April 4, 2023

The Burden of Expectations In Different Seasons of Life

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Episode 70

One of the constant challenges we face on our road into authenticity and wholeness is the burden of  other people's expectations of us. What we don't often realise is that the "form" of these expectations can change greatly when we are in different seasons of our life, even when we have undergone conversion and growth.

In this episode I share with you three very different seasons in my life and how the initial liberation of one season led to new burdens of expectations that were of a very different nature from the season before.

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(00:02:04) - Introduction
(00:04:35) - Being Shackled by Expectations
(00:12:43) - Examples of the Burdens of Expectation
(00:13:14) - Expectations in the First Season of My Life
(00:18:05) - Expectations in the Second Season of My Life
(00:25:43) - Additional & New Burdens of Expectations
(00:34:53) - Another Call, Another Season
(00:38:50) - Making Sense of God's Call
(00:43:53) - Discerning Personal Vocation
(00:44:57) - What Cross do I Decide on Carrying
(00:46:45) - Q & A
(00:48:48) - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act
(00:51:15) - Conclusion
Available here.

Available here.

- As you listened to this episode, what struck you?
- What part of my sharing resonated with you?

-  Whose expectations are you most afraid of not fulfilling, and why?

- Identify what you are afraid of losing if you do not live up to those expectations.
- Where is that fear coming from? 


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Hello again, dear listeners. This episode is going out on Holy Week – hat's when we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And I just wanted to highlight this theme of dying and then rising again to new life as you listen to this episode that I recorded, which is about the burden of other people's expectations on us.

Now, every interior pilgrim that wishes to grow in authenticity – we know that something that we really need to die to is how we let other people's expectations affect us, right. How we let expectations from the people around us – whether it's our boss, our parents, our spouse, our friends, our community. Sometimes, maybe even the stranger that we meet.

I don't know about you, but I have been that unfree before that I even care about what strangers will think about me, right. So, the burden of expectations, the burden of other people's expectations is something we need to die to if we want to really be our true selves. But that's not something that's easy to do. And it's certainly not something that we can do quickly without the grace of God.

So, in this episode, I share how even the expectations that weigh us down that can change from one season to the next. It's not necessarily about who it's coming from. It's not necessarily about the nature of those expectations. The source of our unfreedom really comes from inside us.

And that is why the burden of expectations. Can change even as the seasons in our life changes. I hope that you find something insightful about this episode and I wish you Happy Easter.

Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this, then take a deep breath, relax, and listen on to Becoming Me.

Okay, so today I want to talk about how the burden of expectations can keep us from being our true selves. Okay, so for all the content that I've put out, and especially on the Becoming Me Podcast. And this is going to be – I know we're close to 70 episodes already at this point.

It has been about the journey of becoming more ourselves and the struggle. I think many of us have this longing to figure out who we are, but there seem to be so many obstacles that make it really hard for us to figure out who we are. And I know this hits home for a lot of you.

Because I haven't met anyone that I've journeyed with, or even with my friends or you know, people I've accompanied in the past, or even my clients – who have not in one way or the other, been impacted by the burden of expectations. So, in the last few lives, I've spoken a bit more about scripts. And our life scripts is really, you can say they are what we expect of ourselves. Our scripts are what drives us to be a certain kind of person – you know, it's what we expect of ourselves. But our scripts come from somewhere and usually our scripts come from the internalization of what we've learned other people expect of us.

So, when we still need the constant mirroring of others to give us validation – and that's something that's very real – I think it's something we keep wanting to grow to become more independent of. But it's a complex thing, right? And there are many things that maybe make us still feel very bound to the expectation of others. 

But when we are so bound by the expectation of others, we are shackled unnecessarily by the burden of expectations. And this shackle is not conceptual. It's very real because for as long as we are still very shackled by other people's expectations,, it's going to be very hard for us to really become our true selves. So, this is a journey. It's not just an external journey of, let's say, freedom and independence. Sometimes we can think of it that way, and there are some aspects of it that is true. 

So, for example, if in very practical terms your livelihood depends on the providence of someone else. Maybe a spouse, maybe your parents – that person's expectations of you are probably going to feel very heavy, right? Because there's that fear that if you don't live up to the expectations.

Maybe your survival or your lifestyle or whatever it is that you've become attached to or you've become used to that, that could be threatened, right? So, sometimes, bread and butter issues do matter. But as we grow – and I'm not just talking about growing up or growing older, like biologically – because I also have clients who are way into midlife and they're financially secure, they're financially independent, but they're still very burdened by the expectations of others. So, it's not just that financial independence part.

