Whenever our peace or happiness depends on another person’s behavior, we’ve given them the power to disappoint and maybe even hurt us. When we have expectations for others, we also set ourselves up to feel resentment.
Our peace and happiness are proportional to our expectations and are directly related to how many expectations we hold. Think about how you might be disappointed by the people who don’t meet your expectations. Do you think it might be time to take that power back?
The Influence of Expectations on Others
Have you ever really thought about your expectations? What Are Expectations?
Expectations are premeditated resentments.
We all have expectations. They’re the hidden rules, the “shoulds” that we set for ourselves and others, and we often don’t even realize we have them until they’re not met. When that happens, it can sting, leaving us hurt or resentful. So, are your expectations really premeditated resentments?
Let’s go deeper.
For our own well-being and happiness, it’s essential to take a step back, take a hard look at our expectations, and make changes where necessary.
Here’s the thing: sometimes, our expectations are unrealistic, and they can end up causing more problems than they solve. Holding onto unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others sets everyone up for disappointment right from the start.
It is common to associate our worth and perceived value with the expectations we hold. For instance, if I expect my friends to acknowledge my birthday and they don’t, I might end up feeling unloved, forgotten, or uncared for. And if it happens, that’s on me, not them. You see, my friends are unaware of my expectations because I have not communicated them. So, on my birthday, if I tie their actions to the measure of love I feel from them, and they don’t know I’ve done this, is it fair to them? Is it fair to me? It is a completely no-win situation.
It is crucial to communicate your expectations openly rather than expecting others to read your mind. If I want to be remembered on my special day, I must ensure that others know my expectations. Otherwise, I risk feeling deeply hurt, disappointed, and resentful.
Expectations vary, ranging from high to low and realistic to unrealistic. When we have high expectations, meeting them can be challenging or even impossible, leading to feelings of disappointment for us or feelings of failure for the person who did not meet the expectation. On the other hand, if we tend to be people-pleasers, we may intentionally or subconsciously set low expectations for others to avoid disappointment for everyone involved. Unrealistic expectations are inflexible, and do not allow for unexpected changes, and are often rooted in fear, such as the fear of losing something or someone or the fear of someone taking something away.
Whether they are too high, too low, realistic, or not, having unfulfilled expectations often results in feeling resentful.
An expectation may look like it’s fair, reasonable, and realistic, but if experience has shown that it cannot be met, we must change it. The key is to set flexible and adaptable expectations, avoiding the use of words like “never” and “always” because they lack flexibility and the possibility for change.
If you’re unsure about the appropriateness of an expectation, seeking the perspective and feedback of a trusted person can be helpful. Becoming aware of your expectations and letting go of your attachment to their outcomes may reduce the chances of developing resentment in the future.
You’re aware that your interactions with others are a choice, and these interactions, along with the expectations you have, can significantly impact your relationships. For example, if you have expectations of others without understanding their current circumstances, it can lead to misunderstandings.
In my family, mind reading was a common expectation, resulting in many misunderstandings, hurt feelings, anger, and resentment. It’s easy to believe that the people in our lives should “just know” what we want or need at any given moment, especially if they care about and love us. We may expect them to know our needs automatically, and we assume that they will fulfill them, too! And then we feel resentful when they are unaware of those expectations and do not meet them. How absurd is that? And how unfair to them!
If we grow up in a dysfunctional or unhealthy environment, we may develop a mindset of expecting “bad things” to always be part of our lives. As adults, this can lead us to expect the worst from others and live in fear. But changing our attitudes toward our expectations can have a profoundly positive impact on our lives. Adjusting our expectations to be more achievable may lessen our likelihood of feeling disappointed, angry, or resentful when they are unmet.
Letting go of unrealistic expectations is vital to finding peace and contentment in ourselves and our relationships. Releasing the fantasy of the “perfect” relationship is crucial to this process. Social media often perpetuates this fallacy by highlighting others’ seemingly fabulous lives and relationships, provoking a fear of missing out and contributing to our feelings of unhappiness and resentment. Striving for an unattainable standard will only keep us stuck and unhappy.
I’ve learned that communicating clearly (saying what I mean and meaning what I say) can help prevent resentment from building up. A helpful tool I have discovered is to ask myself if I can take an action without feeling resentful. Now, if someone asks me to do something for them, I ask myself if I can do it without feeling resentment and if the answer is no, I politely decline without offering lengthy explanations.
As you evaluate your expectations for yourself and others, try not to judge or label your feelings.
