rebelling against low expectations

I Can’t Live Up To My Own Expectations (And That’s Okay)

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Let me set the scene.

It’s a weekday night at Yogurtland, and I’m finishing the yummy dessert with my mom and two sisters. All of a sudden, a song I like comes on overhead, and I point it out to my mom. “Hey, it’s the song from that movie!”

My mom looks at me and says, “You know, Anna, it doesn’t take much to make you happy.” Elaborating, she adds, “You have such low expectations for life and yourself; you’re just happy-go-lucky.”

The conversation switches to my sister in middle school and all the “struggles” she has. Not wanting her to get full of herself, I remind her that things only get harder in public high school, so she should try to enjoy the ease she has right now.

As I’m comparing her woes to mine and trying to tell her that life gets horrendously burdensome when you’re surrounded by the most selfish people you’ve ever met in your life, she cuts me off with a heart-stabbing statement:

“No offense, Anna, but I’ll never end up like you.”

Record scratch, freeze frame. All I can remember after that is my thoughts getting sucked back into my brain, the rest of the noise around me slipping away. My old friend named self-doubt visited me then and there; telling me she’s right, I’m just a failure, and I shouldn’t even try because there’s no successful (at least in my terms) end for me.

Unconquerable Expectations

That moment, combined with my mom telling me I expect nothing of life and myself, led to me sitting outside by the car, crying. I distinctly remember the sharp feeling of each tear rolling down my cheek, as it was almost the middle of winter and I was standing in the cold sobbing.

To truly understand my thoughts, episodes, and meltdowns, you have to know me. To start, I’m the oldest, which means that everything I do is being watched by my family and younger siblings, who “look up to me.” Next, I don’t know what I want to do with my life. Quite literally, nothing makes me excited for a lifelong career and I have no idea where I want to go to college. No hyperbole.

Perhaps most importantly, I do have expectations. I have a lot of pressure on me. Being the oldest, combined with trying to stand out from siblings who look a lot more successful, adding to the fact that I have no hobbies, no interests, and no skills… I could go on.

In summary, I put pressure on myself because of the expectations I was born with. And I feel like I will never live up to them.

So far, this article sounds like I’m just here to sob into my diary, with stereotypical teenage exclamations of “No one understands me!” and “I’m a disappointment to everyone!” But this is where I started. I began thinking and telling myself that I am a disappointment to everyone I meet, and I will never have success because I’m an overall failure.

My parents, horrified, watched as I buried myself into superficial work, clawing for something that I could bring back up to the surface and show them. Something to prove that I am worthy of their attention and that I’m not some burn-out with no hope. After a while of this pointless striving, my mom gently suggested that my prideful sin was what put these expectations on me.

I denied it at first, telling myself that man’s natural will is to be the best that he can be. Thus, it was normal or even expected that I would be the best. I had fallen into the trap that I am infallible and capable of perfection.

After many episodes of crying incessantly and battles with intrusive thoughts, God has shown me that it was indeed my pride telling me I needed to be perfect. Looking through it, I could see how my pride prevented me from having a grasp on reality, and was attempting to build a shrine for myself that I could never complete. But this is just where the journey started.

I now had to trust God. Completely and fully. I remember, while crying, praying to God and asking Him to make me trust Him. I realized I had to let go of trying to fulfill myself and control my life and just let God do what He wants with me. After all, His will is best.

Unfailing Trust

I wish I could offer you, fellow sojourner, a happy resolution. As I said, it’s a journey, and one I’m still treading. In retrospect, I can now transfer my trust and hope from my sin-scarred flesh to a perfect God, One that is perfect for my trust because my life is in His control. I don’t have to be good enough for myself anymore. I don’t have to be good enough for my competitors, friends, family, or expectations. I only need to trust God, knowing and believing that He is the only source of true happiness and satisfaction.

Our hope is not found in our perfection, because for us, perfection is impossible to attain. Our hope is found in Jesus—the One who is perfection. Click To Tweet

And that’s what I challenge you to do. Join me on this journey of trust and surrender. Our hope is not found in our perfection, because for us, perfection is impossible to attain. Our hope is found in Jesus—the One who is perfection. You can let go of your striving. Move past the comparison. And come to the foot of the cross where our pride can be crucified and control handed over to the One who already holds it.


About the author

Anna Bulis

is a 16-year-old student attending Yorba Linda High School. Her home church is Cornerstone Bible Church, which she has attended her entire life. In her free time, Anna likes to sleep, hang out with friends, or walk her dog with her family. When she is not free, you can catch her staying up late doing homework, taking your order at Chick-fil-A, or participating in speech and debate competitions.

By Anna Bulis
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →

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