Whybe a Yogi - Expectation vs. Reality
By nature, the human mind is limited. And so, when we have certain expectations, we are constrained to the vision that we ourselves have created, which is defined and limited. Our expectations can keep us out of the possibility of that which is beyond our imagination.
I am a perfectionist and I love following rules because they provide a clear map for how to do the task at hand according to my understanding of “perfect.” In elementary school, I was always the first to finish the timed multiplication table assignments. As a student in Japan, it was the rule that as soon as we finished the assignment, we had to sit there quietly with our hands behind our straight backs and wait for everyone else in the class to finish. As an absolute rule follower, I would hold that stiff pose without wavering for a good 5-10 minutes waiting for my peers to finish the assignment. I held that pose so rigidly that my teacher specifically called my mom in to tell her I needed to loosen up or I would have serious physical implications as a result of how much stress I was putting on my back.
This rigid rule-following tendency
is something I have carried with me as I grew into adulthood.
I not only adhere to rules and expectations set by authority and society, but I also adamantly follow the “rules” I put on myself. Having clear cut, black and white expectations has, for the most part, set me up for success because I know what to expect, I do exactly that, and I achieve good results.
However – what exactly determines “good results?” Over the course of my life, I have defined “good results” as society’s or my expectations of “perfect.” By doing this, a lot of times I have denied my full potential by declaring these results as “perfect,” and the point to which I want to reach.
Still, there are many times when I'm attached to an expectation, and instead fall short, leaving me feeling disappointed, hurt, and less than whole. I internalize and personalize the experience when it doesn't live up to the expectations that I set. For example, when I failed (more than once) a section of the CPA exam that I had spent weeks studying for, I believed I was less than “perfect.” When I received the results of my test scores and saw “FAIL” in big capitalized bold letters, I immediately told myself that I was a failure. I labeled myself as stupid, unworthy, and useless. This was the result of me comparing the actual outcome to my idea of what “success” should look like, instead of appreciating my hard work and acknowledging the process.
It is a constant practice
to acknowledge the importance of the process, not just the result.
By limiting and attaching myself to the outcome only, and to the predetermined image of my expectations, I have denied myself the learning that takes place during the journey. The process is the reality, which can only happen in the here and now.
A lot of times, I am so competitive that I won't even participate if there's not a 100% chance I will "win." Yoga was the first "sport" I participated in, that allowed me to not "compete in." From the first time I stepped into BIG, my yoga practice has been a place for me to explore, create, and find freedom in movement. I have never felt judged in that space -- I have always felt that people there have my back. Every time I step onto my mat, I continue to have the opportunity to meet myself exactly as I am in that moment – fully aware and united in body, mind, and spirit. Anything that happened before class or that is waiting for me after my practice has nothing to do with my time flowing with my body and breath. That is when the magic happens – when I am in full creation and simply allowing my body to do what it knows to do.
My handstand practice, specifically, has allowed me to distinguish between "expectation" and "reality." Some days I don’t feel very strong, but I can pop right up. Other days when I’m feeling extra strong, I can barely hold it for a second. This is a gentle reminder that my body is innately intelligent. My body knows better than my brain what it is capable of because it’s always rooted in reality – it thrives in the process.
my body knows that there are infinite possibilities for her.
It’s only my brain that creates these boundaries that limit me.
It’s so easy to get in the habit of checking social media and feeling like my practice should look like someone else’s. This is especially challenging for my competitive and perfectionist personality. When I step onto my mat with this view, I’m actually creating a blind spot to how truly great I am in the present moment. On the days I nail my handstand when I really didn’t think I had it in me, I am reminded that my body is stronger than my mind tells her. The times when I cannot get up no matter how many times and how hard I seem to try, I am reminded to trust my perfectly imperfect body because she knows best.
I see now that the most harmful aspect about expectations is that they strip us of our time right now – expectation lives in the future, while reality can only happen right now. The minute I start to expect something, I am sent to the future, and I am pulled away from the reality of the present moment.
Where have you confined yourself by your expectations and limited your full potential?
What parts of your life are you living in the future or the past?
What is one way you can choose to drop the expectations and live in your reality today?