Society lives and breathes expectations. There is an expectation on children to act in certain ways, employers to treat staff in a particular manner, relationships to cater to people’s needs, and parents to love their children unreservedly. We have expectations on ourselves to be achieving at a certain level, to look and feel and act in particular ways.
Time to look at expectations in a different way.
Anne Lamott says that ‘Expectations are resentments under construction’. And I agree, expectations are a problem waiting to happen.
Expectations mean you have a belief that things are going to turn out in a certain way. They are a prediction of the future that you then count on happening.
When we develop expectations, we paint a picture in our head of how things are going to unfold. “I’m going to have the best time ever on my holiday” But what happens when reality strikes and your flight is delayed, your hotel room is not as quiet as you had hoped, and it rains on your tropical beach. The thrill of the best holiday ever turns to disappointment.
When you buy a gift for a loved one, and expect them to be thrilled. But they open their gift and they don’t seem grateful enough. You feel a flash of resentment to them as they are not acting how you expected them to.
High expectations are a way to try and control outcomes and other people. And this leads to considerable stress. If you are living under the misguided notion that you actually control everything, I have some bad news for you, my friend. Every curve ball is going to leave you feeling bad.
Do you have too many expectations? Are your expectations getting in the way of actually enjoying your life?
- do you often feel people ‘let you down’?
- do you tend to obsess on details?
- do you spend a long time fantasising how things are going to be?
- have others called you too critical or a perfectionist?
- do you have thorough ‘checklists’ for your future? your future partner, children, career, travel plans, house, etc
- do you suffer from guilt? (a sign you expect too much of yourself)
- do you often have feelings of resentment? (a sign you expect too much from others)
- when something upsets the flow of your day, does it throw you? and you struggle to get back on track?
It’s time to do away with expectations. You will be less disappointed, less discouraged and frustrated.
But I don’t want to be average or boring! I want to aim high!
Be careful that you don’t confuse having expectations, with having standards.
You may feel that having low expectations, will mean you underachieve in life, and have low aspirations. Not so. You can still have your high standards, but you drop your expectations, and you can be flexible and relaxed to how things turn out.
In relationships you might feel that not expecting a certain behaviour means others will manipulate you. Not so. You can still be clear about what you need in a relationship, but you can be accommodating and responsive to the other persons needs too. You can still enforce your boundaries, without expecting things to be perfect.
It can be hard to move on from your expectations, and shift into that flexible mode.
The trouble is that most of us don’t expect good things, we expect exact outcomes that will make us feel a particular way.
We don’t expect an enjoyable holiday. We expect perfect weather, no queues, no other people, and to miraculously be able to understand a foreign language. we will be relaxed, charming, connected and entertained.
Everything is idealised and perfect, with little room for reality. Our moods are seen to be a function of what is happening around us, and we have little control of them.
Instead, if you don’t expect anything. but you put in the hard work arranging the holiday as well as you can. You will be open to whatever the holiday brings, and you can be happy despite the weather.
Start to be aware of what expectations you are lugging around
- What are you expecting from this event, holiday, party etc?
- How are you expecting your mother, partner, child to act? Is it a realistic expectation? Are they capable, motivated, or inclined to act in that way?
- What expectations do you have of yourself? What needs to happen for you to be proud of yourself? what triggers shame in yourself? what do you beat yourself up for?
You cant control what is going to happen. So stop trying. You can roll with the punches, adapt to what happens, and still be happy.
And stop beating yourself up with a demanding Expectation List. You are perfect, you are you, you are complete, just the way you are. You don’t need the promotion at work, the smaller dress size, the achievement to be a better you. You will still be the same you, just doing slightly different stuff. You are enough. You are worthy. Just the way you are.