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Expectations that were never yours to meet

As you start this week, may you know yourself well enough to be at peace when the naysayers come. May you rest easy when people claim you different than what they thought you to be, or when you didn’t provide what was expected because, well—what they expected was never yours to give.

Last week I did something “they” say you should never do—I read the three-star-and-under reviews on Amazon for Blue Bike. There’s not very many. But I still read them. And I let them sit with me for awhile.

(Just so you know, “they” say never to read those reviews to the authors, not to the readers—because the reviews are meant to help people make purchasing decisions; they’re rarely written to help the author become a better writer. And with a book, what’s done is done.)

I hadn’t wandered over to those reviews the entire month the book has been out in the world, because well? Who wants to read how you didn’t live up to someone’s expectations? There are few people in life brave enough (crazy enough?) to share their hearts till they bleed on paper, offer the sacrifice for sale online, and then welcome the people who spend time telling the world why they don’t like what you’ve offered.

But you know what? I found my response to those reviews so surprising, I’m still a little in shock at myself: I was honestly okay with them.

If I came to my book with the same expectations these readers have about me, I’d probably feel similar. Their two and three-star reviews honest-to-goodness didn’t really bother me.

Because here’s the common thread between those few reviews:

• This book wasn’t anything like my first book.

To that, I say, “Good. I’m glad you noticed that.” Because yep, it’s nothing like my first book. I didn’t want it to be. I plan to take my future writing on a pretty sharp departure from my initial published work. If readers want a follow-up to it, they’ll need to look elsewhere, because I’ve said all I could say about the nuts-and-bolts of organizing and decluttering.

(I still stand behind that book, but honestly—there’s nothing more I can say in that genre.)

• My family’s life seems more chaotic than simple, and it doesn’t fit their own definition of simple living.

From the beginning days of this blog, I’ve said repeatedly that the beauty of “simple living” is that there’s no one right way to do it (you’ll see this tomorrow, as we share a reader-submitted story). So if my life seems too uprooted, too travel-y? That’s okay. You are more than welcome to stay in one place. You don’t need a smartphone for your simple life? Awesome. But as an Internet-based small business owner, I can tell you it helps me simplify my life enormously (though yes, I’ve had to learn how to wield it wisely).

My life doesn’t have to fit someone else’s preconceived idea of what living simply “should” look like, because there’s beauty in different ways to live. I call my life simple because we are able to live life congruently with our passions, and a big part of that passion involves travel and cultural exploration.

So if my words bothered someone because it didn’t fit their definition of simple living? That’s okay. This offering of words is descriptive, not prescriptive. And in light of that…

• The book didn’t leave the reader with a lot of take-away.

This, too, was intentional. If a reader didn’t walk away with a ten-step process of what to do next, then my book actually served its purpose. I wrote so that the reader’s insides would stir and their minds left with ideas to percolate—and to actually free people from the idea that a life should look one particular way.

I want to honor people with their God-given intellect, and assume they can draw the conclusions they need and not bother with the things they don’t.

Be free from the burden of meeting expectations that were never meant for you. -Tsh Oxenreider

Almost every less-than-stellar review said that the book was beautifully-written, and to me, this is a high compliment to treasure. So if I step back, reflect on the critiques about my latest offering, and hear what’s really being said, I can rest well that I’m on the right path.

I love sharing stories, and I plan to do this more and more, in future books and on this blog. I’m at peace with this, because I know myself. That type of work fits well with my passions and my gifts, so I can sit happy with the pursuit of it, and not apologize for not meeting expectations I was never called to fulfill.

And may the same be true for you. May you study yourself, and may you know who you are well enough to be free from the guilt of not meeting expectations you don’t need to meet. Life’s too short to not be who you are.

Be free from the burden of meeting expectations that were never meant for you.

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Kerstin

    Ah, thank you. That was just what I needed to hear as I start a busy week full of expectations around work and home. I needed a reminder to be myself, not some version of myself that others might expect.

  2. Angie Ryg

    What a beautiful way to find freedom in the path that God has chosen for your family as well as the release from the constant comparing that this world often leads us to. The Enemy would have us read those reviews and take those numbers to heart. Numbers on a review, numbers on a scale, numbers of followers, numbers on a paycheck…What a great example on living not from a number stand point, but a word stand point. The words that God has given you to share to the world. And the Word of His that says that we do not need to live up to any expectations and we are still loved.

    • Tsh

      That’s a good word, Angie… I needed to hear that. Thank you. 🙂

  3. Deb @ home life simplified

    I am so glad you looked further and saw those three points. Those three sum up why I love where you have headed since your first book. I took a similar path myself. Loved this book and can’t wait to read all that will follow. Xx

    • Tsh

      Thanks, Deb!