We are constantly evolving, and by setting flexible expectations, they will grow along with us. With awareness, acceptance, and self-compassion, we can release our outdated and unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others, a significant step towards healing relational trauma.
Considerations for Reducing Resentment in Relationships
- Examine an expectation you hold for someone specific. Is your expectation realistic? How do you know? How can you change it if it’s not?
- How important is it that this expectation is met? Is it worth sleepless nights? Is it worth feeling anger, hurt feelings, or resentment? Is it worth losing or damaging the relationship?
- Let go of expectations around what people “should” say or do.
- Let go of outcomes. How does that feel? Scary? Anxiety-provoking? What can you do about that?
- Focus on progress, not perfection.
- Trust the process.
Learn about the Cycle of Abuse
Understand power and control in relationships
Learn about setting boundaries
Learn about codependency and maladaptive coping skills
Learn about letting go by using positive-detachment
More Resources for You~
If you are on a healing journey from a narcissistic mother, allow me to introduce you to Lemon Moms: A Guide to Understand and Survive Maternal Narcissism.
For as long as I can remember, there was something “different” about my mother. She wasn’t like other mothers.
My mom didn’t hug or kiss, smile at, spend time with, or play with me. She never seemed happy to see me. She didn’t ask about my school day and wasn’t interested in knowing my friends. She seemed to have no interest in me or anything that I did. My mom called me hurtful names and obscenities, and at times, she ignored me, not speaking to me for days, weeks, or even months. When she felt sad I was expected to emotionally care-take her. When she didn’t feel like parenting, I was responsible for my siblings. When she lost her temper, she hit. When I was disobedient, there were bizarre punishments.
I was not allowed to express feelings, ask questions, or show initiative or curiosity. My feelings were discounted, minimized, or invalidated. She re-wrote my memories, and I was expected to believe her version. I was to obey, stay quiet, and not question.
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YOUR CRASH COURSE IN RELATIONSHIP SELF DEFENSE
In a world where love and companionship are highly valued and sought, it becomes necessary to navigate our relationships cautiously. Understanding relationship warning signs can be helpful in your relationships with family members, friends, and colleagues too. By recognizing potentially harmful patterns of interaction or behavior, you can take proactive measures to avoid toxic dynamics and nurture positive connections with those who share your values and aspirations.
In this book, I delve into concepts of personality quirks and idiosyncrasies, relationship dynamics, and the definitions and differences in what is meant by toxicity, dysfunction, mental health, and abuse. You’ll learn how to guard against emotional, physical, or psychological harm that can arise from unhealthy relationships. By honing your ability to discern the warning signs, you can enjoy more satisfying relationship experiences!
I hope you join me on this transformative expedition as we delve into the intricate tapestry of human interactions and the delicate balance between connection and self-preservation. Together, we will navigate the sometimes-hazardous realm of relationships, armed with information that can guide us toward more fulfilling relationships. We will uncover the hidden patterns and subconscious biases that can lead us astray and we’ll empower ourselves to make informed choices that align with our true desires and values. This journey of self-discovery will illuminate the path toward healthier relationships and serve as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and its capacity for growth and transformation. So, get ready to embark on an odyssey of awareness, self-discovery, and empowerment as we leave past missteps behind and embrace a future filled with love, authenticity, fulfillment, and a constant feeling of safety and security.
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Feel empowered to rescue, protect and heal yourself from their mistreatment or abuse
The TOOLBOX (Recover from Toxic People) App is a great portable way to feel supported and validated as you experience personal growth. It’s for anyone affected by past and present toxic, hurtful, non-nurturing or neglectful relationships.
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I AM: A Guided Journey to Your Authentic Self, Workbook and Journal, by Diane Metcalf
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About the Author
Diane Metcalf is an experienced advocate, speaker, and author specializing in abuse and family dynamics.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Science in Information Technology. Her professional portfolio is diverse, encompassing fields such as Domestic and Partner Abuse Counseling, Geriatric Care Management, Developmental Disability Services, Vocational Rehabilitation, Information Technology Management, and Education.
Through her personal healing journey from physical and emotional abuse and neglect, and with ongoing self-improvement practices, she has developed effective tools that she happily shares with others seeking growth in their own recovery. Her focus is on healing relational trauma through awareness, intention, and introspection, combined with healthy coping strategies and tools.
She is the author of the highly praised “Lemon Moms” series, an emotionally supportive collection that dives into the effects of growing up with mothers having narcissistic traits. This compassionate trilogy provides valuable insights and guidance for coming to terms with past traumas to initiate the healing process.
Learn more about the Lemon Moms series: Lemon Moms
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This website is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional therapy.