When I was in 7th grade, my classmate committed suicide after doing poorly on a test. His parents discovered him after they forced his door open to find him strangled by a skipping rope which he used to hang himself. Why would a 12-year old kid take his own life for doing poorly on a test? And why do it before the results of the exam ever came out? While the dynamics of what he did are complex, we know for sure that he elevated the importance of the exam too high. His performance was tied to his worth as a person. Therefore when he did not do well, he considered himself a failure and so became worthless as a person in his own eyes.
We are worth more than what we do or achieve in this life
After his death, many of my classmates recalled that he had been depressed after the test. See, depression comes when we are not where we strongly believe we must be OR things are not the way we believe they must be. Thus, depression attracts those of us who have high and potentially unrealistic expectations of ourselves. Why? It is because when we don’t meet what we expect of ourselves, we feel less than. Our identity and security takes a big hit and we feel we can’t carry on.
Now, having unrealistic expectations that we feel we must meet instead of should meet is dangerous. The unrealistic nature of our expectation means that we exert a lot of time and effort to meet it. The nature of expectation itself means that any failure to meet ‘it’ is blown out of proportion in our mind and heart. When this happens is when we lose perspective and we stop being grateful for the things we should be grateful for. In other words, our unrealistic expectation hijacks our thinking to such an extent that the very things we should be grateful for often become entitlements that no longer deserve our attention.
We should not allow our failure to meet our own expectations hijack our thinking to the extent that those things we should be grateful for become entitlements
Jerry West, the hall of fame basketball player whose silhouette is on the NBA logo, suffered from deep bouts of depression that made him consider suicide, though he had a lot to be thankful for, including a loving family and adoring fans. Turns out that his father left when he was younger. He perhaps had an expectation that is father was going to be there. So he took it to heart when his father was no longer there. Was Jerry West subconsciously trying to prove to his father that he was now good enough so as to try and convince his father to stay? Is this the reason Jerry West was always one of the first to arrive in the gym and last to leave? Though the results of Jerry West’ work ethic was spectacular, the root behind the work ethic may not have been as glamorous.
In life, we should expect nothing and be grateful for everything
The things we expect and feel entitled to can have a deleterious effect. When we expect nothing, anything we get is a free gift. If we truly see everything good as a gift, we are then able to feel and express gratitude right from our heart.