This week Modern Family aired an episode in which Alex the younger, super together, daughter in the Dunphy family has a “breakdown” on her sixteenth birthday. Hours following the breakdown, she found herself a counselor and made an appointment because she is that responsible. As I watched Alex in her therapy session, I began to remember it all. My childhood and teen years. My internal conflict of on one hand this uncontrollable desire to be the best at everything and on the other this equally uncontrollable need to rebel against it all and be the cool girl. I lived literally on a roller coaster; one year getting straight A’s and the next almost failing a few classes, skipping, getting drunk in the daylight.
If you met me today or during my straight A’s years you wouldn’t believe that this other girl also resides inside me! I have always put so much pressure on myself to be better, the best, acknowledged by others. Last night, I was again reminded of that girl; the one that Modern Family‘s Alex portrays so well. We learned flip turns in my Lap Swim class. It is the first time I’ve attempted it and of course my expectations were abnormally high! I thought, my instructor would teach me how and I’d easily execute a flip turn and swim off into the sunset. (I am after all the female Don Quixote!).
When this didn’t happen, I was hurt, embarrassed, feeling generally lesser than, filled with chlorine. With each attempt I sank a little further into a pool of inadequacy. I looked at the one girl in class who just did it and looked great doing it. Ignoring the fact that this was the first time that I had attempted this: a somersault in water. Ignoring the fact that until this past August, I didn’t even know how to breathe and swim without feeling like drowning.
Unrealistic Expectations. You rule me. Even when I beg for you to leave.
Unrealistic Expectations and Comparisons are the detriment of my growth as learner. The moment I start comparing myself to others and their abilities or their journeys, I lose the ability to move forward. Knowing this and feeling this, however are two separate things. Knowing this means I can say it at anytime and even explain it very articulately to my students, friends, and family. Feeling it means letting go. Letting go of my insane expectation that the first time I learn something new, I am suddenly an expert, an Olympian.
Last week, I was so happy remembering that I am human and imperfect by design. I even celebrated it. Perhaps this week, I am still reminded of my humanity. Sometimes a girl has unrealistic expectations. She attempts a somersault and doesn’t tuck in tight enough to aid the rotation and flies up to the surface to inhale and try again.