On failing to meet expectations

“I shouldn’t go but I can’t really help it when I feel this pressure”
Floorplan by Tegan and Sara

I’ve been what you might call “a good girl” for most of my life. I never smoked, never did drugs, never got drunk, and especially never had sex. I pretty much made an effort to ensure that I didn’t deviate from the norm (or at least, what is considered the norm amongst my very very conservative circle of family and friends). I put this down to my parents’ influence. Now, in my early twenties however, I guess it seems like I’m having what some might call, “an identity crisis” or experiencing what others might deem as being “a rebellious phase” in my life.

I’m not the kind of person who likes to disappoint people – far from it actually! I’ve always felt like I never gave my parents any cause for distress growing up. Now however, I feel like I’m disappointing them left, right and centre. To them it’s as if I’ve suddenly changed overnight and they no longer recognize me and they’ve started to wonder where they went wrong, even though to me, in my perspective, my life hasn’t taken a turn for the worse and I don’t think they’ve done anything wrong at all! In fact, I think it doesn’t really have anything to do with them. But to them, there are two types of people: in simplified terms, good people, and bad people. The good people are those who don’t do any of the above things: smoke, get drunk, do drugs, have sex outside of marriage, swear, get tattoos, etc, and the bad people are those who do. The good people also coincidentally go to church and get good grades and etc. I don’t believe, however, that people are necessarily good or bad; I think people are just different. A person might make a lot of bad decisions in their life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a bad person. My parents, and a lot of the people I know, see the world in black and white. That’s fine, that’s their prerogative. That’s just not how I see the world; I don’t believe in moral absolutes. Yes, I am trying to figure out who I am and who I’m going to be in the future, and I don’t care so much now about people’s expectations of me. Although I may have changed a lot in the eyes of my family and friends in the past few months, and I acknowledge that a lot of things in my life have changed, I don’t feel like I’m any less of a person now than I was then. I’m just different.

A number of people have asked me what happened? How did I become this other person that they don’t even recognise? The honest answer is, I don’t know. I honestly think that I was never the person people thought I was to begin with. Or it’s like, I’ve always felt that there were two sides to me: the person I wanted to be and the person I had to be. I always felt constrained to being “a good girl” on the outside because I love my parents and I didn’t want to disappoint them. I also didn’t want to disappoint the various other people in my life who were counting on me to be this kind of person. On the inside though, I know that I was never the girl I seemed to be on the outside, and I’ve realised that I can’t keep pretending to be someone I’m not. I can’t stand being tied down by peoples’ expectations of me. And I still do love my family and friends, even if I am a disappointment to them, even if I can’t fulfill their expectations of me, even if they can’t accept me for who I am and the decisions I make in life.

I don’t know whether to feel anger or sadness or indifference about how a lot of my family and friends see me now. I’m thankful to have met people who do understand where I’m coming from and who can empathise with me. Without them I’d feel so completely and utterly alone. Some might call me selfish or rebellious, but really, it is my life, and fail or succeed, I have to make my own decisions and find my own way through it. I love my family and I love my friends, but if it came down to making them happy or making myself happy, I would choose myself. That might sound selfish to you, but I think that we all have the right to pursue happiness in life, and I also think that we do, even if we don’t want to admit that to ourselves; the only difference is in what we hope will bring us that happiness. If only what would make me happy would make my parents happy too, or vice versa. Unfortunately life just doesn’t always turn out to be that easy. If only love were enough to resolve all our differences and make us at peace with one another.

My family and some of my friends might be disappointed in me right now, but I’m learning to be ok with that, and I’m holding on to the hope that someday they will eventually be ok with me too.

    • Suepy
    • May 13th, 2010

    mmm. I can relate to this gut-wrenching feeling of not being able to please those you care about, esp. your parents. only it seems like you’re copping it much more intensely. While being in relationships with people does mean you should care about how your decisions will affect them, you shouldn’t do things just to be a people pleaser as well. That balance is hard, but it’s important to recognise.

  1. Yeah, you know I think most parents are probably disappointed in their children for some reason or another. Or I mean, maybe disappointed is the wrong word. I guess they just either expect more or expect something different of their kids. The disappointment comes in all shapes and sizes.

    Hmm I wouldn’t say I’m copping it more. I mean, my parents are pretty gentle and it’s not like they’re constantly putting me down or something (sympathy for the person in that position). I guess I’m just not used to feeling even the slightest bit of disappointment from them so it’s strange to be feeling it right now. Just takes getting used to I guess..

    It’s definitely a hard balance.. I agree. It’s healthy to want to please the people you care about and to not cause them pain… but yeah, I guess the thing is, where do you draw the line..? It’s different for everyone perhaps..

    • Mattho
    • May 19th, 2010

    Hey Janice

    I think there are moral absolutes. Otherwise it’ll be eat, drink and be merry, what comes from dust returns to dust. Is there any justice in this world? If not, we’re like driftwood and I’d get quite seasick.

  2. Hi Matt Ho!

    Guess we’ll have to agree to disagree then mate 😉

    • squirky
    • May 19th, 2010

    i think it’s a valuable thing to figure out what’s worth your time/effort/existence, janoo. i miss you heaps, wish we could talk about all of this and more sooner. fb banter is not enough! but anyway thought i might just chuck this out there before i forget: i’m sorry things are unfair and that you’ve been feeling like this. are you person you want to be now?

  3. Sazza! I miss you too! Thanks for commenting. I’m not quite sure what you mean by the first sentence? And by that i mean, how it relates to the post.

    Am I the person I want to be right now? I’m guessing you mean, as opposed to the person I have to be? I suppose so. I guess I’m just learning to accept the fact that I can’t be the person that a lot of people want me to be. There are things about myself that I can’t change, no matter how much I love my family and friends and no matter how much I wish I could make them happy. I would definitely say I’m more at ease with myself nowadays, but dealing with the disappointment from others is still a struggle.

    • Nihc
    • December 21st, 2011

    I know thiS iS too late, but I think you didn’t have to make your family and friendS happy. You Should have made God happy. Reading thiS now makeS me realize that right now I am in the Same boat aS you. I want to make mySelf happy but God haS given me life and I don’t need to make other people happy. I’m a diSappointment to my parentS and they have freely told me and I have cried and felt alone. I gueSS we could have helped each other. I have alwayS looked up to you not in the your ChriStian life but everything School. I’m not diSappointed in you but I am diSappointed in mySelf, I waS very immature and bad at liStening. Hopefully you will come back to uS. If not, pleaSe live a good life and hope to See you when I See you.

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