What are expectations?
Expectations pertain to “what I want” in terms of my behavior and other people’s behavior. They’re the “shoulds” ( I should…., you should, you need to…..) that we apply to ourselves and to others.
Expectations are totally under our control. Sometimes they’re realistic, but oftentimes they’re unrealistic and tied to our perceived value or worth as a person. When we have expectations of ourselves and others, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and probably resentment too.
Expectations vs. Resentments
I’ve heard it said that “expectations are premeditated resentments” and I agree. Any time our peace or happiness depends on another person’s behavior, we’re giving them the power to disappoint us and maybe even hurt us. So, how do we get rid of expectations?
Keeping expectations alive makes our peace and happiness inversely proportional to the number of expectations we hold. Think about that! Our peace and happiness are directly related to how many expectations we insist on keeping alive.
Having expectations for others without communicating about them with those others requires them to be skilled in MIND READING. We assume the people in our daily lives will “just know” what we want or need or expect at any given time. We assume that they know that we have expectations and that they already know what those are. We expect that people will automatically know what we want and we assume that they’ll automatically do those things. When they don’t know about our expectations and don’t do what we want them to, we get resentful. How ridiculous is that? How unfair to them!
Setting reasonable expectations
If we’re using words like “never” and “always” when we state our expectation, it could indicate an unreasonable expectation. Expectations that are unrealistically high can lead to resentment and low expectations can lead to disappointment. Sometimes we purposefully set low expectations hoping we’ll avoid disappointment. When expectations are unrealistic they’re often fear-based.
Sometimes we’re not sure whether our expectations are appropriate or not. It’s often a good idea to ask someone whose integrity you respect to see what they think about your expectations. Sometimes another perspective can be very helpful.
When we change our attitude about what we expect, it can change the whole interaction.
If we can practice being aware of our expectations, we’re less likely to be disappointed, angry, or resentful if they’re not met. When we grow up in a toxic environment, we may expect that “bad things” will always be part of our experience. We may become adults who expect the worst or who live in fear, making fear-based decisions. Taking a good hard and honest look at our expectations can help us see when we’re being unrealistic.
Here’s the thing: if we practice detaching from any outcome, then the fears, disappointments, and resentments will start to diminish.
We’re always changing, and keeping our expectations flexible is a healthy start.
- Examine our expectations. Are they realistic? How can we change that if they’re not?
- How “important” is (fill-in-the-blank)? Is it worth sleepless nights? Is it worth anger, hurt feelings or resentment? How important is it really?
- Let others be who they are.
- Let go: detach. Let go of what people say or didn’t say, or did or didn’t do. Let go of the expectations. Let go of outcomes. “Not my circus, not my clowns”
- Make the goal to be a process of progress. It’s not about perfection. Keywords: process and progress!
- Trust the process.
You may also like these resources:
Learn about the Cycle of Abuse
Learn about setting boundaries
Learn about codependency and maladaptive coping skills
Self-care: We can only choose to focus on and be responsible for ourselves, our own thoughts, actions, and behavior. We can take responsibility for getting our needs met, instead of waiting for someone to change or meet our needs for us. We are in control of ourselves and no one is responsible for us but us. We can change ourselves with patience, persistence, and practice.
Conscious awareness: Be aware and make conscious choices before acting. Self-awareness releases us from making impulsive and potentially damaging decisions. Practice mindfulness.
Learn about letting go of what you can’t control, by using loving-detachment
About the author
Diane Metcalf earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in 1982 and a Master of Science in Information Technology in 2013.
She has held Social Worker, Counselor and Managerial Positions in the fields of Domestic Violence and Abuse, Geriatric Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Reproductive Health. She is an experienced Advocate and Speaker on the topics of Domestic Violence and Abuse and has been a guest on Lockport Community Television (LCTV), sharing her knowledge and experience regarding Domestic Abuse with the local community. In addition, she experienced Maternal Narcissistic Abuse and has been involved in other toxic relationships. She purposefully learned (and continues to learn) appropriate coping skills and strategies to live happily. She shares those insights here.
Her book and articles are the results of her education, knowledge, and
personal insight regarding her own abusive experiences and subsequent recovery work. She is no longer a practicing Social Worker, Counselor, Program Manager or Advocate, nor is she or has she ever been a licensed psychologist.
Currently, Diane runs her own website design company, Image and Aspect, and writes articles and tutorials for Tips and Snips, her inspirational blog for creative people. She continues to learn and write about Emotional Healing.
This website is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional therapy.