Great Expecations

by Jane Moneypenny


I have this strange fear of disappointing people, mostly of perception in what I’m in capable of. I can’t figure it out why they believe in me so strongly and in response, I become a weird hybrid of not being able to say no and workaholic. And then I fret about meeting these expectations to later find out, it’s all just in my head and my the standards I’ve set for myself.

My parents were incredibly strict raising me: no television on the weekends, straight A’s, work hard and put your best foot forward. To some people, this may seem claustrophobic or unbreathable and growing up, I went through rebellious stages where I hated them for holding so tightly to these rules. When I didn’t receive a scholarship from the high school I was about to attend, I was devastated. To my surprise, my parents were not only supportive, but also eased my fears of disappointing them. My mom explained that she had long ago let go of policing me to do my best; I was quite well of it on my own. Most of the pressure I felt was from myself. It was then that I reached that point that all parents hope for: I understood and was grateful for how my parents raised me.

But it never eased my constant fear of disappointment. It wasn’t even failure that I worried about. It was just some innate standard I had set for myself to always question things I created or wonder if I was not living up people’s expectations of me. Once I entered the real world, this feeling was inevitable. Even at this current job that I absolutely love, I still worry that I won’t live up to their perception of me. After all, they hired me for four months, knowing full well I was running out of the city in June. I’ve been there for a month now and I’ve received nothing but respect and support, so this ridiculous inner voice is the only thing sending out signals of insecurity.

I never worry about this with men I date; what they see is what they get. So why can’t I figure out how to do this in other areas of my life? I recently got involved in a new project that I’m incredibly excited about and although I’m the one who asked for their suggestions, I started worrying today about my ability to pull through these great ideas. Even with this looming decision of which city to move to in the fall, I worry that my choice will disappoint people’s hopes for me. If I don’t go to NY and live this “great NY once-in-a-lifetime experience,” will I be missing out? Then I think, “But the goal was to get out of St. Louis and you’re doing that. Success!” Right?

I’ve been told I’m hard on myself, but for me, I see that as the thing that pushed me to this great place I’m at right now. So is it still normal to have this inner voice that continually challenges and questions everything I do? My 8th grade religion teacher (and also a priest) said it’s good to question things, especially your religion. Then he handed the each student a dollar bill and asked us to question that (now that I think about that, I can’t remember the point of that exercise).

As much as I’m panicking about this giant move and immense change about to happen (is happening), I know it’s crucial. I need to quiet myself for a bit and just breathe. Hopefully a summer in New Orleans and Europe will do the trick!

P.S. Despite English being my best subject in high school, I really hated “Great Expectations.” And “Grapes of Wrath” (talk about expectations for a new life!).