Thursday, November 10, 2011

Expectations: My Worst Enemy

I was taking a shower this morning. I suddenly remembered something, a feeling maybe, from my childhood. That I "must" not stay happy or successful for a long period of time. That would raise everyone's expectations from me. It would raise my own expectations of myself. The best way to avoid people's demand is to fail, to show weakness, and to be sad. If you are sad and weak and miserable, then you have a good excuse and people will leave you alone. This is what happened to my mom, essentially, after we moved to Tehran. Under a lot of pressure from different sides, she broke down and became depressed and got severe anxiety. I have a vague memory of one day that my mom could not go to work and a doctor and my father came to our house. She was lying in the bed and was the center of attention. And maybe for the first time, she did not have to worry about us and with a free conscious enjoyed receiving others' attention.

I had a very good, caring, and relatively normal family given the norm of the days. My parents attended to us and our needs, maybe sometimes too much. They had high expectations of us and I was the first child. I started to read and write and draw and do math and play chess before age of 5 or 6. They were really proud of me. I remember my dad showing my works to our guests with pride. In the summer between my second and third grade, everyone in the family decided to study one grade in summer and jump ahead. I have good memories from elementary school before that. But my memories from the fourth grade (I studied the third grade in that summer) is very vague. That was the year of the revolution as well.

As some point, high expectations became internal. At that point, it did not really matter much what others thought or expected from me. I was my own worst enemy. I would constantly predict and worried about what other  people thought of me and expected of me. I still do that. The most stressful situations for me are when I imagine others' direct expectations from me. For example, I avoid playing tennis matches, especially doubles matches, even though I am a good player.

What is the solution to extreme internal expectations? What are some possible exercises and simple practices that would help in moderating one's self expectations?
My experience is that a direct approach to this type of problems, that is, a practice that directly deals with the issue, is not typically successful.


This evening I was supposed to go to an award ceremony. At about the time to get ready, I felt that I did not want to go there. Suddenly, all those expectations, my own and my prediction of others' expectation, came upon me: What if this? And what if that? What do I tell this? Then, I just decided to do the right thing and listen to my internal voice. So, I emailed the coordinator that I did not feel well and could not make it. Did some sweeping of dead leaves and went to the coffee shop to do some work. At the coffee shop, I did some work (on my book as well as on a review for a journal). On my way back home, I felt satisfied and fulfilled, so much that I did not buy cigarettes, happily! Reflecting on my feelings made me see the answer to my question!


A few days ago I developed a simple practice and wrote it on my other blog, [Practice: Doing The Right Thing---Fearlessness], to encourage listening to the voice within. Doing this practice also helps with moderating our expectations of ourselves, helps us to be forgiving to ourselves, and to love ourselves as we are. So here is the answer, or at least one answer: It is quite simple and yet quite amazing!

Summary of the Practice
During normal daily activities stop yourself:
  1. If necessary meditate for a few minutes to calm your mind.  
  2. Ask yourself this question: `What is the right thing to do in this particular moment?'
  3. Announce your decision to yourself in a loud and clear voice: `The Right Thing to Do here and now is ...'. 
  4. Implement your decision with total focus and with whole heart, as if it is the last thing you will do in your life. 
  5. Evaluate your decision. Criteria for the evaluation: (1) Feeling fulfilled. (2) Feeling courageous.


  1. Good luck with the practicing! and as I said, just be kind to yourself...


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