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Sometimes when I look back on my expectations, I laugh. Probably because some distance has developed and I am a little wiser. Hopefully.
I remember being confined for months to a hospital bed. Hour after boring hour I laid there. And I remember thinking that as soon as I had the doctor’s okay to blow the mattress and side rails, I was jumping back up and life was returning to normal.
Unfortunately, I forgot I was healing from a broken back and other broken bones. I didn’t know it, but soon I would find out I was suffering from a bad head injury and other ailments. I didn’t know it as I laid on my back hour after hour, that it would be years before the pain and problems would subside and life would return to a new normal.
Multiple months after springing from the hospital bed I was talking to my therapist about life and how everything was so difficult. Normal life was nowhere to be found even though I was now up and working and engaged with life again.
She looked at me and said, “Theresa if you had a friend who had just been in an accident and was trying to get back into the swing of life again and was finding everything so difficult, what advice would you give her?”
“I would tell her not to be so hard on herself. Relax and give herself more room and not get so discouraged. Patience and grace,” I said.
“Then tell yourself that,” she said.
I laughed a nervous laugh. “I can’t”
“Well,” I hemmed and hawed. Finally, I said, “Because I hold myself to a higher standard than I do her.”
Silence filled the room. Expanded and breathed several times. Got heavier and heavier.
“I expect more of myself than I do others.”
It was a moment of truth. Of clarity. Something I had never put into words out loud before. And I felt icky and bad saying them, but it was the truth. Yet, even if it was the truth, I wanted to take the words back. To say, no, I didn’t really mean it. Only I couldn’t.
That happened over 20 years ago, and I would like to say that I am now way past that flaw of unrealistic expectations. But like other bad habits, it will be something I will be fighting for the rest of my life.
When I was little I had very few expectations. I remember being delighted with baby kittens and a snow fall that was taller than me. I started school and I excepted to be a good student. I had younger brothers and sisters and was expected to be a good sister. We went to church. I was expected to behave. Be a good child.
The years went on and more and more was expected of me by my parents, teachers, others, bosses, and myself.
I got married and I expected myself to be a good wife. A child arrived and I expected myself to be a good mother. I started teaching, and I expected myself to be a good teacher.
Each year new responsibilities were added. And I piled on new expectations for myself. Homeowner. Neighbor. Committee Leader. Volunteer. Planner. Aunt.
And whether I consciously realized it or not, each new title or position or responsibility had certain rules. Self-imposed expectations. Dos and don’ts.
A good mother did this and that, not that or this, and never that.
I was good at creating expectations for myself.
I was well into life and marriage and motherhood before I realized that many of these expectations I had for myself, were silly rules and laws I had put upon myself. Rules and expectations others were not holding me to. God was not holding me to them. I was holding myself to them and then judging whether I was a good mother or sister or teacher or leader by whether I did this or that on my to-do list or self-imposed rules.
After my confession, my therapist looked at me with kindness and concern. She let my thoughts linger in the room.
Then she looked at me and said, “What makes you different from your friends that you feel you need to expect more of yourself than you do your friends?”
I squirmed. This was getting embarrassing and more uncomfortable by the moment.
“Because I know if you told any of your friends” she continued, “that you were having troubles putting your life back together after your accident, they would say don’t be so hard on yourself. They would say, of course. take it easy. Give yourself some patience and grace and take it easy and slow and soon you will be there. Right?”
“Then treat yourself as your friends would,” she said.
And just like in the movies. That was the end of our hour appointment.
I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find myself struggling with my expectations for myself. My expectations for others. My expectations of life. My expectations of God.
Sometimes I need to re-evaluate my expectations and see if I am living in bondage or freedom. Whose expectations am I keeping? My own or Gods?
Because if I am living under God’s expectations, I have so much freedom and grace in my life. More than I ever give myself or used to think possible. Under his, I am good enough, don’t need to achieve perfection, or do everything under my own works. Because he holds me to a standard of grace, not perfection.
And that is freeing.
Under him, I am free from my own rules. I wear a light yoke that is grace centered.
Join the Discussion: Are you living under your own expectations, others, or His? What expectations do you need to change?
This first appeared at TheresaBoedeker.com