I just want to be me, but the my own expectations ensure that does not occur.
Sometimes, I just have to set all of them down.
I carry around a number of expectations all of the time. I am a husband, and I need to work to be a good husband. I am a mentor, and I have to work to be a good one. I am someone’s boss, and I have to make sure that I am a good one. I am a son, and I have to make sure I am a good one. And the list goes on. I am a fundraiser, a Christian, a visionary, a man affected with bipolar disorder, a dog owner, a friend, a colleague, a giver of hope, and probably more. But I can’t carry all of this. It is too much. I cannot possibly be this much person (or maybe this many people!).
I once had a mentor tell me that he was having a terrible time with anxiety and stress. Then he had a vision. In his vision, he was climbing a mountain, but he could barely move. His feet were heavy. His legs were exhausted. His back was breaking under the weight of something, but he could not see what. He was just trying to climb, just trying to look up at the peak and see his destination. But how could he make it so far. Every step was torturous, and he was running out of the strength for even one more step, still miles from the summit.
Then he looked around. On his back my mentor had a refrigerator. My mentor did not need a refrigerator. This was not a vision of him carrying something boldly up the face of a mountain. This was a vision haunted by hundreds of worthless pounds thrust upon a tired back and a pair of shaking legs.
My mentor told me then that the fridge was symbolic. It was all of the baggage from family, all of the stress from work, all the pain of childhood. It was something he was never supposed to carry, and it was weighing him down, keeping him from the things he wanted most. His only choice was to drop it. So he put the refrigerator down, and was filled with lightness and hope. The fridge stood on the side of the mountain, and my mentor ascended to the peak full of energy and vigor.
Sometimes I relish stories like this, until I realize that I have been carrying something similar.
My own expectations of myself are my fridge. I expect myself to be stable all of the time, to be a great husband all of the time, to be a good boss all of the time, to be a great worker all of the time, to be a great person all of the time, to be a great mentor, a great mentee, a great hope-giver, a great connection, a great friend, a great…. fridge?
The truth is that I have the ability to be one person. I have the ability to be full of life and hope and joy as me. Nobody else. I cannot meet everyone’s expectations of all these things. In fact, I cannot meet my own expectations of these things. However, I can be me. That is enough.
The problem is the perspective I take in the process. Am I trying to be a great mentor, or a great me? Am I trying to be a great boss, or a great me? Am I trying to be a great husband, or a great me?
In everything I have a choice. I can be the best something else, and begin to carry the weight of expectation. I can be crushed under the weight of everything that I hope to be because I can never be enough, or I can be myself.
So, today, maybe we can put down the refrigerator. Climbing is so much better without the weight.