There is something about the interior journey that needs to happen for us to wear loosely the expectation of others, right – to be aware that yes, maybe certain people or certain groups, they want something of us or they expect something of us. And maybe their opinion matters because we care about them.

But how can we hold all this loosely and still find the depth of – I don't know – the depth of rootedness, that confidence in who we are, that we can proceed to become who we are. So, that's what I want to talk about today.

And I also want to describe how this burden of expectations comes from someplace so deep within us that it follows us across different seasons of our life.

And they could be very different seasons of our life. They could be very different environments. Okay, so sometimes, we think that if I could just leave the environment that I'm in, that makes me feel so shackled. So for, for example, if I feel I'm very shackled by my parents' expectations and I'm living under the same roof as my parents, I may think, you know, if I can just move out and live on my own, things will be better. I won't feel so shackled by the expectations.

Now, it's only after we've done that – we've moved, maybe we live on our own, maybe we moved to another country. And then you realize, actually I'm still very bothered by their expectations, right?

I could become financially independent from them, and I might find I'm still very bothered by their expectations. And not only that, I may find that now, maybe the expectations that I'm most burdened by may no longer be my parents because I'm not seeing them day in, day out. I'm not living under their roof anymore.

But maybe now it's my boss, or maybe now it's my colleagues. And depending on how the environment changes, the form in which the burden of expectation come, may also differ.

Okay, so think about this question: What will blankthink of me? Okay, so what will like, so and so – you know, there's a blank – think of me. How would you fill in that blank? Is it, what will my parents think of me? Is it, what will my boss think of me? What will my friends think of me? My faith community think of me? Whose expectations are you bothered by? And whose expectations do you find still makes you fearful to come out and you know, be the real you? This is a tough question to ask, but it's a question that must be asked if we want to grow into our true selves.

Authenticity means having the courage and the love to be ourselves, even when we are misunderstood and rejected by others – including those who are important to us, even in the most intimate relationships or the close relationships, I would say – not necessarily intimate because real intimacy requires authenticity.

So, if I am just trying to live up to your expectations of me, no matter how close we may be, we can't really be intimate if I can't show up as my real self. So, even in, let's say, the most intimate relationship I have in my life, apart from God, would be my husband, and that's a relationship that was also so fraught with expectations that I had of myself – like what it meant to be a good wife, expectations of maybe what I think are his expectations of me. I don't want to let him down. I want him to think that I'm a good wife.

So, there are times when it takes a lot of courage for me to choose to give him the response that is actually true. And if I'm at my limit and I can't fulfil a request that he maybe is asking of me – could be something like, he comes back after a really hard day at work and he wants to unpack what had happened at work and he would like me to hold space for him. And that's generally something I'm very happy to do.

But if I have had a really difficult day myself and I haven't settled and I haven't processed or feel grounded again when he comes home with that energy – that I can feel that restlessness and, you know, he just wants to be able to talk about it – sometimes, I have to tell him, you know, I'm so sorry – I can tell that you really want to share what has happened. But right now, I'm not in a very good space myself. Like, would you be okay if we just maybe ate dinner in silence first, or just not talk about this first? Or can you give me some time to be on my own for a bit, and then when I'm more settled or more grounded again, I want to hear you. I want to listen to you, and I want to hold space for you.

But in the past, it's so difficult for me to even listen to my own needs, to be aware that I need to not have to hold space for him immediately. And even if I became aware of that, it's so scary for me to tell him because I'm afraid that he will feel that I'm rejecting him. And I don't him to feel that I'm rejecting him because then I'm afraid that he's going to get upset with me and then I'm going to feel rejected by him, right? And so, the loop goes.

So, authenticity requires a lot of courage, but also love. I think we often don't think of that word enough, that authenticity requires love that we have for ourselves first. Because only on that love can we be genuinely loving to others. And it's hard. It is so hard, right? It sometimes can trigger all our fears, our deepest fears of not being good enough, or not being loved back by the people that we love.

And that is why it's a journey, right? Authenticity itself is a journey that so few people seem to actually be able to make. We can talk about it very easily but the cost of authenticity, the real cost of authenticity sometimes comes at the expense of being rejected by those close to us. And few people can really do that.

And do that, I would say, not just because it is already a last straw thing, and then I act out, right? But take on that cost even if sadly, but compassionately and hopefully, right? Because as long as we are connected with ourselves and with God, there is no other relationship in the world that ultimately has no hope of becoming better. Even if it's not going to become better completely in this life, right? So, authenticity requires courage and love.

