“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Who, as a young kid, heard this question posed to them by their teachers? Practically everyone has. But when people transition from being young children to teenagers in high school, people’s expectations of a person then begin to impose on their visions and dreams for the future. Parents become more controlling and the school system seems intent on molding students into brainwashed citizens; sapping the creativity and the ambition to chase after unorthodox dreams from their young minds. For example, let’s say there’s a young girl that wants to be an author but her parents want her to be a doctor and go to medical school; so they force her to follow their wishes with fear tactics and completely disregard what their daughter wants for herself. This leaves the girl miserable and crumbling under the pressure of what he parents want for her. How parents do this: by forcing their child into rigorous school courses, extracurricular activities that the student may or may not have any interest in, excessive scheduling to keep them busy and make them more appealing to colleges. “School, homework, extracurricular activities, sleep, repeat—that’s what it can be for some of these students,” says Noelle Leonard, PhD, a senior research scientist at the New York University College of Nursing (NYUCN). But this is doing more harm than good for the students. Parents having unrealistic expectations for their children are not preparing their children to succeed in life.
My personal experience with absurdly high expectations is boundless. I am a straight A student with several extracurricular activities that I engage in outside of school. People who don’t know me that well would use “smart” as the first adjective to describe my personality. Strangers, my teachers, and people I know all expect me to be some genius student who is superhumanly smart and doesn’t make mistakes because of my grades. What they don’t see is the anxiety that their unrealistic expectations force on me. I don’t like to fail or let people down and expectations cause me stress when I try to become what people expect of me. When I was younger, it was my parents the most.
They wanted me to become a doctor but they expected me to attend an Ivy League College with my intelligence. The focus rapidly went from it being about what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go to what other people (ei: my parents) thought would be best for me. Turns out that their idea about what was best wasn’t actually the best option. I, around the time of middle school, discovered my deep rooted passion for law and justice and that forced me to a crossroads. I had to either follow what people expected of me or go out on a limb by standing up for myself and pursue whatever made me happiest. My resolve was steel and I ended up doing the later; which turned in my favor later on. But I had to take the risk of showing people that I wasn’t going to fit in their box of expectations.
My advice comes in two main points: honesty and confidence. In order to show people that their expectations are bogging you down, it would be a good reminder to them that you are human and mistakes are bound to happen. Having open and honest dialogue about unrealistic expectations is a fast and efficient way to halt stress and anxiety over trying to twist yourself into shapes to
please. Show people that you are vulnerable to stress from expectations and most people will listen to what you have to say. Sometimes we forget that those around us are actually people and by projecting our unrealistically high expectations of them onto them, we are essentially placing them on a pedestal and submerging them in unwanted anxiety. Secondly, there is a confidence deficit that has to be addressed before anything else. Standing up to people and their thoughts requires sure footing and unwavering confidence. If you aren’t confident in yourself or confident enough to address unrealistic expectations of other people; then nothing will be done. I know that thinking about it can be terrifying, but it is worth it. In hindsight, you will be glad you spoke up and reminded people who is in charge of their destiny and what you can and cannot do.
Expectations are all part of life and it is human to expect things of others. But sometimes we take it too far with other people when we forget that they are human: prone to mistakes and have emotions and their own wishes. We need to find a balanced middle ground where we can have expectations about other people that are grounded in the reality but will pose a necessary challenge.
Teenagers With Experience is an online platform ran by teenagers for teenagers. We provide support through sharing our own experiences and providing advice based from this. If you need support, feel free to reach out to us on one of our social media platforms. We will do our best to support you and if we feel we cannot we will direct you to more suited, professional support.