Reality Check: Great Expectations

Hannah perceives that she is criticized. When family or friends get together, she comes away feeling like an underachiever. Her brother’s children excel, her sister makes more money, and her friends’ lives are more exciting.

Although no one is critical to her face, Hannah is convinced that she just doesn’t measure up.

Recently, Hannah was introduced to pottery- making. She instantly fell in love. The colours, the smells, the feel of the mud under her fingernails; everything about pottery speaks to her in a fundamental way.

Whenever Hannah is in the pottery studio, the criticism that constantly fills her mind fades away. She becomes absorbed in her work and gets great satisfaction from creating.

Friends and family are curious about her new interest, but Hannah has been reluctant to show them her work. Why?

Well, this is a new activity for Hannah, so her visions and her results don’t always match! While each piece has its charm, they seldom turn out exactly as she had planned. Some are a little lumpy, or asymmetrical, or not quite the colour she had intended. Hannah is certain that she will be criticized for her less-than-perfect skill.

It could be helpful for Hannah to take a look at what she can and can’t control. First, some things Hannah can control:

  • Whether she shows anyone her work
  • How she chooses to respond to comments about her work
  • Whether she chooses to continue to get joy and satisfaction from pottery

And here’s something that Hannah has no control over:

  • Whether her friends will like or praise her work

Even if Hannah’s work were absolutely perfect, that is no guarantee that someone else will like it. There are plenty of reasons why a person might refuse to express praise. Perhaps they are in a bad mood; perhaps the cat died; perhaps they are jealous of her new skill. Another person’s refusal to praise has little to do with Hannah or her work; it has much to do with them!

So, if Hannah only shows her work with the hope and expectation that she will be praised, there is the very good possibility that she will be disappointed and perceive criticism instead.

Is it possible for Hannah to show her work without expectations? Hannah knows what she has done, and has already gotten joy and satisfaction from the creation of the piece itself.

Hannah does have choices. If she shows her work, she can choose to not perceive criticism in any comments.

If Hannah decides that this is not possible for her, then she can choose to not show her work at all.

A fundamental question for Hannah to consider is, Are you creating for the joy of the activity? Or are you doing this so that someone else will love it? Only one of those options is under Hannah’s control.

If, like Hannah, you feel that you don’t have control over your own personal satisfaction and happiness, then here’s a question to ask yourself. Are you tying your happiness to something over which you have no control? And if so, do you want to continue doing that?

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