Why Do We Do What Others Expect Us To If It’s Not What We Want For Ourselves?

Black and white shot of attractive woman wearing turtleneck jumper in Tamarama
Matthew Kane / Unsplash

I’m angry and frustrated, more so than I am hurt.

Like a broken record, his words replayed over and over again in my mind.

“You’re going to wear it. I don’t care what you think — I don’t want to hear any more of this.”

His uncle in China had just gifted me an expensive Hermes bag for Christmas and while I thoroughly appreciated it, I couldn’t wear the bag; it was by far one of the ugliest bags I had seen and something I wouldn’t wear in public or in private.

But my ex at the time had insisted, and even demanded, that I wear it all the time in order to show respect. My thoughts, as he put it, compared to the powerful backing of his uncle were irrelevant.

As I sat there sullenly, in the midst of tears, I thought:

Why do we do the things others expect us to if it’s not what we want ourselves?

It wasn’t until years later when I realized how profound that question had been.

Most of us are told what to do throughout our lives. As children, students and employees, we’re taught to follow the expectations set by our parents, teachers and bosses.

They might not explicitly state their expectations, but it’s implied and passed onto us through the way they behave.

Parents talk all the time about why doctors are great because they save people. They talk about lawyers and their ability to never be at a disadvantage, engineers and the intricacies of the product they’ve built, CEOs and the hundreds of people they manage, but rarely do they ever mention writers, teachers, artists, plumbers, gardeners or any of the hundreds of other important and necessary jobs in society.

Teachers praise and flaunt only the top students in the class and compare often, the grades of the top students and the worst one. They show patience, eagerness towards those that do well, but weariness towards the rest.

Bosses shake their heads and sigh, displaying disappointment in every way they know how when a mistake is made. They give out monetary awards in exchange for long hours of overtime and dole out praises for expectations met — “I knew you could do it,” rather than praises for a job well done.

The expectations are not explicitly stated but implied.

And day in, day out, every single day from the moment we’re born until the moment we retire, we’re living other people’s expectations. Other people’s dreams. Other people’s ambitions.

But what about us? Where are our expectations?

Are we at this very moment truly happy with who we are, where we are, and what we’re doing?

If not, then why are we doing the things others expect us to if it’s not what we want ourselves? TC mark

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