There are some of us who are completely unaware that a pile of unmet expectations lives within us. It accumulates much like anything does in our psyche — we may recognize the pang of hurt or the sorrow of disappointment when it occurs — but then we quietly file it away and put a bunch of other folders over it so we can’t look at it. Eventually, of course, we forget it is there.
They can be anything, really. Being last to be chosen for the kickball team. Not making cheerleader. Left out of the big party everyone else was invited to. The career that takes a wrong turn. The friend who drifts away. A partner who cheats. A wife who leaves. From the seemingly insignificant to the incredibly life shattering, at its core is the realization that you didn’t want or expect it to happen.
For most of us, we cope with an unmet expectation through our ego. Each of us has varying sizes of ego, but interestingly, the bigger it is the more overzealous the denial that it — or you — hurt. Our ego is what makes us sweep it under the rug. Pretend it didn’t matter anyway. We take the blow silently and quietly, then work really really hard at showing the world that we are fine. Just fine. In the process of managing our outwardly appearance we begin to convince ourselves as well. Until eventually we can’t find the file anymore because we keep burying it under more disappointment or unmet expectations.
This seemingly innocuous approach to coping is anything but. It changes you. Instead of approaching the world with your open arms and whole heart, you peak out from behind that pile of wounds, blinking at the light in front of you, not trusting it at all because look at all the times you’ve been hurt before. You’ve become jaded, cynical and maybe even have adopted that strategy of being mean and angry up front so you can beat someone else to the punch you know is coming.
Yet in truth what you really want most of all — what we all want — is to be seen for who we really are and loved. The problem is we want others to do the work for us. We want them to peel back the layers of callous and scars that cover our hurt and our pain, until they can find the soft and wide open child-like heart that lives deep within. We expect them to be master detectives, finding all the buried wounds you’ve long forgotten about, dusting them off and bringing them to the light together with a perfectly rational explanation that takes away all the hurt that you buried with it.
This work is not for the partner you’ve chosen. No one can fix you. This is your work. And the sooner you begin to rid yourself from this emotional pain body — cleaning out the closet, if you will — the more storage space you will have for the love and good memories you long for. If it sounds simple, it is. The work itself may not be, but the life concept is. You cannot attract what you are not able to feel, and energy can’t flow in a cluttered heart.
One of the biggest gifts you can give yourself, and those that love you dearly, is to let go of your unmet expectations. Do the work that is required to set them free. They are not serving you. Your body will be lighter and healthier; your mind will receive positivity; your heart, now raw and exposed and vulnerable again, will attract the most honest and powerful gift we have in our human experience: love.
I held onto my secrets for years. Decades, actually. And there are many reasons why. Reasons that anyone who has endured it — lived it — will understand. But only those who have endured it — lived it — will.
I’m writing this for everyone else.
I love you, but I’ve got to let you go.
Each time our paths cross I open my heart with renewed hope that it will be different somehow. And each time I walk away feeling empty.
My dear (____________), I realize now that at some point, I gave away my power to you. I was rebuilding my life, creating it piece by piece, and in all of its uncertainty and tender roots, I shyly let a chosen few in to tread softly and take a peek. I wanted to share my trepidation and fear and doubt and exhilaration and sheer anticipation with you. So I gave you permission to validate me. In no small way I longed for it. But it never came.