My Struggle with Holding Others to My Personal Expectations

by Darcie
mother father daughter london

I’ve always been told that I’m just like my mom.

If you look at this post’s feature image, you might think that we are sisters. And if you can believe it, we’ve even been called twins.

We also have a lot of similar personality traits. We are both sensitive, empathetic, introverted, and creative. We like to cook, read, dance, and watch TV dramas. We also hate exercise but do it anyway.

In recent years, I’ve noticed more ways that I’m also like my dad, and our relationship has evolved. We have learned to connect in certain ways like watching football, playing tennis, and discussing business-related topics.

More than that, I’ve identified personality traits and skills that we share. He is creative which affirms my belief that creativity is something that exists within everyone. He is a skillful writer and truly desires to connect with others just like I do.

A stranger might only see me as my mother’s daughter, which is an easy assumption that even I had made about myself.

As I’m getting older, I’m seeing more evidence that not only do my mom and I have distinct personality differences, but my dad and I are more similar than I thought.

Some of my personality traits and behavioral tendencies are a direct result of childhood modeling of my parents’ behavior. For example, my parents are both very rigid with time. While this trait translates into reliability, it also means that they can be inflexible with plans.

As a result, I trend toward these characteristics too, though I have actively worked to become more flexible. (I don’t always succeed.)

Recently, I realized that I was falling into another behavioral pattern that I saw my dad exhibit quite a bit when I was younger and still does, to some extent, to this day.

Sometimes my dad holds others to the standards he sets for himself. He has an A+ work ethic, which translates into constant motion. He wouldn’t know what to do with a “me” day.

As such, he can be critical of others who do not work hard and as constantly as he does.

I felt the effects of this as a child and still now as an adult. Even though I value a balance of working hard and relaxing, I struggle with down time because I fear that it means I’m not living up to my full potential or that I’m not being enough of a go-getter.

I also fear that I will disappoint my dad. The bar for success has been set high, and I feel pressure to live up to that standard.

As Logan and I continue our ongoing discussions about the future of our relationship, I have thought a lot about how our lives will become intertwined. If and when they do (i.e., we get married), our individual choices will affect each other. And that will multiply if we have children.

Because life is a struggle,

and we don’t always know where we are going, I do my best to support Logan as he hammers out his career path. I know this struggle well because I’ve been there.

Last weekend, I got caught up in achievement and rigid time constraints, two qualities I learned during my childhood.

As I’ve mentioned, I am passionate about writing. And I love every topic I discuss on this blog.

I became frustrated with Logan because we agreed that he would publish an article on this site on Friday. He did end up publishing his article on Friday right before midnight. But, in my opinion, it was a first draft.

We got into a fight about it the next day.

I felt like I’d done everything on my end to ensure that he would meet the deadline. I had checked in with him during the week to confirm that he was still on track to meet the deadline. He’d said yes. I’d also offered to read drafts and coach him through the writing and editing process.

I felt frustrated that he didn’t seem to value the deadline that he had set for himself. And I wondered if I value this site more than he does.

As a result, I asked him if he would rather not pursue this joint venture with me.

He assured me that he did and went on to explain his actions.

First, he said that his focus had been on other money-making business-related responsibilities that he’d had last week.

Second, he confided in me that writing is very hard for him, and that he’s intimidated by putting his thoughts out there for the world to read.

Those points made sense to me.

But I was still upset.

I felt frustrated that he couldn’t do more, plan better, and express his fears to me sooner.

This then led to a fear about his tendency to procrastinate. And that frustrates me big time because I come from a doer environment where we make lists and get things done. No excuses or delays.

In short, I was holding him to my own standards.

Once I realized what I was doing, I started thinking, Why am I doing this?

Even though every one of us has to walk our own journey in this world, we also crave partnership. In that moment, I felt the weight of a partnership in which I would be carrying the weight for both my and Logan’s achievement to make sure it becomes big enough.

And then I thought, But is that fair of me?

I remembered how I felt when I thought l wasn’t living up to my dad’s expectations of me. I felt ashamed, less than, and not good enough.

I am in constant battle with the expectations I put on myself for achievement.

But I never want to make Logan feel that he has to join me in that struggle.

I know this fight will not be our last about this issue. Because behaviors learned in childhood can be difficult to override.

Still, now that I am aware of this tendency, I hope that I can correct myself whenever I start to shift from cheerleader to judge.

Because the only expectations we should be trying to meet in life are our own.

How do your learned childhood behaviors affect you now in adulthood? And how do they influence your actions in your relationships with others? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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