In the last post about the paradox of expectations, I explained how unmet expectations can bring lots of misery to life when we do not understand them properly. Today, I will explore additional aspects of expectations and what happens to us when our expectations are not met.
If you have an over-preoccupation with perception and trying to please people’s expectations, then you can go mad
Many people think that expectations are part of their identity. They expect so much of themselves that they believe this gives them the “right” to expect the same from others. I am sure that if you examine the definition of arrogance (“having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities”), you will see someone who expects a lot from themselves and from others as arrogant. Thinking highly of yourself is great, but expecting others to fulfill your expectations is not!
When I write, I write for myself, and I have high expectations… so I’m just trying to meet those. I’m not going to distract myself with other people’s expectations.
Most people care a lot about what others think about them. They are in the approval trap and have the disease to please. It is very hard to be assertive and to take care of your own interests when you are busy pleasing others. It may be easier when you are young, but it becomes more complicated during the teenage years, when you realize that that some of the expectations of those around you contradict others.
Our thoughts about an event can have a dramatic effect on how we go through the event itself. When our expectations are low, it’s easy to be pleasantly surprised. When they’re not, we’re vulnerable to painful disappointment. Because of this, many people spend a good deal of effort trying to avoid developing high hopes about anything
More people find the pain we experience from unmet expectations unbearable. They think that life is hard when things do not happen the way they expect them to. But this is only because they believe life is supposed to work as they expect.
If you expect yourself or others to fail, to think differently, to prefer different things and to have different beliefs and aspirations from you, you are never disappointed. Life is just interesting and surprising then.
Whatever happens in the world is real, what one thinks should have happened is projection. We suffer more from our fictitious illusion and expectations of reality
High expectations and relationships
Relationships are very delicate and expectations can either support or destroy them. The basis of a relationship is the expectation that we will benefit from it. We get into the relationship believing we do benefit from, but when we expect that the other person act or be a certain way, our relationship starts to deteriorate.
We usually blame others for not fulfilling our expectations and we forget we did not go into the relationship to change the other, but to enjoy who they already were.
The key is allowing your partner to be who they are and not having expectations that really have nothing to do with the person you married
In my relationship coaching, I hear couples expressing the desire to change each other over time, and about unmet expectations that create lots of pain in their life. Any expectations of the partner/friend that is different from what he or she is already doing (or not) is disrespectful to their choice.
Once we develop this respect, we can restart the relationship again on equal ground. In any relationship, “live and let live” is probably a more respectful way to live than expressing unmet expectations and claiming to be honest.
Giving is receiving
One type of expectation that brings misery to relationships is the expectations that the other person will reciprocate. The simplest example is when people expect the other to show love and appreciation the same way they do. A glimpse into communication styles or love languages can highlight how unrealistic these expectations are. Having grown up in different places, in different circumstances, with different values, feelings and desires, we experience love differently.
In my relationship coaching, I also hear the phrase “He/she doesn’t love me” a lot. When we explore the clients’ unmet expectations, they usually change it to “He/she doesn’t love me the way I want”. I usually mention that the source of this pain is the expectations. After all, when they first met and made the decision to be together, he/she did fulfill their expectations.
False expectations take away joy
Some of my clients say, “He/she has changed”, and they need a reminder that they have changed too. Even the expectations that the woman/man in my life will stay the same after 10 or 15 years is unrealistic and can only bring misery and pain.
At some level, every relationship is assaulted by an aroma of judgment – the sense that we will never measure up to the expectations and demands of another.
Resistance to change
Change is inevitable. The expectation that things will not change hurts a lot of people, whether we expect it of ourselves or from others. Thinking like this brings us suffering when we have pimples, when we age, when we gain weight, when we lose our job, when something breaks, when we fail, when we lose a friend or when we are late for the bus.
The best way to deal with this is to accept the fact that things are not permanent and that we are not fortunetellers. Life is meant to be explored and is not predetermined. We change, things change, people change, seasons change and feelings change. Everything in life changes every second, with every experience, good or bad, small or significant. If we accept it, we step into life letting go of the expectation that our future will be the same as our past.
My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations
Michael J. Fox
Join me next week when I explore mindfulness as a key to overcoming the pain of unmet expectations.
This post is part of the series The Expectations Paradox:
- The Expectations Paradox: Danger Ahead
- The Expectations Paradox: Self-inflicted Pain
- The Expectations Paradox: Mindfulness is the Cure