Unexpected Expectations

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Enoch Orozco

We often expect much more from ourselves than is healthy. But why? (Photo Courtesy of Enoch Orozco).

Expectations: a belief that someone will or should achieve something. These beliefs, reasonable or unreasonable, cause stress. No matter how healthy one is, or how old, expectations will cause stress. Normally, people say their stress comes from parents, or bosses, or even their peers. However, an unusual phenomenon is stress from expectations with no one around to expect something from you, well, no one around besides yourself.

In life, we learn that we ourselves are our greatest ally and simultaneously our worst enemy. This idea of “worst enemy” applies well to the problem with expectations. In short, most people expect too much from themselves, but instead of accepting this, they will project the blame for these expectations onto their peers or bosses to take the blame away from themselves. But, the fact remains the same: we are to blame for these unexpected expectations.

In my case, I often catch myself placing the blame on my parents. Not to say that my parents don’t expect anything from me, because they do, but they don’t expect as much from me as I expect from myself. In their eyes, I am expected to get good grades (primarily all A’s) and not do anything stupid (it’s a broad statement, but that’s all they say). However, I see things very differently, due to me projecting my own expectations onto them. I often think they want a lot more from me: high grades (95+), high test scores, to do well in high school, to do even better in college, to only need to take the SAT and ACT once, to get into the best college possible, to work as much as possible even during the school year, to earn their respect, to have friends, to do nothing “out of character,” etc. When you compare the two lists, it’s easy to see that I expect more from myself than they do from me.

“I think we tend to put a lot of unnecessary pressure on ourselves. Stretching ourselves is good, but we can easily overdo it,” said my father, Rob Orozco, when we had a discussion on my list of expectations. “Expecting more from ourselves can often freeze us. We take no action and we fail,” said my mom, Michelle Orozco, during the same conversation.

However, this phenomenon doesn’t rest solely on my experiences. This same phenomenon is often seen in other students in high school. Time spent in high school is crucial in social development and is a shift towards independence, so it makes sense that setting goals for oneself becomes prevalent. However, setting these goals, or expectations, can be toxic and cause way too much stress. I often hear my friends saying things like “I should’ve done better,” or “I expected to do better than that.” My rebuttal to these statements is often “Who says?” or “You tried your best and that’s okay.” However, my comments almost always fall on deaf ears, because their expectations blind themselves from seeing that they didn’t do as bad as they think they did.  

Most comments like the ones above come from potentially the most stressful thing for teenagers in high school: standardized testing. “I did good, but I should’ve done better. I expect more from myself,” said junior Cannon Bedenbaugh when asked about his scoring on the SAT. Since he expected so much from himself, it was easy for him to focus strictly on the negative aspect: that he let himself down. But as he stated, he did good, better than most actually. However, his expectations and the following let down far outweighed the positive.

The next obvious question is “Why?” Why do we expect so much from ourselves if we know it’s toxic and hurts us? The only viable answer is our environment. As students at Brashier Middle College, we learn and practically live in a highly competitive environment. When the school tells us about this competition, some of us will instead hear, “Just be perfect and better than your peers.” From there it’s an obvious chain reaction that carries from student to student. As each of us seeks perfection, we often don’t realize that this expectation is one of the things holding us back from improving. As we go through this crucial time of development, it is important to realize we aren’t perfect and we shouldn’t try to be.

“The pursuit of perfection often impedes improvement,” said George Will.