Expectation is a trap I set for myself.
by Annette Wagner, M.A.
Expectation is a pinnacle point of achievement. A place far beyond where I live – always. I know this pattern well. It was conditioned into me as a child through the teachings of a father who thought making money was the only answer to success. And when he couldn’t make that formula work for himself, he pushed it out onto his children. His legacy.
Expectation is insidious.
It sneaks in when I let down my guard. It is a constant battle I no longer have any desire to engage in. When I focus my energy on doing something, when I engage with that doing energy, expectation rolls right in and sets up shop. If you are going to do X, then this is how high you need to jump. Oh, and by the way, the bar is high enough you will never reach it. Ever.
When there is an expectation of being successful, making money, winning the game AND the expectation is set out of sync with what can actually be accomplished, then the trap is sprung. I am never good enough because I can never reach up high enough to to achieve that expectation. I fail and this so-called failure fulfills the prophecy of the story of expectation: I am “not be good enough” yet again.
Except every expectation I set that is out of sync
with what I can truly accomplish is false.
How do I know this?
What IS an expectation?
Maybe its a goal you set for yourself. Or an ideal of behavior you reach for. Or a project you want to accomplish. Expectations are tied to something you want or have to do. When I achieve X, I fulfill expectations others have of me, that I have of myself. This is good. I succeed, win, feel good because I have made everyone happy including myself. Yes?
When I was younger, an expectation was something always out of reach. Something I always strove for but never quite achieved. I drove myself to be something or do something and yet never truly felt satisfied when I got there. Because before I got there, when I began to even get a little bit close, I moved the expectation higher and further out of reach. If I can do X then I should be able to do Y.
In my twenties, I realized I how I allowed this pattern to run my life and strove to bring the pattern into balance. One of the ways I did this was to change how I approached life by applying the philosophy of doing my best. Whatever I was about to do, I told myself I would do my best whatever that might be for today.
Tomorrow I might learn something that meant I could have done today better and that’s ok. Doing my best is not about beating myself up when I learn something tomorrow telling me I could have done what I did today better. Doing my best is about doing my best right now, right here. What I learn tomorrow can be applied on another day.
Having a strong driver as part of my personality, this philosophy of doing my best worked very well for most of my life. It kept my expectations in balance. I learned to allow myself to achieve my expectations and to feel happy, successful and fulfilled when I reached them.
The last eight years of my life have centered around transformation. These days I am happy to say I am truly ME – a wild, crazy, beautiful, artist woman. I am happy. I am a working artist. I have fulfilled dreams I never even had on the expectation list. I am no longer the person who needs this philosophy of “best” to keep her expectations from running her life.
I didn’t really notice this fundamental shift until very recently. My critic, of course, noticed immediately. Over the last year, my critic has been using the expectation pattern to make me to feel guilty about everything from not pursuing every opportunity to “get my art out there” or to “make money” or to “run my own business” or to “teach workshops.”
Worse, my critic has been niggling at me about my work in the world. Continually asking me what my work in the world is and when will I start doing it. As a result, I’ve felt very unsettled and as if I am not doing something I should be doing. Instead of being satisfied with what I am doing in the world, with the creations coming into form under my pen and brush, with the relationships I have with those I love, the critic pokes at them again and again. Pushing for more, telling me there is more I should be doing.
Well, I woke up one morning recently and started pulling out the threads my critic has been weaving because I knew something needed untangling, unraveling and reweaving. It just did not feel right in my heart. I started by acknowledging where I am in my life TODAY.
I am in a loving happy relationship. I create every day. I share my art almost every day. I work in the Intentional Creativity movement. I am an Art Doctor for those moving through transformation via painting. I teach and paint and am a portal for spirit. I write my stories and lessons and share them. I am raising a wonderful daughter. I am surrounded by a tribe of folks who love and support me and kick my butt as needed.
Which raises a very interesting point. Why is it that when we reach a place in which our dreams are taken form, that we continue to sabotage ourselves with old patterns? Because this is exactly what my critic is attempting to do. Think about it….
What exactly “should I be doing?”
Where does my critic get off telling me
I should be doing anything at this point in my life?
My critic is trying to set expectations again. Critics are like that, they hang on to old patterns like 5 year olds with tattered baby blankets and broken toys. Its terrifying to let go of these old patterns for the critic because oh my if we don’t have that pattern what might happen? The world might change or implode or, or, something!
Which means it’s time to turn this pattern on edge and empty it out. To pull the plug on false expectations. To release the old pattern of doing my best. To take the tattered blanket away form the critic and bring in the Muse to counter the tears and wailing. To transform this entire idea of expectations and doing my best and instead ask something entirely different:
What is wanted?
This inquiry came to me from a very good friend. I can tell it’s powerful because of how hard it is for me to work with. I wrote the words down on paper and sent them to myself in email. Why? Because my critic keeps wanting to change the wording to: what needs to be done – which is a way for expectation to sneak back in. Critics are little sneaks sometimes when they do not want to let go of a pattern.
“What is wanted?” comes from a very different place than “what needs to be done?”
Think about it. The second inquiry assumes I can do something and that I will do something. The first inquiry assumes nothing. There is no doing associated with it at all. And therefore no expectation. Anything or nothing or something might happen. Whatever the answer is, is ok. Inquires are portals and this one has a beautiful expansiveness to it.
Asking what is wanted opens a doorway for Spirit to walk in. And so, once again, I embrace transformation. I release expectation. I let go of “doing my best” as my protection against the beast of expectations. I call in the Muse to counter the critic. I lean on trust. And I ask again,
What is wanted?
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Annette is the host of Paint Where You Are Sundays, an honoring and continuation of the studio painting days that our Art Matriarch, Sue Hoya Sellars ran when she was with us. If you have been painting with us in the Intentional Creativity movement or with Cosmic Cowgirls and want to join us for the day in the fabulous Cosmic Cowgirls Studio in Healdsburg, our next painting day is August 23rd. All the details are right here!
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Annette Wagner, M.A., is a Visionary Artist, Color of Woman Intentional Creativity teacher, and Art Doctor. She paints Contemporary Symbolism and watercolor sumi-e paintings. She works extensively with metaphor, symbol, and color. She is also the Managing Editor of the Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine and staff at Shiloh Sophia Studios.
Annette studied with American Master painter Sue Hoya Sellars and has a Masters in Women’s Spirituality from Sofia University. Her background includes over 25 years of hi-tech experience including 21 patents. She is owned by her dancing daughter, two cat beings, the man of her heart, and her Muse. You can view her artwork and read more about Annette at:www.annettewagnerart.com