Raise your hand if you’ve ever been upset with yourself because you failed to live up to whatever high expectations that you set. Most of us have experienced something like that, whether the expectations we set were for ourselves or for someone else, and it’s always frustrating when things don’t turn out the way we want them to.
That’s the real problem with expectations – unlike setting goals that we can achieve, having expectations that are too high is only going to lead to disappointment and stress when we fail to meet them. When you set a goal, you obviously try to choose one that you think you can accomplish – and you truly want to accomplish it. But even so, there’s always the possibility that you won’t achieve it, and in order to set a goal it’s important to recognize that possibility. Expectations, on the other hand, aren’t like goals – too often we don’t give ourselves the option of failure, instead expecting that things will go the way we want them to.
We’ve all had that experience, when you share big news with your family and friends and they aren’t excited for you. Or maybe you ask someone to do something for you or to help with a project, but the end result is much different than you anticipated because you weren’t on the same page. These are all examples of expectations having a negative effect on our relationships. The negativity keeps us from accepting other people (and their feelings) for who they truly are.
Now, this doesn’t mean that all expectations are bad. Of course we’re going to expect general courtesy and politeness from other people and to be treated with respect. But many things beyond that, like shared values or experiences, or excitement or interest in things that are important to us, aren’t always good expectations to have. Similarly, it’s important to get rid of certain expectations we have for ourselves – especially the need to be “perfect” and do everything right the first time. We all make mistakes, and that’s okay! Mistakes are a big part of how we learn and grow, and it can be hard to do that when we’re disappointed and frustrated from failing to meet our own expectations.
Expectations can be a good thing, like expecting courtesy and respect from other people. But more often than not, the expectations we set for ourselves or for others are unfairly high, without really appreciating the people we expect things from. Releasing our expectations is hard – so often they are deeply ingrained through years and years of use and letting go of them isn’t easy. But it is important, and worth the effort, whether that means communicating more with others or being open and flexible when things don’t go the way we want to. Let’s all strive to be more understanding of others, and of ourselves!