Living up to our own expectations

It is impossible to live up to our own expectations. If it is possible, we can be a neurotic mess. Our lives are conditioned by society, family and schools. You cannot avoid that. We dreamed up our own expectations. “I want to accomplish something by age …”, “I want to make my first million by age …”, “I want to beat Michael Phelp’s records in the Olympics”, “I want to have 2.3 children”, etc. Parents squeeze their kids to fulfil expectations.

We may have our own expectations what we want to achieve. Even if it fell short of expectation, “I am OK.” This life is still worthwhile. Accept ourselves for our own capabilities and weaknesses. From then on it is easier to change and improve in the future, a step at a time. Accepting ourselves does not mean we can be complacent. We leave rooms for improvement and not to knock ourselves for not accomplishing our goals at the start.

Practise at rejoicing at own merits and other people’s merits. Stop complaining ourselves to others. Rejoice what my friends had done. Rejoice how I have changed. I am happier, less angry, and not depressed. Work on self-acceptance from my heart by rejoicing. If I am the best in the world, this will be dismal. I will not be able to learn anything new. There is no need for electricians, road builders, car makers, etc. Lots of people know things that I don’t know. With self-acceptance, I can learn from these people.

Have contentment in our hearts. Appreciate the richness of life. Again this does not mean complacency. We were taught dissatisfactions but we forgot each one of us has unique qualities and abilities. We balance up and complement each other. We accept others and do not put expectations on top of other people. This can only drive them crazy. Have mental space in your heart. Stop this kind of push. When you push, you cannot have a kind heart. You trample on other people’s happiness in order to look good. You may end up with no friends. Instead cultivate kindness to help others.

In schools, there is no course on how to have a kind heart. We learn from history, when people acted selfishly and easily offended they started wars. Wars destroys happiness. Be careful with jealousy, you may become one, having their problems. You can miss up on beauty of own life if we compare too much.

Self-acceptance of who we truly are is important. It is ok to set goals, but sometimes we may not have the conditions and causes to realise these goals and we cannot control them. Understand the situations and accept the situations. We had done our best under the circumstances. It’s OK. There is no point in getting angry because my agitation is my responsibilities!

The above was heard from a talk by Venerable Thubten Chodron, Abbess of Sravasti Abbey in Washington State, USA.
Date of talk: 4 December 2013 in Singapore

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