So, I want to share some examples of how insidious this burden of expectation thing can be, okay – how insidious, like the different forms a very simple basic fear can take at different seasons of one's life and in different environments, right? So, I'm going to share from my own life experience. At the start of the series on personal vocation, I kind of narrated or shared, you know, the journey that I've been on. And you know that I've gone through different phases of my life.

So, today's sharing, I want to talk about how the burden of expectation, the forms that it took at those different seasons in my life, okay – specifically at three different seasons of my life. So, the first season I'm going to talk about is when I was a graduate student studying for my masters and PhD when I was in Canada.

Now, when I entered there, 1. I was a scholarship student, so one of the burden of expectations that I felt was on me was to continue to excel and do well academically. And then, you know, for me it was also – usually, I wanted to be respected by my peers. I wanted to be liked by my professors, right? I mean, that's something that's almost like required, especially when you're at a graduate level. You need some connections, some network to get opportunities.

And also because I was in an education faculty – I was studying philosophy of education. There was also this expectation, I guess, you know, sophistication of thought, being rather a bane is so the nature of I think education faculties also in North America, perhaps – I'm not so sure, I didn't grow up there, right – would be maybe a little bit more left-leaning.

So, what I found, going from my undergrad years into graduate studies; so, in my undergrad years I was in a very big university, but the college I was in – and I took a lot of my philosophy courses – was a Catholic college. Okay, so I kind of felt like I belonged, you know? Like, being a Catholic and wanting to learn more about my faith, taking philosophy courses, but with that desire to know how this integrates with my faith, for example.

When I was in graduate school, this was a very secular environment. It was so different from my undergraduate environment. And I quickly realized that while the people were all really nice, okay – I mean they were really friendly and accepting people, but I felt like it was not very safe for me to be Christian. 

Like, not that I would be persecuted or rejected, but there was just this vibe of Christianity sometimes being kind of like put down or mocked or made fun of. Because it's linked to, for example, colonialism to, you know, white supremacy. 

Coming from Singapore, I wasn't really dialled in with maybe the cultural and intellectual history. Now, this was in the early 2000s. Okay, so I think apart from really, academic environments, like graduate level environments, this wasn't so much a part of the larger culture. It is now. It is now, when I'm talking now, recording this in 2023. This is very much in the popular discussion, right?

The post-colonial mindset awareness of all this inequalities of race and all that. But here I was, being a racial minority when I was in my graduate studies. So, in that sense, I think I felt like people really made an extra effort to make me feel included – which I appreciated. 

But at the same time, I was Catholic, so I belonged to a religious tradition that was seen as part of the majority and related with power. And that was often kind of questioned, critiqued. And I felt that I didn't quite know – how do I balance this? I didn't want to have to hide my faith, and I never did, and I didn't. And it was something that was respected. 

And actually, in the end, my PhD supervisor was himself a Catholic, and he's respected by his peers. But it's just this funny dynamic, you know – where I felt like apart from one-on-one relationships, somehow, I had to hide what I believed. 

And at the same time, because it seems like to be a very successful academic, you know, you had to show that you are not just beholden to certain values without being critical of them at the same time – and I don't mean critical like criticizing, but really thinking critically about it – and at the time, at the age that I was in, the season of life I was in, I think, I wasn't really at the level of emotional and maybe spiritual maturity to know how to hold two things that are very different together, right? So, the burden of expectations that I had then, was how to kind of like fit in and succeed in this academic environment – to feel that I can still be authentic, that I am Catholic and that my faith mattered a lot to me, but to still feel belonging. 

Okay, and so that was that, for that first season. It's a relatively short period of time – maybe about five years or so, that I was in graduate studies. But at that time, so I thought, I was gearing up towards a career in academia, right? 

So, as I shifted from that first season that I'm talking about into the second season, I'm going to talk about now. Which is to go into full-time ministry. The burden of expectations that I had to deal with was what would – I don't know – what would everybody think of me? What would my professors think of me?

My parents, my relatives, my teachers from secondary school and JC (Junior College) – they all thought that I was going to go somewhere, you know? Like become an academic because I've shown over time, I have this ability, right – to perform at a certain level in my thinking and in my expression. And well, that comes with certain expectations. 

So, when I obeyed the call – so, it was a conversion point, right – and obeyed the call to put a pause on my academic studies, acknowledging that this may not be where God is asking me to go. As scary as it is, because I invested so much time into this and money, you know, to some extent – even though my graduate studies were fully funded because I was on scholarship – but even then, this was like a huge failure in the eyes of a lot of people that I knew.

Because this was so out of character for me. They would think it's very out of character for me. And sure enough, when I made the decision to kind of go into full-time ministry, as a full-time volunteer, just to discover what is this – is God calling me there?

