I talked about this in my last blog as being a trigger for sliding into NATs, but when I introduced this topic Monday, I listed all of the dreams I had when I was younger. You probably know the ones I mean – meet Mr (or Ms) Perfect, settle down (get married or move in together), have the perfect 2.4 children in your family at a suitable age. All this while holding down the right job, travelling the world and accruing all of the status symbols to go with this wonderful life. You then grow old together after the children have grown up and live happily ever after. Christ! Disney has a lot to bloody answer for doesn’t it?
Meanwhile in the real world, we’re facing the prospect of not having met the right person, or the right person not sharing our dream of a family, or our health having conspired against us…or the many other reasons that you find yourself not quite measuring up to expectations of what an ideal life looks like.
But who’s expectations are they? It’s no bloody coincidence that I mentioned Disney. From a young age, we have expectations placed on us, in terms of not just how we behave, but also the landmarks that for society mean we have done ‘the right thing’. We’re a ‘success’. I mean I could rant on for days, years even about this subject, but keeping on track, some of those expectations are linked directly to having children and they definitely distil down from society, into family and onto us individually.
Take me for example, my mum had me young, as people often did in the 1970s, but by the time I got to the same age in the 90s I had decided that I wanted a career and to be in a position to properly afford a life as well as children. So I delayed, things until my 30s, but that didn’t stop the comments from family about when would we be trying and children etc. I told everyone empathically that I didn’t want children and that remained the case until my 30s.
But look at the weight of expectation there. Not just my family, but my own expectations too. I was utterly convinced that I would be having children and that there was no harm in delaying until things were ‘perfect’. And when we did start trying and it went less than…well perfectly, I never expected to be told that it simply wouldn’t be possible. Neither did I expect that I would have so many health problems or that I would have to experience a miscarriage or a hysterectomy. I mean , where does this story line crop up in Snow White then? I don’t recall the seven dwarves being called ‘career’, ‘patience’, ‘miscarriage’, ‘depression’, ‘infertility’, ‘hysterectomy’ and ‘despair’. Bloody Disney – I believed that it would all work out.
But for me, as my dreams started to crumble around me, all I was left with from all of the dreams and expectations is a hell of a lot of ‘shoulds’. I should’ve started trying for children in my early 20s. I should’ve pushed harder to get answers to my health problems. I should’ve treated my body better. And no doubt you have your own…’I should’ve settled for that partner, who I left because of x,y and z reason’. ‘I should’ve been stronger and walked sooner so I could find someone else’…and so on and on it goes.
But here’s the thing regrets don’t get you anywhere and neither does trying to measure up to other people’s expectations. It’s your life to live and there will have been reasons you didn’t follow through on those ‘shoulds’. You made the decision at the time, which felt right at that time and no amount of beating yourself up will change that. All it’ll do is weigh you down.
And eventually, when you succumb to the weight of expectation, you start to believe that you’re not worth anything. You start to believe that your life isn’t worth shit, because of someone else’s measures, regardless of whether that’s society, your family or Disney. Speaking from experience, that really does a number on your self-esteem, because you’re too busy focusing on how you don’t measure up, to see the stuff that you bring to the world. But let me say this now – you’re worthy and you’ve come through more than most to be sat here reading this blog. And don’t you forget it either!
So let’s make a pact here and now then. Let’s make our own measures for what it means to be us and what we think our lives should be like. The next time you’re told by family, friends or Disney that you don’t measure up, tell them all the ways that you do. And if you don’t know how you do, it’s time for you to start listing and recognising your worth, because there is are many things you bring value to, and that includes your own life.
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