I have high standards for myself. I am a perfectionist. I never give up on people. I am ALWAYS available. I fix people. I over extend myself for the sake of helping others. I am a cheerleader. And I am sensitive. So when my expectations of receiving the same treatment are not fulfilled, I'm often crushed. I honestly cannot wrap my head around why people would not do unto me, as I've done unto them.
Disappointment. It happens to all of us. Not performing your best at a sporting or musical event. Failing a test that you studied hard on. Letting someone else down. Falling off the wagon after a season of success. Finding out really bad news. Being left out. A damaged relationship. Feeling forgotten or unimportant.
When it comes down to it, a lot of disappointment actually stems from an expectation not being met. Some of us deal with it better than others. I don’t deal with it well at all. Not only is that a major self-admitted personal fail, but I also show it on my face. How do I deal? I isolate myself from an individual because I absolutely cannot fake a smile.
Why high expectations? I tend to be an over achiever, therefore the effort I put into things within my control tend to have a matched effort outcome. A craft project turns out beautiful, a work project gets accolades, a planned event for a friend gets talked about for awhile...you get the picture. I don’t say this to pat myself on the back. If you are a perfectionist like yours truly, you understand the perfectionism concept that you don’t stop until, well, it’s perfect ;).
Although there are some personal downfalls to that mentality, I’ve recently had a 2x4 hit me up-side the head with how damaging this becomes in my relationships. I had some hurt from a deep and long time friend when I was 19 and then again when I was 23. Friends that I gave and gave and gave to, but when I needed them, I felt abandoned. Looking back on it now, we were young…and of course, my expectations were way off base. But the abandonment feeling was still painful and very real. I put my wall up and stuck to surface relationships, which I don’t do well at since by nature I crave deep and intimate relationships.
This season of emotional isolation stunted my relationship growth.; both externally and internally. Externally, I didn’t let people “in”. Internally, I was lacking experience in what a friendship looks like. May sound silly but sometimes I actually sit back and wonder how relationships work. I’m pretty sure that, that reasoning is because I can’t see past that self-imposed wall that I put up, so my view is blocked. To be completely vulnerable, I’ll admit that I I developed an interesting coping mechanism. I’m sure those closest to me already recognize it.
By nature I am a doer and a giver so I feel most comfortable doing. You’ll find me cleaning the kitchen during a party, refilling drinks and restocking food trays. I’ll volunteer to do the pre-game work or give money to the event. I’ll show up to support a good cause trip or help with a fundraiser. I’ll stay late and clean up as other people leave talking about how much they have to do the next day. This is good right? After all, constantly giving and doing means that people will always need me…right?
Absolutely not. The “givers” in the world naturally attract the “takers” and vice versa. I’m not saying that takers are bad people and are always taking. I feel that most people have the best intentions. I believe takers don’t always realize how much they take because they have a different outlook than givers. A giving perfectionist completely expects the golden rule and sewing/reaping principals to apply all the time. But that is not possible when a taker does not naturally look for opportunities to give at the same level that a giver does. Takers will naturally overlook a giver if the taker doesn't currently need anything from the giver and look onto fulfillment from other people. Here is where perspective comes into play. Stepping into the other persons' shoes can help soften the blow of your own disappointed perspective. But it’s still hard.
So here I am in my mid-thirties and suddenly found myself with the same relationship abandonment feelings. This new one is harder and softer at the same time. Harder because it followed a 6 year stent of 3 moves during the child rearing years. If those aren’t awkward enough years by themselves with the adjustments of budget, sleep, lifestyle and time, try including a lack of local family support. And then add in the fact that we were in new cities and states, trying to figure out how to meet friends. One more factor of a child having seizures making us scared to leave the house. THAT is a whole other topic for another day, but I think this brief 6 year synopsis will emphasize the isolation issues being intensified of an abandoned extrovert.
This new relationship shift is also easier this time around. Crazy, right? Here’s why. As an older and hopefully wiser adult I had a few days of shock, confusion, questioning what I did wrong and of course, self pity. Then, it was followed by an adult response of removing the emotion from the situation and realizing that I have two choices here. I can put that wall up again or I can press through. Do I think people intentionally hurt me? Heck no!! I’m sure they are oblivious and I’m fine with that. Actually it’s better that way. I realize that my expectations are off base in the giving/taking relationship scenario. I see and recognize there is a new season of life and the anticipation of the relationships remaining the same is not realistic.
How am I moving forward? I realized a lot of things through this situation. I also learned and gained some inner peace in the three hours it took me to articulate this blog. I could give you my action steps on how to navigate relationships, but I have no idea! ;) What I do know, is that I have a root issue of not reacting to disappointment correctly and started listening to an audio book Expectation Hangover by Christine Hassler. As I learn over the next few weeks, I’m going to blog and share with you some great tips on overcoming this Expectation Hangover. Thanks for sticking with me!