“Nobody ever rises to low expectations.” ~ Marie Forleo
One of the most important lessons I have learned in my 30+ years is that people are not trying to disappoint you. We often cannot help but feel disappointment. But it is never anyone’s intention to disappoint.
Another important lesson I have learned is to manage my expectations. I may give the benefit of the doubt, choosing to see the best in others. But at the end of the day, I can only meet people where they are, and accept them as they are, in real human form to avoid disappointment.
There is a difference, however, between managing expectations and lowering them. The former is important as we navigate the nuts and bolts of life; it is what determines the standards by which we choose to live.
But when we lower our expectations, feelings of disenfranchisement ensue. We become dissatisfied, uninspired, and our standards are compromised.
As a life coach and activist, the most frustrating phrase I hear day in and day out is, “that is how it has always been,” as if we are supposed to just accept what is and conform, without at least trying to raise the bar, negate a wrong, and fight for justice.
This outdated way of thinking only perpetuates oppression — both internalized and externalized — that is endemic. We settle. We limit ourselves. Our dreams for a better world are viewed as naïve and idealistic.
People in positions of power, who uphold structures of systemic and institutionalized racism in this country, will not change their hearts and minds in the foreseeable future. This is a truth reflective of my own managed expectations, as I meet these people where they are.
But my dream for such systems to be dismantled is neither naïve nor idealistic. It is a standard we should be setting, a standard by which we all should choose to live our lives.
I do not expect the pay gap between men and women to narrow overnight. But equal pay should be the standard.
I do not expect the disproportionate murders of black men by police officers to be resolved overnight. But black lives matter; that should be the standard.
The privatization of our criminal justice system will not be reformed overnight. But decarceration shouldbe the standard.
These standards do not make me unrealistic or impractical. They represent the values I hold as someone who values my life and the lives of others.
If our expectations are low, how then can life meet our standards? If we fail to raise the bar, negate wrongs, and fight for justice, survival becomes the norm; I’m not sure about you, but my aim in life is to thrive.
When we begin to command more — in our relationships, of our government, within ourselves — our standard of living becomes more abundant. We get out of a sheeple mentality, and shift toward people of value.
Marianne Williamson said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” If it is true that we are powerful beyond measure, then it must also be true that we have the capacity to influence transformative change that represents our standards.
Imagine a standard of living that met our expectations.
Imagine a standard of living devoid of what leaves us feeling powerless and oppressed. Imagine a standard of living that benefited everyone.
Contentment is not enough. Apathy will be the death of us. Fear can no longer be the excuse. Settling is unbecoming. The standards we set in our personal lives, and for the larger world, should reflect our humanity, our worthiness, and who we are as people with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
So, let’s raise them.