Everyone has expectations on them. Fact is, you can never fulfil everyone’s expectations of you, not even if that’s all you tried to do your whole life. You are your own person and you don’t need to be who someone else thinks you ought to be. By all means take their input and decide for yourself. But don’t make the mistake of trying to be something you’re not, just because that’s what someone wants you to be. Nor do you want to keep giving out of the kindness of your heart, only to find that you’ve not been keeping yourself topped up.
Other people may expect you to do things for them and be annoyed if you decide to stop. But all the while they are benefiting from you, you are suffering. You do not have to do something just because someone else wants you to. You need to work out if it really is the right thing to do, and whether it will hurt you or someone else if you don’t do it. But if you choose to do something that someone tells you, make sure that it was your choice and not obligation.
Some of us fight our own feelings of insecurity or insignificance by always putting others first and not remembering to think of our own needs. Putting others first is a noble way of life, of course, but take it too far and you end up in a dangerous place, where you can end up losing sight of what you need to be a healthy person.
Of course, I’m in favour of giving, sacrificing things for other people, and so on. It’s healthy and good for us all to deliberately choose to serve people rather than always serving ourselves. But you deserve to be looked after as much as the person you are looking after does. You are not expected to burn out and neglect yourself. Because how much do you think you can give if you are empty?
When you’re on a plane, they tell you to attach your own oxygen mask before attending to your child’s mask. Their point, harsh as it might sound to anyone who loves their child, is that if you fall over unconscious before you successfully fit their mask, neither of you will get one (have you ever tried to do anything important to a frantic child – and quickly – while also holding your breath?). But if you can get one on yourself, you will be able to concentrate on their needs from a position of resource.
So please, recognise that other people will put demands on you, but also that you are not obliged to do more than you’re able, at least not for extended periods of time. Learning to say No is an important skill. And so is asking for help when you find you’ve overstretched yourself.