Updated: Dec 17, 2020
From family, the expectations begin early. Sometimes right from our childhood. ‘You are a child; you need to do what you are told,’ or ‘Girls don’t laugh loudly,’ or ‘boys need to hold it all in.’ As we grow old, they just get compounded, ‘You have to top the class to get a job’ to ‘you have to climb the corporate ladder.’ In some cultures, It’s often worse for women, not satisfied with education and jobs that society takes it upon themselves to ensure she is ‘well-settled’ AKA married with a brood of babies. [C1]
And before we know it, life becomes a series of directions.
In all this hullaboo of you have to, we never get a moment to think about what we want?
Don’t get me wrong; I recognise these expectations come from a place of kindness, as they only want the best for you. A path well-trodden tried and tested. I mean, why fix something that’s not broken?
What about your version of the best? What about your desire to test the path surrounded by the wilderness? A family’s perception of what is best and your own expectations may not be the same. But try telling an Indian parent from the 90s you don’t want to be a doctor or an engineer or telling your well-meaning relatives that you don’t want to be married? Chances are just thinking about it makes your heart sink!
Do I really want to go through all that drama? Won’t life be better if I just complied?
Even if you somehow find a way to soldier on, the constant questions raise a multitude of self-doubts, and you give up to avoid failure and the inevitable ‘I told you so!’
Which, when you think about it, is totally unreasonable.
You can feel pressured to get married, have a child, or follow a specific career path, but would that make you happy? Your unhappiness would affect the very people who you wanted to appease.
What about your friends and peers?
How often do we order another beer, knowing fully well that we should have stopped drinking with the last one? Or the whole thought process of not wanting to be a killjoy for insisting the group break up early even though you have a test due tomorrow? Or worse, being part of every coffee break, lest you miss out on something and then spend the night working.
Who is it impacting?
You! It’s impacting your decisions, your actions, emotions, and your self-esteem. Before you know it, you get caught up in this perennial loop of being someone you don’t even recognise.
For your own mental health, it has to stop.
A simple way to go forward is to take responsibility. Only you can find out who you want to be and not what the world wants you to be. Imagine a life where;
· You don’t have to be always on your toes.
· You don’t struggle to wake up in the morning
· You don’t ruminate every tiny decision because someone will be unhappy
· You don’t worry that being yourself will alienate you.
Sounds like a dream? What if I say it’s possible?
It is common for people to internalise friends’ and family's expectations, adding extra pressure and our own expectations to the mix. There are, however, some workable (but not necessarily easy) steps to break the chain.
· Take up the responsibility of your own life
· Weed out the unwanted from your life. It’s always easier to move forward without baggage.
· Check-in with yourself if the task you’re about to perform makes you happy.
· Figure out under all the jazz of expectations where your true calling lies.
· Create boundaries, both with people and yourself. You need to respect your own boundaries for people to do the same.
By taking charge of your life, you’d be able to care for yourself, your wellbeing, and your happiness. You’d also be able to present your most authentic self to your friends and family. They might love you, or they might not, but at least you don’t have to continually be on a mental overload of wondering what makes you happy!
[C1]I think you need to make it clear this is Indian culture as this is not the culture in the UK