What does a woman dressed as a Muslim, an Indian bride, and a young woman in a bikini, have in common? Well, for one thing, they got me to thinking on this idea of expectations. I shall explain.
I’ve recently come to see expectations as the inevitable causation of experience. Expectations always come before results. They are relevant even in the tiniest endeavor, like taking out the trash, or pouring a glass of milk–we have an expectation of what the outcome will be before we do something–we “see” the outcome before we do the work. And, our expectations are born of experience. Beneath the surface of our thoughts are the voices of so many learned behaviors from the past. These experiences drive our expectations.
What got me to thinking on this idea of expectations was I happened upon a public television broadcast with bioethicist Sigrid Fry-Revere, who (inconsequential to this post) was presenting her book, The Kidney Sellers, on (of all things) solving the kidney donor shortage. But, pertinent to my story, she went into some detail about her experience visiting Iran and donning the Muslim garb–Hijab–required for women.
A few days before this I saw a photo of an woman from India (or possibly Pakistan). She had on what appeared to be a traditional bridal ensemble, with many accessories and with intricate tattoo-like markings–mehndi— on her hands and arms. She was beautiful.
Even more recently than this, and pivotal in my consideration of expectations (probably because it seemed so odd), I saw a young woman (whom I shall from this point forward respectfully refer to as “bikini girl”) crossing a parking lot (not the usual venue for this kind of dress) wearing only a halter top and bikini bottoms. It seemed quite out of place, maybe inappropriate. “Why would she do that”, I thought. “Why would she subject herself to possible unwanted attention, and worse, advances, by exposing herself in such a manner? Maybe it was as simple as wanting to get from point A to point B, but I still had to wonder, what were her ‘expectations’?”
Side note: Though she certainly had the body for it, my reaction to bikini girl was quite different than my reaction to the wedding photo, i.e., I didn’t say to myself that she was beautiful. Her presentation, as it were, lacked the former’s dignity. I now believe that “beauty” is dignified, true beauty must be respectful.
The above experiences prompted further consideration about women of other cultures and notions of what beauty is and how it can express itself even within an atmosphere of possible oppression. But mostly, the idea of expectations came to the forefront of my thoughts. After seeing bikini girl, I wondered what the expectations were of all these women; how did they expect other people to react to them, to their “presentations”. They surely had some notion of what they were telling the world and, therefore, some expectation of how they would be perceived. In other words, their expectations controlled their actions, decided for them how they would dress–Fry-Revere covered in black robe and scarf, the Indian bride’s dazzling ensemble, and bikini girl. My eyes were now open to the influence of expectations upon my actions. If I naturally respond to what my expectations are by how I act (or dress in my examples), why would I not do the same regarding anything I may want to accomplish? In other words, if I expect to succeed, wouldn’t my actions reflect that?
It has been said that we get what we expect. We respond to our expectations in how we do–how we paint, how we present ourselves to the world. We conform to our expectations, and thereby, to a certain degree, create the world in which we find ourselves. Just as it is inevitable that we will have expectations of one sort or another of our actions, it seems equally inevitable to me that the outcomes will generally match those expectations.
I think this is the underlying power of visualization–imagining yourself already in the condition you are seeking, “filling the form” as Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way, seeing yourself as a successful artist, for example, before you feel you are one.
It is impossible to expect an outcome without having thought it. The brain works fast and doesn’t wait for my permission to be impressed; I will either decide for myself my expectations or they will be decided for me, from conditioning, from prior learning. “How do I expect to perform, to be seen, what do I expect to happen? Are my expectations in line with what I really want or are they being pushed forward in my thinking from something an uncaring person once said to me and that I took to heart?” The trick, I guess, is to unlearn the blocks to my success by relearning that I can expect things to happen the way I want them to happen.
I know there will be unmet expectations, but I think these are necessary to the entire process. Life must have it’s yin and it’s yang. When you realize that pain (pain meaning “unmet expectations” in this case) is the indispensable half of your gain, “it hurts so good”. Don’t let the fear of disappointment stop you from expecting great things for yourself.
“If you win you win, if you lose you still win.”
Joey La Motta in Raging Bull