Having received this email from one of us who has come to understand that her brainstyle primarily walks the A.D.D. path, I want to share her question about high expectations. I’ve learned that many of us have similar questions, interests, and concerns. And, never being one to eternally “reinvent the wheel,” I hope you’ll join me by responding to Crystal T’s query by sharing your perspective.
Let me introduce Crystal T. who gave me permission to print her question about expectations.
“If you got some time, I got something I’m not understanding. I just was talking to somebody about understand(ing) other people’s behaviors, and the one thing I keep thinking about is the high expectations that my family members have when it comes to living life, which I have been program(med) with. So my question is having high expectations, is it a good or bad thing?
“Isn’t (it) hard for an adult ADD to make a change from learning the high expectation from parents as a child?”
Here’s my response:
There’s only one person in the world who can genuinely set expectations for you, and that is YOU. And the expectations you set must relate to the True You that lives and grows within you from your natural talents, gifts and creativity, styles, and desires that are innate. They will not be workable if they come from another person.
True, someone, a parent, a teacher, a mentor, boss or friend may see interests, skills, and talents in you that you haven’t seen in yourself, much less befriended. But that person outside of you is only reflecting back as a mirror to you what is already there.
True, too, you may not see the wonderfulness that inhabits you if you struggled as a child either from neglect, abuse, or lack of opportunity. Maybe you weren’t reinforced for what you could do so you grew feeling inadequate and one who does not feel your own value. The result you experience is low self-worth—a feeling that you can not do much. As a result, you probably won’t expect much of yourself. Your self-expectations may be low.
Another enormous source of low self-esteem comes about when the way you are made doesn’t fit the popular cultural model of “how people should be.” We folks with an A.D.D. brainstyle often suffer from this wounding. Our way, too often, may not have been the culturally acceptable way of doing things, even when we get the job done.
One of my favorite examples is the way in which we simply don’t write outlines before we begin working toward a goal. Instead, we see the big picture of the goal in our minds and put the pieces together a bit at a time, as we discover the inherent patterns and function of the goal we see. If an outline is required, we usually wait until the goal is reached so we can write the outline by looking back and seeing what we have included after the fact.
It is true that many well-meaning mentors, parents, and others try to motivate us by setting high expectations for us. But if the expectations come from the culture or from the person speaking, they are not likely to fit you or me. And there is nothing worse than slogging around in an overcoat three sizes too big or three sizes too small.
To the well-meaning helpers, say “Thank you for your interest in me, but I have my own ideas about what I want to accomplish” or “I have my own way of accomplishing what I am assigned.
If you’ve had a lot of high expectations laid upon you by others, including from loving others, you will need to re-frame your situation, that is, look at your situation in a different way.
To reframe expectations and your response to expectations laid upon you, visualize the younger you who was expected to be or do things that simply weren’t right for you. There may be nothing wrong with the expectations, but they don’t belong to you. That’s all.
But, if those expectations were a large part of your life, you’ll need to spend some time releasing them and replacing them with your own set of preferences.
By the way, I would avoid using the word “expectations,” because it’s probably contaminated by past wounding, guilt, and fear. Instead you need to tell that younger you that you are going to help her (him) to discover and grow her or his own preferences.
These new preferences belong to you. And you will discover that gently, you’ll come to really love and value yourself as you are now, expecting the right responses from yourself.
So, Crystal, to your question about whether other’s expectations are good or bad, I would say that they may be frequently non-constructive when laid upon you by others. If they are gently supported by others because of what they see in you, that may more likely be fine. And having someone believe in us is quite wonderful. But the work “expectation” has the ring of a power play or intrusive judgment, and that generally doesn’t feel good and is not healthy for our well – being.
“What kind of expectations can work for you? Your own. Not the ones you learned from someone else. But the ones that you have within yourself that simply won’t go away.
Crystal, I hope that others respond to this blog with helpful thoughts. It’s been a pleasure dialoguing with you. Lynn