I wrote a blog post a little over a year ago that I took some heat for it. Somebody in my “real” life read my post and interpreted it as a personal attack, rather than understanding the struggle I was experiencing. Other people were dragged into the situation, accusations were made, and to do this day I am still not on good terms with one of the people involved. Ironically, the original post was about the lack of support I was feeling at the time.
Since then I’ve been thinking a great deal about expectations and how they shape our behavior. This past year has brought on many changes and new challenges for me and, as a result, I’ve had to look my expectations in the face and question whether they are influencing me in a negative or positive way. I know there are others out there who struggle with this, so I’m re-visiting that post today. Some of the wording has been changed slightly, so as not to directly offend anyone, but the integrity remains the same.
Any reader knows that the books we read, especially when we are young, influence us throughout life. Books shape our views of the world. They teach us about other people and help us determine what kind of person we want to become. They introduce us to new experiences and teach us how to react. They teach us how to grow up and how to grow old. They show us what it means to live and what it means to love…One can learn so many valuable things from books.
Lately I have been thinking about the things I have learned in the past 29 years about my life and myself and I realize that there may have been one downside to all of the years I’ve spent turning page after page of fiction novels. While, overall, it has been a highly positive outlet for me, reading has also skewed my perception of what life is supposed to be. Maybe I read too many happily-ever-afters as a kid or maybe I just read too many stories about nuclear families or maybe there were too many perfect heroines, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I have come to have certain expectations of myself and of others. Those expectations have not always panned out, leading to a lot of disappointment and confusion on my end.
I began struggling with depression and anxiety by the time I was 10 years old. Even though I didn’t quite understand what was happening to me, I constantly asked myself why I couldn’t be “normal,” like other kids. As I grew older and life grew more challenging, I found myself asking more questions – questions regarding family, love and relationships, friendships, and my own achievements.
For 29 years I have been asking myself “Why can’t life be the way it is in my books?” It is not the fault of the books, but rather my own flawed thinking that has led me to expect those things from life and to continually compare myself to the characters I read about. Perhaps this is why I no longer find myself able to relate to “perfect” characters and am more attracted to flawed, struggling protagonists. I would rather know that I am not alone, than to continue looking for answers and finding myself isolated.
I’ve done some growing since I originally wrote that post, thanks to therapy and a lot of soul searching. I am able to recognize now which expectations I’ve needed to let go of because they were only causing me misery, and which ones are okay to hold onto. I’m definitely not perfect. I still don’t have it all figured out yet, but I’m trying, which is all any of us can do.
Do you set expectations of the world around you based on the books you read?