It occurred to me today that our society is made up of hundreds of boxes. The “crazy” box, the “smart” box, the “republican” or “democrat” box, the “just like me” box. As humans we desperately try to categorize everything around us in a way that makes sense as a way of protecting ourselves. If it’s it makes sense, it can’t hurt us. If we understand it, we can fight it off if we need to. Our minds are in a constant state of defense, and if we can understand the enemy, then we can protect ourselves.
When I met my boyfriend, we said to ourselves, “We are the same person.” We still say this, because in a lot of ways it’s true. In a lot of broad senses, we are very similar. How we react to situations, how we view the world, our political views, our mutual love of women and the human body. It’s often said that you attract what you are, and that is very true in our case. But if we’re so similar—if we see ourselves in the same way—why do we fight? If we’re the same, where do differences even come from? A friend of mine put it in a way that finally made sense to me: we have macro attributes, and then we have the micro. The macro connect us with many people who are similar to us, who we enjoy the company of. They give us intelligent conversation and fun experiences. We trust them, because in a lot of ways we see ourselves in them. Because of these macro attributes, we make connections.
Then there’s the micro. My boyfriend and I are very similar in the macro, but in the micro, we are incredibly different. I tend to rely more on emotion than fact. He tends to see things more rationally. I consider giving away kindness as a trait of happiness, and he prefers to find happiness in himself and only give it away when necessary. He could easily call me “overly emotional”. I could just as well call him “selfish” and, based on perspective, neither of us would be wrong. If I’m honest, we’ve called each other those things before. Because while we’re incredibly similar, our small differences are enough to rub each other the wrong way—he can be the most annoying human being I know some days. That doesn’t make me less annoying. It just means there are different things that are annoying about me.
If we take away the box, what happens? If we allow someone to be exactly who they are—emotional, rational, shy, assertive—what happens to that person? Can you imagine living without any expectations of someone else, because you’ve taken away the box? In most cases, those who are allowed to live as they are without judgement become an incredibly bright version of themselves. Happiness suddenly emerges when the box ceases to exist. Because although we’ve created all of these special places to put each other in, none of us truly fit inside. All of our micro tendencies will put us in multiple boxes. Some of us, all of the boxes. How can you be dispersed inside everyone’s idea of where we belong? How can we be expected to thrive knowing we have to live inside someone’s version of who we should be? The truth is that we can’t. We only know how to be who we are. Allowing ourselves to be put inside the box isn’t being honest to our true selves.
But we can’t expect others to take away the box. First, we have to take it away ourselves. In reality, everyone is conditioned to categorize and chances are you will never escape it. But you can take away your own box. You can take away the expectation you have of others, and allow them to live freely. And if it’s true that we attract what we are, then those who also live without expectation will find their way to us. Change begins with us. If we want to live outside of the box, then we must remove the boxes we have created. Begin by allowing yourself to be exactly as you are, and grow by allowing others to be who they are. Living without expectation is one of the hardest lessons to learn, but by doing so you cultivate a soil of genuine love and kindness. Be kind to yourself, so that you may be kind to others. Live without expectation so that you may live without disappointment. If there’s no expectations—if there is no box to place someone in—you can’t be disappointed when they don’t fill it. Allow yourself to be free, and free others; and in doing so you will find an unshakable peace.
“When you release expectations, you are free to enjoy things as they are rather than as you think they should be.” –Mandy Hale