One of my oldest and dearest friends from school that I knew since we were, I think 12 years old – she asked to meet me and she expressed a deep concern for me. She's not a Christian. I mean, so it's a bit harder also, I think, to explain things in the context of a faith dimension.

But I totally get, from her perspective, how worrying it looks, you know, because Ann seemed to be steadily going towards something. She was working towards something. She told me, since I knew you in secondary school, you were always so driven, so clear.

Actually, in my mind I was thinking, I was driven, but I never really knew why I was driven or what I was driven towards. You know, I was driven by the need to fulfil expectations, but it wasn't like I was driven in a way towards something beautiful, something good, because I knew what I wanted to go towards.

So, when she told me she was concerned – and she just wanted to make sure, make sure that I'm okay. So, I think she just needed to hear from me and check in and realized that I'm not losing my mind.

But that was a bittersweet experience for me. She was a dear friend. I was glad for her concern, but the fact that she had those concerns confirmed for me, in a sense, the fears that I had – that people will doubt my decision.

They're going to think that I don't know what I'm doing. People are going to think that Ann doesn't know what she's doing. I think she's in some kind of crisis. You know, why is she foregoing everything that she's worked for and starting to volunteer for church full-time kind of a thing – and going into full-time ministry.

So, there was the burden of those expectations, which I managed to let go of by the grace of God – you know, at that turning point. And then I went into this new season of being a full-time lay church minister, I didn't know what I was really going into. I was just there to explore.

And actually, from the very start, I knew that serving God full-time, my whole life could take many different forms. And that working in the parish is not the only way to go about it. But that was where I was led next. And so I went.

And at first it was very liberating – I think I've said this before in other episodes – because nobody knew who I was. You know, it was very liberating to just go and be myself and just try things. And I brought everything that I had with me – in terms of everything that God has given me; my passions, my desire to connect with people, my gifts of communication, of thinking, all that kind of stuff – I brought that into what I wanted to do for church.

And on one hand I found, it was welcomed. It was very welcomed by some, in some quarters, by some people because I could get things done. I brought new energy into the environment and all that. But as time went on, I realized that I also couldn't really be my full real self because – and I was told this, I was told this more than once – that I intimidated people as well.

I intimidated people by being maybe as intense as I was, as passionate as I was, as – I don't know. Maybe how I spoke or think about discipleship, especially in that season, you know, like the high standards – I'm a recovering perfectionist, right? So, everything was like, you know – but that's what God demands of us; that's why He's inviting us to. Why are we not aiming for the higher standards of discipleship? Like, what's keeping us back? 

And while that's true, at that time, I have not yet been tempered in my own inner journey. I haven't not yet been tempered by an ability to receive brokenness, imperfection, limitation, you know – that it doesn't have to be right now. And that God doesn't demand us to reach the heights of perfection right now, or not with our own strength anyway.

But so, that was one dimension, but it was also, I felt like to do that work in the parish it was good for me. I had to learn to relate to a much broader, wider range of people in terms of age, in terms of demographic, in terms of nationality and race, in terms of social economic status, in terms of intellectual ability or level of education.

I mean, church is every, you know, it's kind of like a blend of everyone, right? And that was a very important experience for me and I value that a lot. But I realized, I mean, on hindsight, I think God used that time for me to also show me I'm not for everyone. As in the specific call that He has given me, the specific gifts that He has given me may not be as welcomed in the same way by everyone across the spectrum.

And it was hard for me to accept that because part of the burden of expectation in that season of my life, is that I should be able to speak to everybody. I should be able to reach out to everybody. I should be able to minister and connect with everyone across education level or intellectual depths or in terms of the way they think or language, or – you know, be everything to everyone. And that was part of the burden of expectation I had on myself, and I kind of felt like it was expected of me.

So, in order to be that, I kind of – there were parts of me that I felt I had to dial back on, that I couldn't really show the fullness of who I was so that I could try and be there for everyone in the same way. So, I couldn't really be entirely my real self. At the same time though, in that season of my life, I was still trying to figure out, you know, who I was.

And I remember it was when I was working in church, that to my horror, to my horror, I realized the real me, was a lot more spontaneous and free-spirited and wanting to explore, like frontiers – than the person I always thought I was, which was somebody who had always the plan, very meticulous. I'm so not meticulous.

I don't know why I ever thought that that was me. Well, I strove very hard – that was part of the person I thought I was supposed to be, okay – meticulous, everything very well planned, I should know what I'm doing with my life. So, there was one dimension of, I was horrified to realize – I'm not like that at all.

