Dealing with expectations

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Dealing with expectations

A poll in ‘studiekeuze123’ (on choosing your study) among 1060 young people in 2018 suggests that youngsters experience stress in making the right choice for a study. Financial pressure and parent expectations are a big part of the stressors. We are aware of parents that push their kids from the age of six years to any talent scouting, because the kid is so talented, but that does not seem typical for parents in general. In this blog I will focus on the most common parent and student expectations.
Generally all parents want the best for their children, and to me it seems likely that it has always been like that. Past generations of kids would follow in the footsteps of their parents, sometimes even in several generations. With a (grand-)father who was a farmer, fisherman or soldier the sons would likely follow that trail too. Being a housewife was the obvious option for many generations of young women.
Today there are numerous options for a study, and that troubles making the right choice. On top of that students have to deal with personal and societal expectations and the changed circumstances, and that may be a pitfall: young people are being rushed and feel hunted. Being afraid for a real threat may be livesaving, but to fear vulnerability and striving for perfection can on the other hand be destructive for the personal wellbeing.

The winners dream
We live in a hypermodern society [1] where anyone may develop succesfully: “succes is a choice!” Striving for perfection, the expectation that you can create your own life to be nice and succesfull are embedded in our culture. Society offers chances for everyone to be succesfull, so you’ll have to get the best out of it: everyone can be a star! That imposes a big pressure on young people: if they do not succeed they will fail!

Both parents and students have big dreams. Everyone wants to have superb relationships, to live a marvellous live, to achieve above average, to make the difference and to earn loads of money. Our welfare state and the technological possibilities suggest that this dream will soon become true. The promise of a sunny world without shadows advances. Thus everybody posts the best experiences and the greatest results through social media for anyone to follow. A continuous flow of likes is the most probable feedback. In which bubble do we live and do we want to live?

If we look at this phenomenon a bit more critical and sensible we would see this dream to be an illusion. And don’t take me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with big dreams. To top that let’s all dream of a better world. These dreams may inspire us tremendously! But let us distinguish between dream and reality. We cannot all be the best, better still there’s only one single best. Life is not only fun, since there’s also pain and failure and loss, relationships are a matter of give and take, growth is a matter of falling and rising again. There’s no summer without winter. So you’d better learn how to fall and rise up again, how to handle setbacks or distress, dare to fail, and let go of the idea that you must be the best. A healthy life and being relaxed are better predictors of sustainable growth than perfectionism and fear of failure.

What does this mean in concrete terms for parents?
Our culture will not change overnight. Parents that want the best for their child may want to look at and listen to their sons and daughters. How are they doing and where are they heading towards? How do they deal with reality, are they able to focus? What should they still learn? Do they have realistic expectations of themselves and a realistic perspective upon their options and desires? Can they relax and do they sleep well, or are they often exhausted? Do they have a nice circle of friends? Do they practice some sport, do they go outdoors? Can they handle technology and media in a sensible way? Can they be who they are and follow their own track, do they have wise people to turn to with questions or when in trouble? These may be unusual questions, but it won’t hurt to discuss these matters and it may even clarify a lot, also for the children.

By the way, if parents can financially support the study of their children where the government steps back, it will absolutely decrease the financial pressure.

What does this mean in concrete terms for students?
Being a student usually means that you are an adolescent growing to adulthood and autonomy. Don’t be misled and don’t mislead yourself. Eventually you’ll have to find your place and learn how to handle your circumstances. Even with headwind, even offline. In your complex situation it may help to start with your own preferences and possibilities without all kinds of unreal expectations. Try to focus on what really matters too you, and make your own considerations and choices. Take time for your personal development, you don’t have to be fully grown when you have finished your study. Pay attention to your personal balance and relaxation, sleep well and live a healthy life, care for yourself. Pay attention to your techbalance. These are the basic, natural ways to step by step healthy and sustainable development and growth. In short: live up to your personal standards, be relaxed and succesfull and start from your own desires, qualities and possibilities.

To conclude
Obviously in this blog I pay attention to a general trend of unreal expectations and perfectionism, I cannot look into any specific situation. You may want to consider these options or talk about it with fellow students, parents or friends. How do they see you, what is there to learn?

In case parents or students have personal questions I am always willing to look into that.

[1] compare with Buijs, Verbrugge en van Baardewijk. Postmodernisme Hypermodern. Essay in Trouw, 1-12-2018