Monday, July 05, 2010


The Philadelphia Phillies are playing the Atlanta Braves while I write this post. In 2007, the Phillies won the NL East and then got swept by the Rockies in the division series. In 2008, they won the National League pennant and went on to win the World Series. Last year, they repeated the pennant win but lost to the Yankees in the series. Since the 2009 season ended, the expectation has been that the Phillies will win the National League Championship for the third year in a row and return to the World Series.

Several weeks ago, the team was leading the NL East. Then all of a sudden, the team couldn't score runs enough to win. Then their pitchers couldn't put away the other team's batters. Now the team is in the middle of the division and 5 games out of first.

What about those expectations now? I think it has to be more difficult when you and everyone around you expects you to achieve a specific level of success. What pressure. It has to be worse when you play it out in the eyes of your hometown fans and baseball fans everywhere.

When I was in school, I always struggled with math courses. I got a D in Geometry in high school, that's how bad I was. No lie, my Nana helped me raise that to an A in summer school. I'd never have managed it without her. An algebra teacher once wrote that my work was "consistently mediocre". In grade school, I was so relieved to get a C in math. My father, not so much. I can still hear him in my memory. "C is only average. Your intelligence is not only average. I expect better."

Is it a greater challenge to live up to the expectations of others, or to satisfy the expectations we put on ourselves? Why is it that so often we cannot be truly satisfied, or feel an authentic sense of our own accomplishments if someone else things we don't quite measure up? At what point in our lives, and to what purpose, did we decide that someone else's opinion matters more than our own?

I suspect it starts in childhood because of our roles or position in the family in relation to our older, more powerful parents. We instinctively seek their approval and validation. At some point in our development, we should learn to self-validate, but a lot of us don't -- or don't to the necessary, healthy degree. Instead, we transfer that approval seeking to bosses, to bosses, to (fill in the blank).

Where's the healthy middle-ground? To some extent, with relationships and connections come expectations. A boss has a right to expect you to do your job and earn your pay. A lover or spouse can reasonably expect certain behavior, compromise, cooperation, etc. The utility company expects to get paid for providing electricity.

What do we expect of ourselves and what happens when only one person in a relationship is meeting the expectations?

I'm exploring this topic for a story I'm working on in which the main character is a woman who has always lived according to other people's expectations. Finally, she's teaching herself to live up to her own wants, needs, and satisfactions. It is not an easy lesson. In fact, it's damned difficult to unlearn the old patterns. Lots of reflex emotions bubble to the surface if we fail to meet expectations. Guilt, disappointment, eroded self-esteem and respect, fear, panic. What a pile.

What do you think? What's one thing that you expect of yourself and one thing that you expect of your relationship partner?

1 comment:

Mary Stella said...

Phillies won! Woot!