Horrified, because I think there was still a part of me that thought that this is not good to be so fluid and flexible and spontaneous. I had to grow into accepting myself as such a person. So, the season where I was working in church, another burden of expectation began to grow. And this only happened – this happened over time.

Not at the start, when I still felt very free to just be who I am, because nobody knew who I was, right? So, it was only over time when I began to feel there were certain aspects of me that met with resistance. Then I began to think, oh, okay – I can't be this way. Hmm, I can't be so intense. Maybe I'm too vocal about my thoughts, too unfiltered in my thoughts and that doesn't seem to be welcomed by some people. Or maybe I'm coming at too high a level of sophistication in terms of the way I speak, the way I think, the way I want to be able to teach things. And that is too difficult – it's not for everyone. And then I feel maybe have to dial back on that.

So, there was a good part about learning to adapt, but the other part was, I began to feel I needed to change – or at least hold back from who I was. But something else built. I began to build this – okay, I didn't build this reputation – but as people got to know me, there began to be this reputation, at least among some of them and some of the leaders in church.

And not just my parish, but I would say, in my archdiocese – that, I'm that person who went such a big U-turn or, you know, change in life direction; went from pursuing a successful career or seemingly successful career in academia to earn that PhD and maybe be a professor in university and gave all that up to serve full-time in church.

I became that person who would dedicate all her gifts in spite of, let's say, what I've achieved up to that point, to serving God's people in the specific way of in the parish or in the church – in full-time pastoral ministry.

Now, I know I'm not the only one that fits this bill. There are other people that I know of that are spoken of in the same way. There is this respect and admiration. Okay, so now I'm not talking about – the people that I'm talking about now is no longer my relatives, my parents, my teachers or other people who expect me to succeed out there in the world.

Now, I'm talking about the people whose expectations are bothering me or are weighing on me are now in the new environment that I was in, which is church. Among this environment, like I said, there was a certain respect and admiration for people who seem to have left the world behind to serve the church.

And I got that. I was glad because that's one positive affirmation that I was getting. But you see, over time this became a burden too. It became something I felt like I have to live up to. And that became binding as well because the truth is we are called to serve Christ everywhere, full-time everywhere.

Not just if you were in full-time ministry in a parish or in a church. I mean, the whole idea – the whole teaching of the Catholic Church about the lay apostolate, is that if you are an entrepreneur, if you're in business, you are meant to glorify God there. What does it look like if your whole life belonged to God and you followed His lead and you followed His instructions, what would that look like?

If you owned a business, what would that look like? If you were a politician, what would that look like? If you were a lawyer, a doctor, professional, if you were, I don't know – if you were in the F&B business, if you're a student? You, we are in the world. What does it look like? We are called to, in that sense, be in the full-time service of God and God's people, regardless of where we are.

But there is this narrative, there's this narrative in this environment that I was in. It's that it's somehow very praiseworthy to leave the world behind and come and serve in church. Now, if that's the call for you, you know, good on you. But I don't believe that this is absolutely the best call for everyone because the best call is the call that God has given you.

And God is not calling everyone to leave the world in that sense, and to serve full time in church or to become a religious or to become a priest, right? And sometimes this kind of narrative and the expectations that other people may have on us – if, let's say we grew up very faithful and devout and that actually your parents will be proud if you became a religious or you became a priest, or you gave your life to church.

There could be a burden of expectation there, that you don't realize, is affecting your discernment about your personal vocation. I realized that there was that expectation. And actually, because this wasn't the first time, I was already growing in self-awareness. I was growing in recognizing when I am shackled by the expectation of others.

I was prepared actually, any time, to leave that. I didn't know what would be next, but I was prepared at all times to leave that. In fact, from the very first time I started volunteering full-time in the parish and when I became staff – so, I worked under two different parish priests; most of the time for one, and then after that, there was a second parish priest that came in.

But for both parish priests who hired me, in a sense, that was my boss – I made it very clear. I said, I am here for as long as I feel that God is calling me to be here because I am in the process of discerning my personal vocation.

I told that to both my parish priests – right, to both bosses, that I am on this journey to discover who I am and where God is ultimately calling me to. And in this season, I feel that it's here, in this parish. But the moment I feel that God is asking me to move on, I will move on. And there were times I wish that God was calling me to move on, but He hadn't.

Because there were times that were so difficult. I was really having a very hard time. I wish I could just leave, but I had also been praying for this grace, and this is a prayer that I would recommend if you are sincere about trying to discern your vocation, your personal vocation, and this is this; I ask God for the grace to remain where I am if that's where He wants me to remain – even if I would like to leave. But secondly, that He will give me the grace to leave this place if He wants me to leave, even if I wanted to stay.

