Often the women I work with tell me it feels selfish to ‘want’. They haven’t been brought up to want things, instead they have been brought up to meet expectations. We live in a world full of expectations which we gradually assume to be our own. The expectations of parents, teachers, partners, professors, employers, society…the list continues. With all these competing expectations it is often hard to know what we actually desire.
Why does it even matter?
Every time you take on someone else’s expectations, a small part of who you are is hidden away. You mould yourself to fit the box that someone else wants you to fit into. In doing so you limit yourself to that space, you judge yourself if you don’t meet those expectations and you likely begin to feel like something is missing, like part of you is missing – the authentic part of yourself is missing. By hiding away your true self and attempting to meet these external expectations, you severely limit your ability to achieve your full potential.
What can you do about it?
- Identify the noise
Create a list of all the expectations you currently feel and identify where those expectations are coming from. Highlight in one colour all the expectations that are from other people, institutions or society, In another colour highlight the expectations you put on yourself.
Re-read all the expectations and choose which ones you actually want to keep. Remember this is your choice. You don’t ‘have to’ do anything!
Once you have cut out the noise of external and outdated expectations ask yourself ‘What do I want?’
2. Reject ‘Junk’ values & Discover Meaningful values
Our values are what guide our decision making. When we know what our values are we usually have increased clarity about what we want. However, in the western world we are largely encouraged to subscribe to materialistic ‘junk’ values such as wanting more money, more possessions, status and recognition. These are not our own true values however and they get in the way of us really understanding what guides us and what our purpose is.
To uncover your values ask yourself;
a) Who do I admire?
What are the qualities of the people you admire? What about those qualities is important to you? For example ‘I admire Beyonce because she is strong’ could mean strength is a value.
b) What makes me angry?
When noticing what makes you angry, think about what value is being dishonoured by that action. For example ‘I get angry when others are publicly humiliated’ could be a value of compassion.
3. Spend time with yourself
Often when we are unsure of what we want, we ask friends, family and trusted advisors, or we search the internet looking for answers. Despite best intentions, this can often lead to information overload and overwhelm at all the options and conflicting advice.
Instead of asking others, choose an activity you enjoy and go and do it by yourself. Whilst you’re doing that reflect on what is important for you in life. If you imagine yourself at the end of your life, looking back on where you are now, what would your future self want to tell your current self?
By spending time with yourself, you have more space to think, reflect and to develop trust in your decision making.