Updated: Jun 5
This is an edited version of a podcast episode. If you prefer to listen, click Make Me Whole Podcast to find this and all my other episodes.
Hello, and welcome! I hope you’re doing wonderfully. Today we are talking about something that I feel is really challenging to discuss because of the culture of shame and fear of vulnerability that we are surrounded by. We need to talk about letting go of the expectations people have for us and finding the courage to make mistakes until we succeed. These expectations are often ingrained by our parents or other caregivers that we had as children, and it can be an uphill battle to break free because they are things that have been normalized for so long. It’s not uncommon to feel like you’re being constantly judged, especially when it’s your parents that have specific plans for your future. But what happens when those expectations don’t align with our own ambitions and priorities? It can be tough and, a lot of times, a painful journey to dig out from under the weight of our parents’ or others’ standards and find our own path in life.
So, how exactly do we do it? Well, let’s talk about it! The first step is intentionally starting to shake off the hold that others’ expectations have over us. Take some time to recognize that just because it’s their priority, it doesn’t have to be ours. While others’ might have our best interests at heart, it’s crucial to remember that our lives belong to us and we have the final decision. It is difficult to break free from that mold that has been created for us, but we have to keep in mind that our own happiness and fulfillment are what’s on the line. So how do we start breaking free? Well, you have to have an honest conversation with yourself about what you do and don’t want. What are your passions? What are your goals? What is it that drives you? This is the first step to discovering our own path in life, the one that really falls in line with our own values and desires.
The second step is to find within yourself the courage to fail until you succeed (it’s there, I promise!). Ugh, just typing that causes an immediate emotional reaction. As a society, we’re often taught that failure is unacceptable and something to be ashamed of, especially in BIPOC and other minority communities. But what if we reframe failure as not only necessary, but also a sign that you are pushing yourself to your limits? Failure isn’t the end. It’s a beginning and a new learning experience. It’s a crucial stepping stone to your success. If you’re afraid to fail, you’ll never try anything. Perfection is not something that we can live up to, definitely not constantly.
The third step is to develop a growth mindset. I’m always about mindset. How you’re thinking about things is going to affect how you interact with the world. A growth mindset is the belief that we can learn and grow from our failures and challenges. When we approach the world this way, we see challenges as opportunities and we’re more willing to take risks and try new things. So how do you shift your thought patterns? Well, you gotta actively embrace failure. I can’t emphasize this enough. When we see failure as a chance to develop new skills, we’re more willing to try something new, fall, and pick ourselves up again. We have to view challenges as things to be welcomed instead of avoided. They are moments where we can truly grow and learn, but you have to believe in yourself. You’ve been in tricky situations in the past, and you’ve gotten yourself through it. I’m not saying there wasn’t hard work involved. I’m not saying you didn’t shed blood, sweat, and tears. You’ve gotten yourself all the way to where you are right now. You have to trust in that. When we believe in our own power and grit, we’re more willing to take those risks, even when we’re afraid.
The fourth step to forging your own future is finding a supportive community. This of course can be challenging if people feel like they need to choose between you or your parents. Work on your boundaries, and decide whose opinions you will take into consideration and whose you will not be wasting emotional energy on. Find those friends, mentors, or other supportive people who believe in your dreams and encourage you to pursue them.
Next, take action. It’s really not enough to simply talk about our dreams and aspirations. We need to start moving towards our goals by completing concrete steps, even if it means slow progress at first. The more actions we take, the more momentum we build, and the closer we get to those goals that we’ve been working towards. It’s all in knowing what you want and what you don't want, and then taking the steps to get towards it. Do your research and figure out what hurdles you’re going to face. Know that it’s not going to be a smooth path, but walk it anyway. It’s important to remember that the journey towards letting go of others’ expectations and finding your own path is not going to be easy. It takes time, patience, and willingness to embrace this failure. But also, it’s one of the most rewarding journeys we can take, and it allows us to live a life that’s true to ourselves and our own values, the things we love, the things we’re passionate about.
OK, so now let’s take a closer look at some of the practical steps you can take to let go of parents’ or friends’ or family members' expectations and find the courage to pursue your own dreams. First, identify that goal. It’s important to take time to reflect on what you truly want to achieve. What are your passions? What are your interests? What are your values? Write them down and make a plan to pursue them. Timeline it. Look at your calendar. Make it flexible, write it in pencil, so that you can feel comfortable with editing and making sure you give yourself grace when the unexpected happens. Next, communicate with those people who have set up these expectations. Having an open and honest conversation, especially with your parents, can be challenging, but it’s an important step in moving forward. Be respectful, but firm, and let them know that you have your own dreams and aspirations and that they’re not so horrible. Remind them that they too had dreams or priorities that others didn’t understand or care about. But, they saw it through, and that same spirit lives in you. Next, intentionally surround yourself with supportive people. Find those who believe in your dreams, those who are going to encourage you to pursue them and are going to call you out when you go to that negative place filled with self-doubt. Maybe join a community of like-minded people, seek out a mentor, or find a local support group. Next, take those calculated risks. It’s an important part to pursuing your dreams, even an essential part. You have to sail into uncharted waters and take on new challenges, even if it means experiencing failure along the way.
When I decided I was finally going to take the plunge and start a podcast, no one sat next to me and did the work for me, showing me every step. I started out by watching some videos, I was going up and down Youtube trying to figure out the best and most engaging way until I finally decided I don’t care about doing it the same way other people are. I feel great about what I’m putting out into the universe, the message that I'm sending. I’ve messed up so many times along the way. I can't tell you how long it used to take me to edit things! I have to go on social media and promote. There are so many steps before I can put out an episode. But through practice, time, effort, and intention, I am able to do it. It doesn’t mean I’m more capable than anyone else. It just means that it’s possible to take new paths, no matter your age. Learn from your failure. It is an inherent part of progress. Not one we want to see all the time, but it is a necessary evil. When you experience setbacks, just take the time to reflect on what went wrong and how you can improve it. If something seems too difficult, step away for a minute and allow yourself to come back when you’re feeling less stressed out and a little bit more clear headed.. Use failure as a tool. Remember, letting go of others’ expectations of you and pursuing your own dreams takes time, patience, and a lot of courage, but with the right mindset and support, you are going to find that you’re able to break free from the mold that was set up for you and live a life truly aligned to your values.
Now take a second to reflect on your own journey. What are some of the expectations that you’ve been holding on to that aren’t truly yours? What are some of the steps that you can take today to start letting go of those expectations and pursue your own dreams, the things you want, where you want to be?