So, basically, I was asking for the grace of holy indifference. But I guess in a sense, even if I'm not that indifferent, because I know maybe I really want to leave or maybe I really want to stay, but Lord help me to be able to hear Your voice clearly. Are You asking me to stay or are you asking me to leave? And give me that grace to follow You. That's what I asked for.

And when the time came – and it was so clear, it just happened in an instant, really – that He was asking me to leave. It was actually not during the most difficult time of that season in my life. The most difficult time had already passed, but I was ready to go.

And even though my boss did ask, could I defer or delay by six months, I knew in my heart I had already said, when the time comes that God asked me to go, I will go. Now, I know a lot of people that get very tripped up by this because they feel obligation towards the organization or towards the people and towards their boss or whatnot.

And all these – it's good to consider these things. It's good to consider the impact of your actions, including maybe the impact of your departure on people. But they cannot be the deciding factor, not if you are serious about discerning your personal vocation and where God is calling you. Because in some sense, there will never be a good time to leave. There will always be too much work left. There will always be people who will be upset by you leaving. You can't let that be the deciding factor, right? 

But for me, leaving was not the difficult thing. Okay, so leaving the second season of my life, that wasn't really difficult because I needed time to heal. I needed time to consolidate what had happened in my life up to that point. And the next season really wasn't really a season where there were heavy burdens of expectations because I was pretty hidden, wonderfully hidden.

And now and then I would come out and, you know, give talks and give sessions. I would journey with people one-on-one, and small groups sometimes, you know, like core teams from different communities, from different places. But all this was quite ad-hoc and I was still quite hidden. And all that I was doing in what I just described, you know, the usual way that it happens – at least, where I am, in the diocese where I am – it's not like a professional gig thing. You don't ask for payment. There is no fee. In fact, I would sometimes be stunned if I was asked, oh, what's your fee for like speaking? I don't know. I don't know how to – I don't know. I don't have a fee, right? The way that it's usually done is you turn up and then maybe you get a love offering, which is usually very little, right? I mean, it's just kind of like a symbolic thing. 

And I never thought twice about that because I wasn't relying on this for a living because my husband has a stable enough job and he was earning enough to keep both of us in a comfortable, living condition. And I was happy to just serve, in that sense.

So, for quite a few years I had no income. After I left full-time parish employment, I had no income. And I was just healing, and learning more about, actually the wounds in my family of origin and things that really needed mending. And then 2020 happened, the pandemic happened. It wasn't so much that it was a pandemic. But in the middle of that year of 2020, somewhere in May, right around Pentecost, that year, suddenly, God decided to give me another call.

And that was when he asked me to start a podcast, even though I have never even listened to a podcast before. It was just the week before that I knew what a podcast was, much less even figure out what is needed to create one. But the call was clear. I felt God say, you know, Ann, that's what I'm asking you to do. That's the next step in your personal vocation. I want you to speak and record it and share it.

Then the next thing he said on the same weekend – on Pentecost Sunday, actually when I woke up – was "Ann, I want you to register a business". And I remember thinking "what?" Two things I had never considered before in my life; starting a podcast and starting a business.

In fact, I used to be very adverse to running a business. There are different reasons there. Part of it is my own trauma, okay? Part of it is my own history, my own trauma – that there was something there that made me not want to go there – including my relationship with money and money narratives, which is also something that God surfaced in the last few years; my relationship with money also needed to be healed.

But okay, so start a podcast, start a business, and Parrhesiawas the name He gave me – that's the name for my business. And that's why my business is actually called Parrhesia. While the work that I'm doing, I'm calling it Integro Formation because it's for integrated formation.

But I think what underlies what I'm doing – this apostolate – Parrhesiais a Greek word that means boldness of speech, fearlessness of speech. And that fearlessness is meant to come from knowing who I am in God, knowing that I'm loved by God.

But here's where burden of expectations came in again – in at least two ways. One way is – it makes sense – I realized that God was calling me to learn and figure out a way to do this apostolate that He has created and gifted and called me to do in a way that's sustainable and at the level of quality that I wanted to be able to offer it.

Okay, so I have a thing about wanting to offer something, you know, more professional, a bit more polished – not the most, most polished, but at least, you know, basic things. I wanted to be able to do it well. That's part of me, that's part of my, actually – even my natural motivational design. It's not just from my perfectionist streak, there's also this desire to be able to use and offer services and content that is accessible, that is easy to listen to – that is produced, at least, at a level where people will enjoy listening, enjoy coming to listen – not just for the content, but because there's a certain degree of, I guess, quality to it.

