Today I’d like to talk a little bit about expectations. I recently realised that our own expectations can play a big part on our overall happiness.
As I was taking my morning cycle around Punggol, I stopped by waterway point to get some breakfast. During my time there, I had 2 unpleasant encounters. One with a cleaner lady, another with some lady ordering food. In my first encounter, I was looking for a bathroom that was not being cleaned at that time. I asked the lady nicely, and she yelled at me telling me “I don’t care that the bathrooms are cleaning” and continued complaining. The next encounter was of a lady scolding the counter staff at Kopitiam saying “Are you new here? You must be new. You don’t even know how to give me a proper receipt.” The counter lady held her cool, and tried to explain but in vain. She then asked the lady if she wanted chili with her food. The lady said “If I don’t want chili I will tell you, so of course I want chili. You must be new here”.
With this 2 encounters, it made me think about why people around here are so unhappy. I then realised, ah! It’s because of expectations. It’s about how we expect others to act and that stems from what we expect of ourselves.
Think about the times where you got upset because a friend did not say something the way you had hoped they would, or when you got upset because someone was not acting in line with what you thought was “right”. For some, they can easily brush it off. For others, the way others are impacts them greatly.
If you fall into the category of the latter, don’t worry, you are not alone. People with high expectations of themselves might unintentionally place the same expectations that they have onto others. However, what they do not realise is that this very expectations of themselves and others brings them a lot of pain and makes life a constant struggle.
We all live in a society that is very competitive, many strive to be “successful” or strive for “perfection”. We believe that if we aren’t “perfect” or “successful”, we are a failure and others will not like us or will not accept us.
Recently I was listening to some meditation teachers speak, and one of them said “believing that we can be perfect, is arrogance.” That truly hit me. Wow. We as humans are born imperfect, there is no perfect human being on this planet. For us to think that we can be that one and only special perfect human, ha! That’s thinking that we are better than every single living soul or even living organism ever.
Maybe, just maybe, one of the ways that we can be happier or less unsatisfied with our lives is through learning to be compassionate to ourselves, to reduce our expectations of ourselves, to speak to ourselves using kinder words. This can be done through cultivating awareness. Awareness that allows us to see how we treat ourselves, and in turn, how we treat others.
We are all creatures of imperfection, that is what makes every single one of us so special, so unique. Instead of getting upset when others do not fit into our expectations of a “perfect” human, let’s try to cultivate kindness and compassion. Let’s recognise that, hey, that person, just like us, is doing the best that they know, the best that they can to survive. We all want similar things, we all want to be happy, we want to learn how to thrive in this crazy uncertain world. Expect less, forgive more.
Forgiveness starts with you. How can you love yourself for your imperfections? How can you forgive yourself from all the past mistakes that you have made? How can you fully accept every single part of you? How can you speak kind words and spread compassion to everyone, including you?