If You Want to Live without Fears, Learn to Let Go of Expectations

Last week, I was invited back as an alumna to give “career orientation” advises to the AIESEC members who would soon leave the organization. It was the end of the session. Many questions had been asked and answered. 50 of us sat in a big circle. I looked around and found many faces that  had became even more confused than the beginning of the session. Career tactics, suggestions, analysis of pros and cons seemed unable to relieve their anxiety. They were afraid of the future.

I have been to many “orientation” events like this. What I often see is us young people divide ourselves into 2 major groups: either we do not care or we are afraid. However, both are not the right way to claim our 20s – the defining decade of our lives.

I am a 20-something who was afraid too. Even now, I sometimes feel the fear surging in my psyche. But I can deal with it because I know the why it exists.

I was brought up in the expectations of my loving parents that one day I would become somebody. I was raised in a society where status and money define self-worth. And I grew up in a generation of young people who are hungry for success. Some where along the line, I had made a mental contract with myself: “Milena, this is who you are. This is what you must become. Other than that, you are not worthy of love.”

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This had been my source of fear. I knew that if I ever wanted to live life fully and courageously, I must first learn to drop all of those expectations.

My mother wants me to get married as soon as possible. She is serious about it. She asks me almost every day: “So… How is the situation?” For her, happiness is to have a nice family and to fulfill a woman’s duty. This is just not my definition of happiness. We used to argue about it. Living with parents used to be my personal torture. And as ridiculous as it seemed, I started feeling anxious about having a family, for real. Luckily, I found another way to deal with this. Now whenever my mother asks me the question I just laugh. Because first, I genuinely find it amusing; second, I know she does this out of love.

It’s important to not succumb to pressures and expectations. But it’s also equally important to not waste our energy in fighting back. Don’t take anything personally. Your mother, your neighbor, your relative, your colleague, your friend, or the sticky rice lady outside the gate of your university. They all live in their own world and whatever they say or do is because of them, not because of you. Don’t cling onto any of the imposed-pressure. Let it pass right through you like the wind. Meanwhile, keep walking ahead with a smile on your face.

Once you’ve learned to do that, you will be immune to all judgments and pressures coming from outside. But the more formidable force always comes from inside. It comes from the mental contracts we’ve made with ourselves unconsciously as we grew up. “This is my belief. This is how to behave. This is being a good girl. That is being a bad girl. This is what I can do. That is what I cannot do. This is realistic. That is impractical.”


We all have an image of what perfection is in our futile race to be good enough. But no matter how hard we try, we are never perfect. Thus, we reject ourselves. Nobody judges us harder than we judge yourself. Nobody punishes us harder than we punish ourselves. Nobody shame us harder than we shame ourselves. And throughout the terrific beatings we place upon ourselves, we wear social masks because we are afraid that others may find out we are not what we pretend to be, what we think we should be.

That’s why it demands tremendous courage to break these mental contracts. But as long as you haven’t learned to do this, you are bound in fears, unable to follow your heart and grow in your natural direction.

How true Don Miguel Ruiz is in The Four Agreements when he writes:

Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive – the risk to be alive and express what we really are. Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of human.


Now you may ask me: - What are you saying? Aren’t we supposed to have  stuff like personal values?

If you look at all your contracts closely you will be able to discerns those that were made out of fear, and those that were made out of love; those that were imposed by others to us out of our own ignorance, and those that were consciously chosen by us as a result of our independent thinking, intelligence and knowledge. If you look closely you will understand.

We have the answer. We are just too distracted and disoriented and busy to escape, sit down in quietness and understand.

But the great thing is that you just need to look inward and the truth is right there. You don’t need to go and find it any where. You just need to relax, breathe deeply, refocus, give yourself some time, do more of what you want to do, and less of what you should do. It is that simple. With time, you will realize that not only you are able to find ourselves, but also you are capable of freeing yourself, and then creating yourself.


Maybe one day you will understand, as I finally did, that you are not here to sacrifice your life in the name of success, in the honor of being a good child or a noble citizen. That you are here to be free, to love, to live, to taste the richness of your human experience, to raise yourself to your highest potentials, to leave this earth a little better than when it first embraced you in its body.