We are in a perpetual balance of what is expected of us and what we expect of ourselves. I know a great deal of people who would contest this statement, believing they do not conform to other peoples expectations, but I disagree. The two can be mutual, for example: my boss expects me to be on time for work, I expect myself to be on time for work, the benefits of this are mutual. If I am on time for work I keep my job and make money, and so does my boss. Society expected me to pay for my train fare this morning, I have the same expectation of myself. I may not want to, there is no direct benefit in paying for me but my own moral code is in agreement with the expectations of society and of the law, that a service provided should be paid for.

But often these expectations do not match and this is what creates confliction.  Such a conflict is causing me a huge headache. My current problem involves my job. I am only just starting out in my working life, a very important time in my life as the direction this will take is being formed with every week, day, hour minute… that I continue to make decisions.

My expectations of myself and the expectations placed on me by society and everyone and everything around me, are doing battle in my head.

So the big ‘life’ question we have to ask ourselves at this point is this:

What do we want from life?

Which ultimately leads to the question:

Where is true happiness found?

In following our own gut feelings, aiming exclusively to satisfy our own life expectations, or should you knuckle them down and just relax, and let the course of following society’s expectations lead on? Be content with what it grants you? Be ‘another brick in the wall’, another ‘cog in the machine’?

From pleasing society’s expectations, I could find myself fitting neatly into a place within it, all of my own, content that I have a job and can afford a roof over my head. I would be caught if I fell, that is what the welfare system is for. I could potentially sit and do nothing and still have a roof over my head! But I can’t help but listen to that voice in my head, my own expectations, telling me that it’s just not good enough, that I want more from life. If I find it (whatever it is) that may be what true happiness feels like, but then we may not. Are our expectations of ourselves so high that we are doomed to unfulfilled misery? I feel like I have higher expectations of myself than society does!

Living purely out of society’s hands is abdicating responsibility for your own life, because your options are determined for you. There is in some way, a comfort in this. Your own expectations are satisfied.

Life as a river is a popular analogy. If to let society’s expectations guide you is to let go of the sides and float freely, is guiding ourselves, by believing and trusting in our own expectations, to motor along – or stick an oar in?

We do not know what society has in store for us around the corner. It is a world of twists and turns. It can feel some times like we have no control, and this creates anxiety. Letting go and letting other peoples decisions take over is a relief from this, isn’t it? At least then if it all goes wrong we don’t have ourselves to blame, either.

I think the real answer in this is to define and manage our own expectations better so we are acting in our best interest, because there is no other person to act for. Society is a faceless wall, it does not deal purely in rewards and pats on the back. It cannot be trusted to provide for you in the same way you can trust yourself. Rules can be broken, and are broken by everyone on a daily basis. We cannot even trust our bodies which can act out against us, for example through illness. We have to trust our minds, but that opens a minefield of other unanswerable questions.


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