Recognizing The Girl In The Mirror
Let’s talk about expectations. Societal expectations, cultural expectations, age expectations, gender roles expectations; the list can go on and on. Lately, I’ve been taking the time to reflect on where I am and how I got here, and if I’m being honest, it all goes back to the expectations placed on me, whether by the people around me or myself. I’m sure if you’re reading this, whether male or female, you are probably nodding your head in agreement. From the time we’re born there is an expectation placed on who you’ll become. It might not be done purposely, but it’s done all the same. Our parents create dreams for us, our teachers place hope in us, and once we hit jobs, well then our bosses have their expectations and desires for who they want us to be.
As a 31 year old latina I am now just learning how to put down the expectations that have been placed on my shoulders. I had a friend today remind me “your thirties are for you and you alone”, and how true that is. I think a lot of the times we see the hope others have in us and the satisfaction we create for others when we reach certain standards. But do we ever take the moment to ask ourselves, “is this what I want?” I know I didn’t, at least not til recentely.
The thing is we get so used to taking other people’s advice, from what college we should go to, what degree should we take, what career decision is best for us; we don’t take too much time to sit with those decisions ourselves. We listen to what others think is best for us and from there begins the journey of expectations.
Before we hop on this journey, let’s rewind it a bit, if we can. Let’s start with the simple piece of things, the definition. Do you even know the definition of expectation? I know we all know the meaning of it, in a general sense. But when you sit down and think about it, have you read what the actual definition is?
“A belief that someone will or should achieve something” – Expectation
The definition is this: “A belief that someone will or should achieve something”. I mean…this definition hit me like a ton of bricks the first time I read it. If people knew this small piece of information I think we’d all think twice before diving off into the expectations of others. If it didn’t hit you like it did me let’s go back one more time. Expectation means “a belief that someone WILL or SHOULD achieve something”. Not wants to achieve something, not hopes to achieve, but that they should.
So every expectation I have carried these past years are someone else’s belief that I SHOULD do something. Do you know how exhausting that is? Incredibly, we’re still hanging on day by day, we’re living our lives for other people rather than ourselves. Some of us get to the realization earlier than others, while some never get to this wake-up call.
Your journey might be like mine, where you’re just coming to this realization and trying to figure who the heck you are in this world. And I think at one point in time we all knew who we were, or at least what we truly wanted of ourselves. For me, there was a point in my life where I was confident in what I didn’t want for myself and what I wanted. It may not have made sense to many people, but it didn’t matter to me. Then along the way I lost it…the confidence in who I was. The voices of everyone around me got louder than my own, I stopped living for my future and started walking towards the future everyone else said was for me.
And so began this emotional roller coaster ride of constantly trying to please everyone else. A journey of promotions, the corporate world, settling, relationships and more of things I never really wanted. I had taken on so many layers of these expectations that I didn’t know who Nathaly was anymore, I didn’t even know what she looked like. She just kept in the rhythm of a job she hated, a city she never wanted to go back to, and it all got to be a lonely world.
Why is it so easy to listen to what everyone else thinks is best for us, but not what we believe for ourselves? Is it because we use the excuse of the older, the wiser? We think our parents know best, our bosses know best, our friends know best…they all see this potential in us, so maybe they know something we don’t, right?
At least that’s what we tell ourselves. They must know somethign we don’t, they have more life experience, maybe they’re right. When the entire time we know what’s right, we’re just afraid to admit it to ourselves, we’re afraid to disappoint others, and we’re afraid of how we’ll look to everyone else. For me that turned out to be the case, every single bullet point I made was the reason behind my decisions. I stopped listening to the girl that mattered and I started listening to the voices around me.
I made one decision after another, because someone else thought it was best for me. Someone else saw “potential” and just knew what I needed to do.
Recognizing The Girl In The Mirror
And that is where my journey of disappointment started, not disappointing everyone else, but full disappointment of myself. I became unhappy, lonely, and confused. There were days I’d wake up and not recognize the girl in the mirror. And if you can believe it, I could never pin-point why I had become so unhappy all of a sudden. This was years and years of layering others’ beliefs of myself, even if they weren’t negative ones. They just weren’t who I was.
Career-wise it all looked amazing, I was climbing and making people proud. I was networking, I was making a name for myself…all in a place I did not want to be.
It’s scary how many of go through life this way. We don’t really take the time to reassess, sit with ourselves to reflect on where we are in life and if that’s where we actually want to be. It’s so easy to do it for others, to do it when we’re in a relationship, but when it comes to the relationship with ourselves we think we don’t know much. But the truth is, who knows us better than ourselves.
We need to give ourselves a little bit of credit. Even if we don’t know exactly what we want or when we want it, most of the time we know what we DON’T want. And that is just as good as anything else because it allows you to steer away from a path that isn’t yours, it stops you from picking up a load you were never meant to carry. So give yourself credit, if you’re thinking on where you are in life and if it’s something you never wanted, allow yourself the opportunity to put it down and walk away to something else.
That’s what 2021 taught me to do, and it’s been a crazy ride for sure. But as I let go of one expectation it gets easier to let go of the next one. Layers of myself I never wanted to be, added on by people that wanted me as something I’m not…they’re all coming off. Finally!
I pushed through the fear of looking ridiculous and ended up in a place where I’m starting to recognize the girl in the mirror again.
I left a job and moved cross country to a place with no support system, but it was a decision I had made for myself, rather than for others.
Even as I write this I’m coming from a place of another layer coming off, a layer that came on this year, but as I said…I’m learning. I quickly realized the pattern and made a decision that made no sense to anyone else.
But it was a Nathaly decision, it was me throwing out what others around me wanted and being ok with what I wanted (or didn’t want).
Honestly, I’m still learning and I’m sure there will forever be moments where someone wants to add a layer. But the point is to learn to recognize it for what it is and be ok in saying no. Be ok with who you are and forget everyone else’s approval.
My twenties were lived for everyone else, my thirties I will live for myself, even if it makes no sense. But for you, it doesn’t matter if you’re in your twenties, thirties, forties…heck 60 and up. If you’re unhappy and can’t recognize yourself anymore, take a step back. Do it alone and really ask yourself if you’re where you want to be, if you’re happy where you stand. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know where you want to end up, but if you know that the place you’re standing in is not for you, move! You are not a tree!
Allow yourself the chance to change, to make yourself happy and live a life for you and no one else. If we learned anything the last two years, it’s that life is short. Are we going to continue waking up in the morning and do the life thing for someone else? Think of it this way, if today you woke up knowing it was your last day on this earth would you do what you have been doing for the past however many years? Would you spend it with the people you’ve been spending it with? Would you be content?
If the answer is no, or if you’re even afraid to ask the questions, then it’s time for a change.
Fear is expected. We’re letting go of things we’ve held onto for so long. We’re going to disappoint people, because they haven’t seen who we really are yet. It will look different, it will feel different, but it will be you. So take a deep breath, feel your fear, take the load you’ve been carrying and put it down. Now take a step off that path you know is no longer benefiting you and try another one. Life is an adventure, there are so many paths to choose from, even if it looks completely different than what anyone thought possible.
I’m on that journey right alongside with you, let’s do it together and see where we end up.