Whose expectations are you following?

Sandra realised one day that the choices she made and the effort she put into her work was mostly about meeting other people’s expectations. It was tiring. And there was a lot of guess work involved – she never knew if she was really succeeding in this.

How could she live up to her boss’s expectations? How could she ensure that she didn’t let the kids down – or her partner? And then there were her parents’ expectations that she grew up with.

The list seemed endless.

Many of us grow up being influenced by parents, teachers, siblings and others who shape us through their expectations and aspirations for our future. They teach us how to behave, how to do schoolwork (or not), how to dress and how to conform. Many of those lessons aren’t explicit; we pick them up from hints, nudges and examples. And perhaps more importantly, when we meet their expectations (even if by chance), we are rewarded with love and acceptance which tells us we’ve done the “right” thing. Perhaps we are then forever seeking love and acceptance by trying to follow others’ expectations – if we can figure them out. Other people’s expectations may even become our source of validation.

We are also influenced by the expectations of our peers and the various cultures we are a part of – perhaps a church group, a scouting club, a friendship group, and teachers. And of course, these days, Influencers. Advertisements. Celebrities. Characters in our favourite shows, movies and books. These are all our role models, and we do what they do, because it is a pathway to acceptance and love.

Some kids defy these external expectations, and they might be called “strong-willed”. Is it those kids who grow up with their own identity and ways of doing things?  Are these the ones who have a sense of self and don’t need to look to others for what they should be doing? Are they actually the lucky ones or the independent thinkers? Are the rest of us just sheep?

If we have built our habits and personalities based on what we think others expect from us – is it easy to change?

How can we develop a sense of self and develop our own expectations rather than respond to the expectations we THINK others have for us?

So how do we create and follow our own expectations?

If it’s so easy to copy and mimic, there’s peer pressure and family pressure all around and we’re called strong-willed if we do our own thing, how on earth are we to develop our own way?

It’s a truly great question. With not the simplest of answers. But here are a few tips.

  • Do some self-discovery work.
    • What are your values? 
    • What’s important to you separate from all those external forces of influence?
    • What are your own internal drivers?
    • What are YOU interested in?  What would make YOU happy?
  • Pay attention to why you make the choices you make – from how you modify what you say to what career choices you allow yourself to consider.
    • Who are you afraid to disappoint?
    • Who do you think about when you go to make those decisions?
    • When weighing up the odds of a right/wrong choice, whose voice shows up in your head?
    • How might you be subtly punished for making the wrong decision?

Becoming aware that you are living your life to satisfy others’ expectations is a huge realisation. There are further steps to take of course to build the courage to make different choices, to say no and to set boundaries. But if this concept speaks to you, for now, just keep noticing this dynamic within yourself.



If you are wondering how to start living your life your way, making your own choices for your own benefit, but you aren’t sure how to get started – we can help!

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