Many of us, though, find that other people’s expectations can begin to rule our lives. In some ways, this is a natural thing: as humans, we’re social creatures, and it’s hard to risk being derided or excluded by community. Some of us are also people-pleasers: as children, we delighted in praise from parents and teachers, and we continue seeking this as adults.
I accidentally found this pretty good story about “The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey”. A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”
So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”
So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”
Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey with you and your hulking son?”
The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned. “That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them: “Please all, and you will please none.”
The point isn’t hard to grasp, trying to please everyone is impossible, and will result in failure to please anyone (especially yourself). If you’re trying to live up to all the expectations that crowd in on you (from parents, friends, and society at large), you’ll end up feeling miserable because you’re not living the life you want to live.