And these things, to do so, will cost money because we live in a world that – well, everything costs money, right? And I know that I can't keep doing what I do without drawing down the resources that my husband is bringing in. So, it's not just keeping us a alive or our livelihood, but it's like I end up having to pay to do the work that I want to do because I would pay that anyway.

Like during the pandemic, I purchased a subscription with Zoom because there was a 40 minute limit and I was giving sessions over Zoom. So, I paid for the pro (professional) subscription for Zoom so that we can exceed the 40 minutes. And I was doing this for the different groups that had invited me to give talks for.

And some of those groups didn't give me any stipend either. So, it's in a sense, I wasn't actually – I paid to do that work for free and I was happy to, right? And I was not having any income to cover even the costs of what I was paying to do the work. So, I realized in a sense, God's call for me made sense.

He's inviting me to learn how to make this sustainable. How can I follow His lead to deliver what He has given me to share with more people. And part of that is learning how to make money. And you know what? That's where I felt it was really hard to do because I had to prioritize how I did things because my content is still free.

Like even right now, what you're watching, what you're listening to, I'm still giving all this for free. But that meant that some of the services that I offer will have to be paid to cover the cost of content creation, but also to cover the cost, not just cover the cost – to ultimately be profitable. Why? Here's the other thing. I realize that when people who can actually afford it choose to actually pay to be formed, there's a level of commitment and of showing up – and readiness of showing up that really ends up in a transformation that is far greater than the general kind of formation that, you know, I was more familiar with in the past.

But at the same time, there are people who have great desire and are very ready for this formation, but they can't afford what, let's say – can't afford what I'm charging. Right, so there are different people in different circumstances. And in my heart, I want to be able to offer scholarships at some point, right?

Or subsidies for people who fit that, who actually is a right fit for the work that I want to offer, the service I want to offer. But the only thing is maybe the affordability. How can I do that in the longer term without relying on, let's say, personal sponsors or donors? The way to do that would be – or one way to do that would be – to learn how to sustain what I'm doing.

And not just cover costs, not just pay myself a salary because the labourer deserves to be paid. That's something that I need to look at, right? To take pride in the work that I do and to recognize the dignity in the work that I do. And at the same time to have enough leftover that I can begin to have things that I can offer others.

I can subsidize others who need the service that I can provide. But you know, what's really loud in my heart, in my mind, during this season of pivoting – that the people that know me from the second season of me being in full-time ministry is going to think, oh, you know, Ann's getting sucked back in the world again.

Or, oh, you know, now it's about money, right? Or now she's charging for her services, you know? So, she's kind of like copped out from that whole trust in God thing – about serving without asking in return. You see, that was running in my mind – a lot of times subconsciously. But it gave me stress.

It gave me some stress, and until it became conscious – until I made it conscious, I didn't know how to deal with that. But once it became conscious, I realized you see that yet again, yet again, that fear I have of what others think of me is locking me in and keeping me from following God and freedom wherever He asked me. I mean, I didn't plan for this. I didn't know He would lead me here. I don't know where He'll lead me next.

But at every step, although the environment can be so different, there are all these expectations I'm afraid of not living up to. So right now, the expectation of the people that are, in the sense, of my second season, like the church community – I'm afraid that they're going to think I'm copping out and I'm like going into the world, right?

But, you know, the world that I'm entering now – that like the environment that I'm entering now – I'm a baby. Like, you know, starting out as an entrepreneur or like a content creator – I don't know anything. I'm like, after getting comfortable and getting more experience in a certain area, to now start from scratch – having to learn everything, to seem really awkward, to come across as not very competent because there are others who've been in this game longer than me and they're going to think that her efforts are, uh, okay, but she's not that great. What makes her think she can succeed in this new endeavour? So, that fear of expectations or that burden that we carry on other people's expectations of us. It follows us through. It follows us through.

Okay, I've covered like, you know, three very different environments of how the burden of expectations followed me in my life and how that kept me from really being free to move forward to discover who I am, where God was calling me towards.

And the process of discerning personal vocation really requires us to have to deal with these fears that we have of letting people down – of letting ourselves down, right. But also, really of letting people down – to remember that ultimately our life, when the day comes, that we come face to face with God, it doesn't matter what other people thought of the life that we led.

Can we say that I was me? I was the person that You created me to be, God. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to live the life that only I could live. And I would love to be able to feel, at that point, that I made the decisions that needed to be made to live that life He created me to live, right? 

