Self-Imposed Expectations

One of my biggest personal issues, that has directly or indirectly led to a whole lot of problems for my well-being and relationships, is my insane need to live up to expectations. I guess it's a facet of my fear of not being good enough.

I'm now 36 years old and finally starting to come to terms with this, and starting to be able to see which expectations are driving me, where they come from, and in the end whether I should try to live up to them or not. Remember my last post?

"I've realised that the things I'm doing now are for my own sake primarily, and others are happy when it's done but aren't holding their breath waiting for it." - "Stuff I'm Doing"

After I'd written that post I started feeling stressed. Imperceptibly at first, but then it started leading to irritability. I stopped myself. I took some time to think and feel. What was nagging me? What was eating at me?

It turns out that when I've made a post like that public I start treating those projects as promises. Suddenly I get the feeling that I've now committed to delivering on them. Not because I even said I would! No, you see this is the kicker: nobody expects me to, which means I can exceed the expectations of others. And I have honed the ability to do this over the years. To over-produce. To over-deliver. To over-achieve. It's become something I pride myself on and expect myself to do constantly.

One reason I started blogging was to get rid of this ambition. To dare to share without promising. It turns out that this is hard for me. I often feel that I don't have anything good enough to share. Nothing that is complete enough to warrant a public mention. But isn't it so that thoughts, ideas, and project plans all become better when articulated and shared so that feedback can be received? Maybe I should treat this blog more like a public section of my brain than an accountability report tool.

I've tried to formulate this notion lately, and I've been fortunate enough to stumble on quite a few interesting pieces that are helping me in this endeavour:

Piper Haywood wrote a post about Box Furniture, but also on the topic 'Some thoughts after reading Didion’s “On Keeping a Notebook”' which is the relevant section for this discussion 🙂️

Cory Doctorow discusses the "Memex Method" of using your notes as extra brain space.

Wikipedia explained the use of a "Commonplace Book" neatly.

IndieWeb.org has a whole lot more to say on the topic, and an expansive list of examples and resources. The previous examples all come from discussions with people who have added them as references to this article.

Maybe I'll share more unfinished thoughts here from now on. We'll see if that's the next step I need to take to manage my own expectations.

-- CC0 Björn Wärmedal