  4. Lori

    Tsh, I loved your book. It was a great story. I also started reading “Organized Simplicity” for about the 15th time (the copy you signed for my daughter in Atlanta). I would still love to read your e-book, but I don’t read e-books (yet). This comment will be a little off topic to your point in this post, but what you wrote just got me thinking…
    I love the direction your blog and writing is going, and I agree, there probably is only so much that can be said about organized living. However, I think many people who weren’t around here in the earlier days may be missing a lot. I looked around to see if there was an organizing and finance tab on this page, because simplifying in those areas is so important and freeing, and people really do need help. It looks like you may be able to access those earlier posts through the “World” tab, but that’s a bit vague and I’m not sure people would go there.
    You have already written some extremely helpful how-to posts, and I hope people are able to go back and find them.
    Also, 5 stars for both of your books * * * * *!

    • Tsh

      Oh gracious, Lori, that’s a good idea! Thank you so much for sharing your $.02. 🙂

  5. Melissa Webb

    Just wanted to say that what you hoped to accomplish with this book (mentioned in this post) was and is being accomplished in my life. It was the perfect thought provoking book! I’ll go back into hiding now, lol. I met with you in Rogers, by the way, and it was great chatting with you! I’m quite the lurker online though! 🙂

    • Tsh

      I remember you, Melissa! So glad you came to say hi. And thank you for your kind words!

  6. Meghan

    Those 2 and 3 star reviews made me buy the book and I really enjoyed it. I don’t enjoy checklist or instructional type books because I like figuring out what works for me on my own so I haven’t read your first one because it’s not my thing. I like reading about people’s personal journeys and find them really inspirational and helpful in thinking about my own goals, even when they look nothing like my own life. I especially like reading about them if there is a side of travel thrown in so your book was perfect for me and I loved it. So you should know that even those “negative” (most weren’t really that negative, just not what the readers were looking for) reviews can help people like me find your book.

    • Tsh

      That’s awesome! And that’s what Kyle and I were talking about this weekend… that those “negative” comments really aren’t that negative, so they could service as an impetus to someone buying the book who wants what they weren’t after! 🙂

  7. Brian Gardner

    “Life’s too short to not be who you are.”

    You got that right, and it’s something that I’m trying to embrace every day. Make no mistake, it’s not an easy thing especially when you put yourself out there to the public.

    Props to you, Tsh, for making yourself vulnerable enough to read, but confident in your living.

    • Tsh

      Thanks, Brian! I always appreciate you and your insight.

  8. Nikki K

    To put it simply: I love this post.
    I bought your book after seeing the Instagram post by Kelle Hampton. I checked out the sample on my Kindle and really liked what I read, so I hit the Buy button. And let me say, I’m SO glad I did!

    When I read these words above: “I wrote so that the reader’s insides would stir and their minds left with ideas to percolate—and to actually free people from the idea that a life should look one particular way.” I thought, that is EXACTLY what I got out of it. So to me, you have totally accomplished what you set out to do, and the people who don’t get it are obviously looking for something else. I truly hope they find it. God Bless! And Thank You, Tsh!

    • Tsh

      So glad, Nikki! Thanks for encouraging me this morning.

  9. Preston

    You know I love this in every way.

    • Tsh

      Thanks, Preston. 🙂

  10. Stacie

    I adore you, Tsh! You have inspired me to live simply in so many ways…and to realize “living simply” never means the same thing for every family.

    Learning to be okay with not meeting everyone’s expectations is truly a gift (one I don’t always give myself, but I’m making progress)! Thank you for sharing your journey and these words.

    • Tsh

      I’m learning right alongside you, Stacie! Thanks for your kind words.

  11. Stacy Busta

    I finished the book last week. (I met you in Rogers too–I’m the Oregonian.) I’ve been simplifying for awhile–it is a journey absolutely and not a destination. I think when people begin to peel back the pieces looking for a simpler life, it is easy to check off the clutter, time commitment and debt lists. Those are important places to start, but there is so much more–it is about seeking simplicity for your family and for your soul. Peace is absolutely an inside job! Your book lifted me up and reminded me that I’m not the only one who “walks to her own beat.” That was so refreshing and uplifting. …And as your “sort-of naysayers” remarked it was beautifully written and that it so true! When I was a kid I had a poster in my room with a quote. “I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, then it is beautiful.–Fredrick Perls.” Thanks for allowing us to find you a little more through your book.

    • Tsh

      What an awesome quote! Love that, Stacy.

