It is out of a weak ego that perfectionist and absolute expectations spring. Whenever our ego feels weak or threatened, for whatever reason, we need to feel stronger and superior, which is where judgmentalism emerges. I think of expectations as the tool of the ego to feel superior, which usually requires judging others by obsessively rigid standards. Everyone has an ego, but not everyone operates in their ego. If the ego is strong, we do not feel the need to elevate ourselves by having rigid expectations that allow us to be judgmental. A person with a strong, solid ego feels his inherent power, and he appears self-focused (with his needs fulfilled and autonomous). In contrast, a person with a fragile, or threatened ego feels a desperate need to judge others by impossible expectations. His sense of power is aggrandized, and he appears self-centered (needy for attention, defensive, always thinking of “me, me, me”). Letting go of the ego allows you to release yourself from the daily craziness of trying to be everything to everybody, of being perfect, of beating yourself up when you’re not perfect. When you’re identified with your ego, you feel separated and alienated not only from others but also from the world around you.
To let go of expectations might be the most crucial choice of our lives…Letting go of expectations means allowing choice for others as well as releasing yourself from the burden of making choices for other people. Your choices are your own, and letting go of responsibility for other people’s choices signifies a major shift in attitude. The more you realize and affirm that you are responsible only for your choices (not your parents’, not your boss’s, not your lover’s, not your best friend’s choices), the more the world opens up and makes you feel freer to live your own life.
-- Harold Kooden and Charles Flowers, Golden Men: The Power of Gay Midlife