Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Happily Releasing Unnecessary Expectations! {Plain & Simple}

This post wasn't a planned part of this series - it just came to me randomly while I was showering a few evenings ago!

Here goes...

One great source of stress in my life (and, I expect, in the lives of many others) is the great morass of self-imposed expectations that I carry in my heart but cannot fulfill in my life. I'm not talking about the essentials (morals, health, real responsibilities), but simply those non-essential social expectations which I have voluntarily taken upon myself to fulfill (but cannot).

All of us choose, in many ways or few, to conform to various societal expectations. And many of these are very good things (like choosing to wear clothes or adopt a moral code). But sometimes conforming to non-essential societal norms can put unnecessary stress on us when we are trying to live up to something that we cannot do - to something that is not true to who we are.

I should again make it clear that I am not suggesting that people throw away morality, ethics, or culture as a whole - just that we should examine non-essential cultural expectations to see if they are benefiting or harming us.

I have found that as I get to know my true self, I can choose to jettison various self-imposed expectations, and it is very freeing - and a very important part of the pathway toward simplicity!

Here are just a few non-essential cultural expectations for which I have chosen the "opt-out" option:

Crafting - I am in awe of those ladies out there who scrapbook, decorate, and are otherwise brilliantly crafty. I love to admire their handiwork. But at the same time, I am simply not (for the most part!) a crafty woman. I do not have the creativity necessary, nor do I have that inward urge to create. But for many years, I have carried the guilt of that expectation. I should scrapbook. I should sew for fun. I should make homemade Christmas cards. And etc.

But the truth is that I have neither the desire nor the need to be crafty. And furthermore, if I do have any spare time, I would much rather spend it, say, scrubbing the floors with bleach than I would making hand-woven hazelnut-dyed wool rugs from fibers that I collected and spun myself. Bleach is just more my kind of thing.

Releasing that expectation was wonderful. So was throwing away all of my "should-do" clippings from Martha Stewart Living that I'd had tucked away in a folder and which had been on my conscience ever since. 

Martha Stewart, meet the round file. 
Pursuing the 'Do - When I was younger, I wore my hair in a braid or a bun... and loved it. But I always felt the social pressure to have a complicated, sculptured, modern hairstyle. And when I graduated from high school, I immediately cut all of my hair off and spent the next ten-plus years very unsuccessfully trying to learn to do a styled hair-do (the type that involves a hair dryer, a curling iron, and gobs of expensive hairstyling products). I never enjoyed it and I was never any good at it.

Recently, though, reality has slapped me in the face. I like plain hairstyles! (Or perhaps I should say Plain hairstyles!) I love the practicality, the quickness and lack of expense, and the look. Why am I trying to live up to an expensive cultural expectation that I don't even want?

In other words... bring on the bun! For good. And this week, I finally tossed the last expensive gooey hairstyling product in the trash bin with a firm "Good Riddance!"

(Okay, I did hold onto one bottle of hairspray. I don't know why. But I'm guessing it'll hit the trash bin too in the next week or so after I release my last emotional tie to the stuff.)

There is great freedom in releasing unwanted self-caused expectations that are tying us to unwanted standards.

(My current plan is to become the sweet little old lady with a cotton print dress, apron, glasses, and wispy grey hair tied up in a knot. It's so adorable I can hardly wait!)

On the way!
Home Education Perfection - Round about August, something starts to turn up in the blogosphere... homeschool mothers posting pictures of their drop-dead-gorgeous homeschool rooms! AAAAAHHHHHH!!!

Now seriously, these homeschool rooms really do make me drool. I love them. I really, really, really love them.

But again... this is not an area in which I am skilled. (Having lived in our house for over four years, I hung our first picture... three days ago. Seriously.) It's also not an area on which I want to spend my time. (Again, the bleach is calling my name.) Furthermore, not being artistically gifted, I could never life up to the high standards set by some of the homeschooling mama-geniuses out there, so I would live in a constant state of envy, guilt, and disappointment should I even try.

Even more importantly, a beautifully-decorated homeschool room is not essential to a good home education. There are things that are essential to good home education - routines, real books, accountability, etc. - but a gorgeous homeschool room is not one of them. I can produce successful kids sitting at the kitchen table with no decorations whatsoever (my current plan). I could also have a beautiful school room... and still fail horribly as a home educator. But a beautiful room will not make or break our home education. If it's something that a homeschool mom wants to do, then that is wonderful! Post pictures and let me drool over them. But it's not something that I need to do as a requirement to be a good home educator.

So, instead of beating myself up over this ("You should have a beautiful school room too, you miserable failure!"), I will stop the guilt, accept that it is not my bent, and enjoy the beautiful school rooms that all you genius-mamas produce... vicariously.


Hopefully I'm making myself clear in this post! I'm not proposing that we become lazy, that we drop our morals and ethics, that we make excuses, or that we lay around all day saying, "It's just not in me to do such-and-such!" What I am suggesting is simply that we find out which non-essential self-imposed expectations are dragging us down, and that we choose to replace them with more down-to-earth guidelines for our personal situations.

Here are a few more self-imposed expectations that I have decided (or hope) to drop:

- We must always eat off of real plates! If I use paper plates, I'm cheating! 

- I must update my blog every day or two, or I'm a failure as a blogger! 

- I need to decorate for every season and holiday! Perfectly! 

- I need to do complicated unit studies that cover every subject under the sun and which are so successful that the kids are begging for more! (May I say.... HA!)

- I must bake my own bread, preserve all my own food, raise farm animals, and keep up with all of my other duties simultaneously and perfectly!

As they say in Hypnobabies.... "Release." Works for childbirth, works for unnecessary self-imposed expectations.


Which expectations have you imposed upon your heart and your life that would be better released and forgotten? I'd love to hear about it!

Our latest family picture, just for fun. Don't you love how helpful the 3yo was being? 

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