      And yes, in many ways, this book is more about “unconventional living” than “simple living,” and giving yourself permission to do just that. (In fact, ‘simple living’ isn’t even in the title… on purpose. 🙂 )

  12. Michelle

    I love this post, Tsh! It’s SO true that what’s “simple” for you isn’t “simple” for every one else. The way to get what you want is to make your own definition, then add and subtract from your life until you get it. As soon as you start using somebody else’s definition, you get off your own path and you really can’t win.

  13. Melanie

    This is so liberating! My family is making a change that will result in us not meeting some other people’s expectations. Though we have full confidence that the Lord is leading this change, I’ve not been looking forward to addressing those other people’s expectations. I previously realized that I have fulfilled the Lord’s expectations of me in this circumstance and we are moving onto a new chapter, but this just put the nail in the coffin – I can’t carry the burden of disappointing those other people because their expectations were never meant for me to fulfill. Wowsers! Thanks Tsh!

    • Tsh

      You’re so welcome! And as usual per these Monday posts, I wrote it just as much for me as for you… I need to learn this as well.

  14. Lisa D.

    Love the post. Love the heart. Just “discovered” your work when I read “One Bite at a Time”. Very interested in reading your latest :). Keep being who you were made to be. ~Lisa

  15. Faigie

    I think you can give yourself a pat on the back for being able to face the music. (not that the music was so loud anyway).I think the more we can face any kind of criticism the better people we become and the better self esteem it means we have.

    If only we were all only interested in listening to all the 2 and 3 star reviews out there, we would all grow much more.

  16. Angela Mills

    I’m so glad to hear this. I’ve read just plain mean reviews on some authors’ books and I always hope the author doesn’t see them. I’m working on my first novel and just told my husband that I’m glad I didn’t get around to it when I was younger, because criticism would have killed me back then. I hope when I’m published one day, I’ll have the same contentment as you and those kinds of comments won’t bother me. One of the nice things about growing older is caring less and less what people think. If you’re true to your voice, and honest, there will always be someone who doesn’t like it. It’s good to be okay with that.

  17. KateC

    My husband recently took a trip to HI to visit a friend (and his wife). When he came home he said, “they are really living the dream.” I would not want to live their lives on a regular basis and my response was, “well, they are living their dream.” I think it was a MOMENT for both of us – I had this realization that when you spend time with people living a life in line with their passions/values it feels good and inspiring; and he had this realization that we are not currently living the way he wishes we were. All this to say that I find your words so encouraging and helpful in walking the path to figuring out how we can be living the way we really want to. Your words help break down my mental barriers and encourage me to think about how we can, rather than why we can’t – this post is no exception. Thank you.

    • Vanessa

      “Well, they are living their dream.” What a LOT of wisdom there is in that sentence! Go, Kate!

  18. Lisa

    Thank you for saying this so well… I have to say that I think Blue Bike was beautiful! Just as you intended, it was just the right amount of everything to get some new ideas percolating in my mind. I’m on my own journey with simple living and I am also writing a book to share my story and inspire others. Reading this post was so refreshing and encouraging! Thank you!

  19. Robyn

    <3 🙂 Thanks for this reminder… it's so applicable, literally. The other day I had a comment about my blog that was "Sometimes I just wish I could come over to your house and crash dinner, but other times I think 'I can't believe you're feeding your family that'". I didn't have any witty comeback for that and the commenter (in person) walked away almost immediately. but with my blog, it's our journey, taylored to us both physically and spiritually… I'm writing my journey, not a prescribed "way for everyone to cook/exist".

  20. Beth

    Hi Tsh,

    Thank you for posting this. I really needed to hear it.
    I am a twenty something college student who is constantly under a list of expectations. Everyone seems to have expectations about my relationships, my grades, my job ideas, my life, the way I eat, exercise or don’t, the list seems to be endless.
    I read your book. I did not read your first book so I can’t compare it.
    But I LOVED your new one. It wasn’t a list of what to do or what not to do. It was a beautiful expression of trying to live life to the fullest.
    It stirred so much in me. This month I have been trying to live with more intention. Specifically, the intention of living the way that suits me.
    Thank you for making the sacrifice of sharing your life on paper. Because it has blessed this person in many ways!


  21. Lisa

    Sometimes it takes a very thick skin to take in criticism. Sounds like you are taking it on a positive note.

  22. Sarah @ Little Bus on the Prairie

    It makes me really glad that you were okay with the negative (or at least, less than raving) reviews. I think that that would take a lot of courage to read and be okay with because – just like you said – it’s tempting to latch onto other peoples’ expectations or hopes for us and strive to meet them and then be disappointed in OURSELVES if we can’t.