But it's a long journey. It takes many small steps and it takes a real struggle. I think, in different episode, I'm going to talk about this myth that some people have or seem to believe – that pursuing, discerning a personal vocation and following that, somehow means is doing what you want, and that it's like copping out from taking up your cross and following Christ.

I'm going to deal with that topic in another episode, okay? Because that is so not true. Anybody who's really making this journey will know. The cross is plenty heavy. The cross is plenty heavy in this process of discerning who we really are and trying to be that person. Okay, it's just a different kind of cross than carrying the cross of people's expectations of you.

Okay, we have to decide. You have to decide what kind of cross are you going to carry. So, how can we elevate ourselves from the burden of expectations – really, this whole podcast has been about, you know? It's what everything that I talk about and teach is about. It's that interior integration as we get more integrated and whole in our core identity – not just a general identity of being the beloved of God. I want to say that doesn't help enough, okay? 

It's important that we know I am a beloved child of God, but that's still generic. I need to know, in a very personal and concrete way, I'm not just any beloved child of God, but I, Ann, am the beloved child of God. And in the way that I am. And I need to know in my body what that means to be Ann, the beloved child of God.

And you need to know in your very specific and particular way what it means to be the child of God with your name, with your life. So, how would that come about? Interior Integration. Okay, interior integration. And as we grow into a more secure relationship with God and a more secure relationship with ourselves, then we find we have the courage and the love to become more authentic. And with the courage and the love to be able to show up as ourselves. Okay, so that's my sharing.

[00:46:45] Q & A
Let me just take a look if there are some questions. Okay, sorry. There is actually a question section in a Live, and it's not just the comments section. So, I did get a question.

Question: "I think for me, it's social anxiety that makes me think what will so-and-so think of me. But with my parents, the question I have is what will they do? I think it's a different fear element". 

Answer: Yes, I acknowledge that. And I think, like I mentioned earlier on in my sharing, this also depends on the specific situation that you are in. And this is why the interior journey cannot just be spiritual. It is also emotional and it's also very practical. Okay, if there is a real lived fear about what someone may do if you let them down, I think you need not just the generic social support. First, I think you need to have a good counsellor or a therapist to be able to talk about these things in depth and also to maybe consider looking at what are options, right? 

Earlier on, it may be just too terrifying to even consider any options, but we have to start somewhere. Okay, we have to start somewhere. And I would say, look in your own network. And if there are people that understand the journey that you're on, if there are other family members, for example, that you may be surprised – sometimes, if you don't talk to them, you may not know they are undergoing similar journeys.

[00:48:14]Look for support where you can, and step by step. But do get, I would say, counselling or therapeutic support. That is a very important part of it, even as you also grow spiritually, so to speak. But there has to be something concrete happening at the same time. So, that's what I would say for you. 

So, are there any other questions? I don't see any other questions, but thank you. Because of the nature of these things, I think I would also maybe not read out who asks the question. In case the people who ask the questions would like to keep their privacy.

So, as I close this off – since now I'm also recording this as my podcast – I always end off with praxis prompts, right? Because it's one thing to hear my stories and what I'm trying to impart. The next question is always how translate into your life.

So, at Praxis Prompts, the first Praxis Prompt is Listen – as you listened to this episode, what struck you? What part of my sharing resonated with you? Just take a note of that.

And then Two: Ponder– I invite you to ponder what expectations, or whose expectations are you most afraid of not fulfilling, and why?

Three: Act– after you ponder it, whose expectations or what expectations are you most afraid of, not fulfilling – identify what you are afraid of losing if you do not live up to those expectations. So, sometimes, fear can be very overwhelming when it's vague and unnamed, okay?

If we can name, be specific about what is it that I'm afraid to lose if I don't live up to those expectations, then maybe I'm one step closer to figuring out how to deal with that, okay. Where is that fear coming from? So, that would just be the step to act, I think, after listening to this episode, right? 

Because the entire longer journey of interior integration is about becoming more free from such fears. But we always need to take very concrete, specific and small steps. So, begin where you are.

But I really encourage you to begin because if we don't take concrete steps, no matter how much we think about wanting to be our true selves, no matter how much we wish to figure out what our calling is, we are not going to be able to step into it. We're not going to be able to live it, unless we take those small concrete steps, okay?  

Thank you so much for watching, for listening to today's Live. Don't be a stranger and I will see you guys again next week. I'm going to try to keep this up as a weekly thing. Okay, bye! 

[00:51:15] CONCLUSION
Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direct. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin. The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. 

Don't forget to visit my website at becomingmepodcast.com and to subscribe to my newsletter, as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode. Happy becoming!