“Expectation is the root of all heartache.”- William Shakespeare
Do you ever pause and think about where/who you expected you would be at this point in your life? I sure do. If you had told me ten years ago that I would be 37, single, childless and sharing an apartment with my younger sister, I would have thought you were on acid. If you had forecasted that I would be recovering- both from alcoholism and from the disappointment of letting people down- I would have thought you had gazed into the wrong crystal ball.
No way, Jose.
Today, I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations and disappointment. When an addiction steers your ship, you quickly and easily get off course. You may do things that your wise, sober self never (in a million years) imagined you would do:
- Drive your financial state into ruin
- Deceive and lie repeatedly to yourself and others
- Allow your metaphorical flat tire to be fixed by another rather than change it yourself
The list is endless.
Holding ourselves accountable and striving to live our lives in the highest and best way is one thing. Setting expectations that we must meet is another. When we do this, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment of the most painful kind. Luminary and author Christine Hassler explains:
“We suffer when our reality does not match the expectations we are so attached to. If you can relate to this brand of discomfort- the kind fueled by a life drunk with expectations and the resulting crash we experience when things do not go as we planned or hoped- then you have experienced an Expectation Hangover.”
And, let’s be honest- hangovers suck.
The good news is that we can dissolve expectations of ourselves; the difficult news is that we cannot control others’ expectations of us. That’s their business, not ours. But it can be heartbreaking to know that we are falling short in their eyes. In her book ‘Daring Greatly,’ brilliant researcher and author Dr. Brené Brown urges us to remember that there’s a significant difference between “I did something bad” (guilt) and “I am bad” (shame). She explains:
“We are psychologically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually hard-wired for connection, love, and belonging…Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging…Shame is the fear of disconnection- it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection.”
And, deep down, we all want to join hands with others and sing Kumbaya.
We need each other. We need love. And we need acceptance- of ourselves and those who touch our lives. As a recovering alcoholic, I am committed to doing my best to make amends, be honest, and help heal wounds I’ve caused. I’m also committed to releasing shame. I may have disappointed myself and others. I may have failed to meet expectations. But I know I am worthy of love and connection. It is a daily journey for me to be okay with who I am and where I’m at in life.
I wonder if you feel the same.