    I’m really encouraged by your mindset and I think that it would serve everyone a bit of good to adopt this perspective.

  23. Sally

    I stumbled upon your book after I read “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne. I was not familiar with your blog, and I knew nothing about you, but somehow during a “simplicity” search on Amazon or Audible, I got a link to your book. Like Meghan, for me it was actually some of the 3-star reviews that helped me decide to get your book. I could tell it was more “memoir” than “self-help,” and that sounded good. I loved how concrete you were in the book, and I enjoyed the writing so much. (I ended up buying the audiobook, so my experience was impacted by your actual voice in addition to your writing voice. I listened to it on my drive to work and during my walks with the dog.)

    Your book was the perfect, inspiring follow up to “Simplicity Parenting.” After reading yours, I tried to find another book kind of like it, and I could not. I tried a couple, but they didn’t quite do it for me. So I ended up listening to yours again (while I purged and organized my closet).

    I am eager for your next book and am pleased to have found your blog. My family is a road-tripping family, and in a couple of years I think we’ll be going to the UK and France. In the meantime, we’re working on simplifying, so all of your writing will be relevant and helpful!

  24. Melissa Camara Wilkins

    Ahhhh. That’s a breath of fresh air, right there. I work so hard to let go of my own unrealistic expectations, but it’s sometimes hard to know how to handle others’. Realizing I wasn’t meant to meet them sounds like a wise first step.

  25. Caroline Starr Rose

    What you do is so courageous on many levels. I can’t imagine not being able to hide behind fiction but sharing my own life for others then to comment on. You are wise and you are brave.

    Your post reminds me of an article in Sunday’s Parade magazine that said, “We can’t let others define us. Figuring out who we are has to be an inside job.” Kudos in your mature approach to defining yourself and your life.

  26. Marla Taviano

    I love this. And I love the direction you’re going in your work. I wrote last week about our plans to return to Cambodia. The negative feedback was minimal but still there. Learning to be the me God wants me to be, regardless of what everybody else thinks. xoxoxo

  27. Melanie

    I just wanted to say that up until a month ago I had never heard of you, never heard of this web site, or anything published by you. I started getting into the blogging world just a month ago, and through other sites I have seen your book mentioned so I decided to click on it.
    I found it really interesting because at this time in my life when I have felt like I have been a prodigal daughter…(well, I have been, there’s no feeling, it’s the truth) in my relationship with God, and I have come back to him..the one word that I seem to focus on is “simple”.
    I wholeheartedly believe that all my life I have put too much emphasis on material things, such as a big home, a nice car, and etc.
    It took going through a lot over the past 10 years and God bringing me to a place where I lost all those material things just in the past 6 months, so that I could focus on him. And it worked. So, when I came across your book, I bought it.
    Now I’m not one to read anything outside of fiction for the most part, but over the course of the last month I have been intentional about what I’ve read, mainly because I felt God leading me to do that. I’m not done with your book as of today, but I’ve been consuming it all weekend, I’m savoring it.
    The reason I wanted to comment was in response to your statement to reviewers that you wanted this book to cause a stir within. You certainly got that response from me!
    I’m telling you I’m craving this simple life. I know mine will be different from yours, but you have awakened something I didn’t know I was wanting until I started this book.
    I mean I told my husband he has to build us a chicken coup this weekend! This city girl wants hens!! ha!
    So, thank you for this book. Thank you for inspiring me to live the simple life, which is so needed.

  28. Caitlin

    This post really struck a chord with me. BLUE BIKE really struck a chord with me. I think about it daily – yes, daily – and constantly challenge myself to question the choices I am making with my family. After having a complete emotional breakdown, leaving my teaching career over 2.5 years ago, I have been craving to live intentionally and really trying to learn how to erase expectations – of myself, of others, and from others. Goodness, your words help me not feel so “odd”. You really help me feel that sense of belonging in such a big world. Thank you – for your book, your blog, and your vulnerability. I’ll be heading over to Amazon today to do a “five-star-er”!

  29. Alyssa

    Thank you! I treasure your “permission” to just be what I am. Who God made me to be. I’m so glad you’re at peace with the reviews. You are wonderful!

  30. Kristin S

    Because I was one of the fortunate ones to receive an early copy of Blue Bike in pdf version, I was reading it on my Kindle. Well, my aging (42 years old) eyes can’t read my Kindle at night for pdf books. So, it’s been a slow journey. I went to the DR this week and the short flights there and back were perfect to finish Blue Bike!
    I’m actually thankful I didn’t rush through. The second half was so refreshing and encouraging. I have lots to think about.
    Thank you for sharing your heart and experiences, Tsh!

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