How many times have you uttered the phrase, "I can't believe they did that!"? Or, "I can't believe they said that!"? Whether it's having an all too familiar strained conversation with a loved that you must endure in order to maintain peace or getting cut off in traffic by what you label an inconsiderate driver, life is full of unmet expectations. We expect that a teacher will be passionate about their job. We expect that companies value customer service. We expect our significant others, friends, and family members to know what we think or want without actually telling them. We expect traffic to run smoothly at all times, to never be offended or have our feelings hurt, and for the grocery store to never be out of bread or water. The problem with these expectations is that they depend on other imperfect human beings to be met, which is quite simply a recipe for a life of continuous heartache and endless disappointments.
Once I was at the mall shopping for some back to school clothes for my kids. I was making a rather large purchase so I stood at the check-out counter for a long time while the cashier removed the metal tags from the clothes and rung up the items. She didn't make eye contact with me at all. Instead, she was talking to the other cashier about the previous night out they had enjoyed. It was like I was listening in on someone's private conversation! I couldn't believe it. I remember being annoyed at how rude I thought these ladies were being and how I would not tolerate this kind of behavior from my employees. I left irritated, with the attitude that customer service in America has gone to hell, and was affected by my encounter for much longer than necessary.
Another time, my sister came to visit for Thanksgiving. I had mentioned to her how much I enjoyed the new exercise class I had just started going to and thought maybe we could go together sometime while she was visiting. It was in casual conversation but she never brought it up again. When I told her my plans to go to the class the following morning, I fully expected her to be eager to go with me. Instead, she made no mention of going and in the morning she was still sleeping as I left the house, feelings hurt, vowing to quit trying to do anything to try to make our relationship closer. I ignored her the rest of the day, which only caused more tension between us that finally ended in a major blowout that almost sent her packing. We were able to work it out, but not without some very immature and irrational expectations hurled against one another that were both thoughtless and cruel.
The Four Seeds of Self-Care are sleeping well, eating well, meditation, and exercise. When we consistently practice these behaviors, we actually change the way our brain responds to stress- including unmet expectations. In fact, the healthier our brains become, we begin to understand the insanity of ever attaching our happiness to expectations placed on another person. We are all going through life basically the same- with daily challenges, long term stresses, and our fair share of a difficult relationship or two. We start to discern that it is actually unkind and selfish of us to expect anyone to meet our needs exactly as we think it should be done.
It's time to take our attention away from our perceived unmet expectations from the world and start expecting more of ourselves. Consistently practicing The Four Seeds leads us to a more balanced, Self-Centered lifestyle. When we are Self-Centered, we understand that our true happiness can only come from the inside out. If we want better for our relationships and our community, we must start behaving in the way we expect others to behave. I could have engaged the cashier, asking her how her day was, and thanking her for helping me with such a large order. I should have told my sister how important it was that we were able to spend some time together, just me and her, in order to strengthen our relationship. Opportunities abound to positively affect our community and relationships with ourselves and others. Being Self-Centered naturally increases those opportunities because we are in the best state of mind to acknowledge and appreciate them. May we all first look within and expect one thing only- for our best, most healthy version of ourselves to shine through.
With love and gratitude,
Kinda and Rachel