.

Respect Your Needs Above The Desires Of Others

Travelers know that in the airplane safety demo, a flight attendant always tells us to put on our own oxygen masks before helping anyone else in the case of an emergency. Many parents wave this announcement away without realizing how vital it is for them to be conscious in order to help their own child.

Similarly, we put others first in our lives, without acknowledging our own needs.

Expectations are often thrust onto us by people who didn’t meet their own expectations. These people may not have easy jobs, enough money, or enough free time. They don’t want you to make the same mistakes.

But if you don’t take care of yourself first, you can’t help anyone else. Especially the people expecting things from you.

If expectations are being thrust onto you by unhappy people hoping to make your life better than theirs, how are you supposed to help them if you’re miserable?

The cycle needs to be broken, and you have the power to do that. Once you’ve done it, go back and help everyone else who wants help. If you can, try to help build community systems to help out people without their needing to ask.

You Can Escape The Expectations You’ve Taken To Heart

Perhaps the most popular expectation in the United States, and many other countries, is working a 9 to 5. You are expected to find a job and give forty hours of your life away each week in exchange for the right to live.

Most people don’t think they’re paid well enough for their time, and I think they’re right. Find a way to escape — if you want to.

I want to be clear: there’s nothing wrong with being satisfied in your 9 to 5. My partner thoroughly enjoys his career and wants nothing more than to excel and move up the ladder over time.

I don’t tell him to get a side hustle, and he doesn’t tell me to get a promotion.

But if you want to escape the 9 to 5 life, you can. It just takes a while.

You could start a dog walking side hustle and work fewer hours in the office. You could write online and get paid weekly for articles you wrote years ago. You could start a passive income stream, or three.

You can switch career paths when an opportunity you’re passionate about comes along and work part-time. There is always a way out of the expectations other people and society set for you, it just might not be visible right now.

It’s Easier Said Than Done To Toss Expectations Aside

If your parents expected you to become a doctor and you did, that’s fine. If you enjoy it, keep doing your job. I am by no means shaming anyone.

Personally, I enjoy helping people. I make sure my job lets me do that. But I would prefer to help people out of kindness, not only as a restrictive, paid job. I appreciate having a job that pays my expenses, and it’s hard to give that up.

I write online because I enjoy writing. I’ve always enjoyed it. But this is the first site I’ve found where I truly believe I can make a livable income from my writing someday.

I don’t think life is meant to be spent working for other people, 9–5 every day. I’m working to change that — while still working my 9–5.

I am working to change expectations.

It’s tough, but it is ultimately worth doing for my future. I imagine it’ll take years to fully cover my expenses using side hustles. It’s not a walk in the park for anyone, otherwise, everyone would do it.

In order to live your life as you see fit, you must recognize what expectations you’ve been striving to meet and identify if they were set by you, or someone else.

Recognize that within your life, your interests need to come first in order to be as fulfilled as possible.

Slowly take the steps to push others’ expectations for you aside and create the life you want. It is possible, and you can do it faster the sooner you start.

I hope I’ve encouraged you to prioritize what you want in your future. You can’t live to please everyone else. Live the best life for yourself, and help people when you are able to. Your life comes first, regardless of if you "owe" someone or not.

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Owings Mills, MD

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