I used to think that expectations were a good thing to have. It gave people hope that what they were expecting, might actually happen. As I got older I realized that people had some grand expectations of me that I either unknowingly didn’t live up to, or didn’t feel like I needed or wanted to live up to. Then I started hearing this a lot…
“You need to lower your expectations of others.”
When you age, do you naturally raise your expectations of people? If we do, I never even realized it was happening. I don’t remember ever having expectations of other people. I generally always felt it was up to me to make my life happen and never relied on anyone else for anything.
When I was younger it was so much easier to walk away from people I felt were using or abusing me. I never even considered that I could have expectations of being treated better by some of my peers. I naturally assumed there were good ones and bad ones and I left the bad ones in my dust. I have even written about it here. These days it seems like it’s a real chore to extract myself from those toxic relationships. They’re meaner and they hang on longer with vengeance and bitterness, when all I want is for them to leave me alone. When I was younger I never expected anything from them and I never cared what they said about me after I ended the connection with them. But now I hear the crap they spew and it’s hurtful. I expect them to behave like adults, or even like human beings with a soul, and they don’t.
So, I finally had to ask myself about Expectations.
What are my expectations…exactly?
Are they too high for the human race to ever hope to reach them?
The thing is that I don’t think I need to lower ALL of my own expectations. I don’t think anyone should lower ALL of their expectations, unless they just like hanging out with people that will never live up to them. My husband used to tell me that the reason I would constantly get my feelings bruised was because I set high expectations for people and when they didn’t, or refused to, live up to them, I would try to force the issue of my expectations. This created even more heartache for me. It didn’t create anything for the other person, except maybe some annoyance and dislike for me. After a while of this back and forth, either they complied, or I walked away with hurt feelings. The drama of it was astounding. That was a hard habit for me to unlearn.
You can never force anyone to live up to your expectations.
The word “expectation” has several different meanings, but for the sake of this conversation the word means a state of intense and emotional anticipation. That is the psychological definition of expectation.
Intense, emotional anticipation.
Wow! Just adding the word anticipation to this pushes it into an entirely different light for me. Anticipation can be a fun feeling, but more often it’s a feeling that brings with it a lot of anxiety! That explains where the drama comes from. Anxiety always comes with a heaping helping of drama.
Now replace expectation with anticipation.
“You need to lower your anticipation of others.”
You can never force anyone to live up to your anticipation.
Well, that gives this a whole new perspective, doesn’t it? So, who has the control here? That’s right…you do. You control your anticipation and your level of anxiety. You are in the driver’s seat. Which means you are also in control of your own expectations of others. You are in control of the level of anxiety that you expose yourself to.
I still have expectations. These days they come in the form of personal boundaries, except today I am very clear about my expectations from the start and I enforce my personal boundaries when I feel I need to protect myself, and sometimes the other person, from my expectations/anticipation. Rather than deal with needless drama, I will regroup and either adjust my expectations or stay within the boundaries I have created for my own peace of mind. I’m not rigid about this, but I am clear with myself about what I feel I am capable of dealing with, and what adds nothing to my quality of living.
I wrote about expectation years ago in a post entitled Words with a Friend. In that post I wrote:
“Over the years I have granted some not-so-stellar-people all kinds of permissions. I have allowed them to have backstage, all access passes and metaphorically they have come in, eaten my buffet, dirtied my floor, broken my belongings, used my bank cards, borrowed my clothes and stomped all over whatever I had available. Now who is to blame for this? No one, but me. They might be the shits, but I own the asshole.
Today has been one of growth.
Taking those small steps will make you realize what the world out there is really like. Promise yourself that you will not be disillusioned or bitter. Keep your expectations low, but keep them positive. You can still have a voice, but it could be a quiet one from now on. You can work with the same fervor, but do it in the background. I think you can accomplish more and have an even better quality of life if you take this new path, rather than staying on the crowded interstate.”
That’s where I am today when it comes to my expectations of others. I’m just moving through my life with as little drama as possible and constantly making sure I’m not crowding anyone with my high expectations, needless drama or crossing any boundaries they might have for themselves. I continue to teach myself how to see it from their perspective, rather than always seeing it from mine and that has been an adventure for me. For someone that has always bragged about being insightful, I’m more insightful these days than I have ever been in my entire life.
This is Madeline Laughs and I am here to tell you that having high expectations is not all it’s cracked up to be, but wanting something better from life is definitely worth the effort. Take care out there and remember to lower your anxiety by keeping company with people that love you. ❤