Freedom from Expectations and Living a life full of happiness.
Expectations dictate your life much more than you’re probably aware. Whether they are high or low, your expectations are predictions of what you expect out of life. Let go of expectations. At times, they set you up for great joy, but at others, they prepare you for huge disappointment and disillusionment. However, do you realize how significant they are to every level of your functioning?
We all know what expectations are and that they can be negative or positive, but few of us realize that it’s more complex than being an optimist or a pessimist. Expectations determine your very reality, but how are they formed? Have you ever thought about what forms the way you approach situations or relationships? Or how you can adjust the way you think to make life more enjoyable and productive?
Most of our expectations operate subconsciously and, therefore, become automatic. As a result, a lot of what we say and do, we don’t even think about. So where does it come from? Our expectations are molded and developed throughout our life both people around us, explicitly and implicitly.
As children, it’s the adults in our life that influence how we think about safety, behavior, and love – our thoughts about community, culture, and family. We decide over time what’s appropriate to say and what isn’t. Our manners and rituals are ingrained within us because of how we are raised. It’s things as simple as hygiene or how to cross the street. Some things are taught outright while others are observed and learned implicitly just by simply taking in what those around you do.
A lot of these rules you adopt into your own life, but a few you test and decide for yourself whether or not they are true. You decide how significant they are to your life and what applies. Over time, you are also influenced by peers and co-workers. They validate or refute what you learned as a child, and you grow and the world expands around you, your expectations evolve based on what you’re taking in. As a result, old expectations expand or retract as your knowledge grows. Most of this process happens subconsciously, however, so you are unaware. The things you say, do or feel come from deep within, and you’ve never really even thought about it.
Because of this, you really haven’t taken the time to consider what influences your judgments and behaviors and, therefore, where your expectations come from. Operating on autopilot, you don’t even realize they are there, influencing everything you do.
The role your automatic thought plays in how you function is extremely important. Think of driving a car; you do it automatically over time and are able to carry conversations and listen to the radio all at the same time. But if we learn to be more self-aware about what influences our thinking and behavior, our lives can improve for the better as we learn to control it.
Relationships – No Expectations No Disappointments
From an early age, your expectations – both positive and negative – of what a relationship looks like are influenced by those around you. Depending on what your childhood looked like, you may have social and emotional deficits or confidence, confusion, or fear. It’s these interactions from your childhood that also influence how you interpret the behavior of others, as well.
Every interaction and relationship you have is viewed through a particular lens with certain expectations in mind. However, we often forget that every other person has their own lens, their own expectations through which they function. This is where misunderstandings and hurts so often arise, even though they may have been unintentional. Let go of expectations because it may hurt your relationship. One should hold no expectations in a relationship.
Since your expectations about relationships are informed by early interactions, it’s important to keep in mind the egocentric perspective that you – and everyone else – has. If a friend or partner doesn’t live up to the expectations you have, you’d do well to put yourself in their shoes and consider what they’re probably thinking.
Our firsts instinct is to personalize and internalize our disappointments, but we’d do much better if we learned to communicate them instead. Every time our expectations aren’t met, we choose how we want to interpret whatever has happened. For example, a friend saying no to going to the bowling alley with a group might be more about their social anxiety and less about their dislike of the people boing.
Self – Expectations and Disappointment
Expectations we set for ourselves can be potentially debilitating. Ingrained within each of us is what we believe is acceptable to think or feel, what is okay to do or say. My own expectations dictate my thinking and behavior, and most often they are developed by the responses of those around us about how we look and act, or often about what we should be doing with our lives and how we should relate to family, culture, and community.
We usually have pretty valid expectations about what we are and are not capable of or what we’re willing to do or to participate in. When our expectations are unrealistic, they can quite quickly defeat us. Whether they are too high or too low, the effects are only negative, keeping you from achieving the goals you’ve set and you will be feeling disappointed with life. What’s interesting is that you can have all three kinds of expectations about yourself at the same time in different areas of your life.
For instance, you may have extremely realistic expectations of yourself in your professional life, very low ones as a parent, and too high of expectations of yourself in a relationship. So, you may realize that you are good at what you do, so you do it with great competence, but at home, you’re often trying to make up for where you feel you fail and are working yourself to the bone, and with your partner, you’re always attempting to go above and beyond to be the greatest lover there ever was when all they want is to simply be loved.
We all need a little dose of self-awareness to keep our expectations in check. Being able to identify realistically where your strengths and weaknesses lie is healthy and helps you to manage your expectations well, building your sense of self and creating a more successful life. However, maintain realistic expectations can be a challenge as more events happen over time that, at times, radically change our lenses.
A major life change, whether it’s a job loss, a serious illness or injury, or the death of someone close can completely shatter the expectations you’ve long held for yourself; you may find they are no longer relevant and the certainty you once had is gone.
For example, if you’ve always thought yourself as one who is independent, healthy, and strong, a life-altering injury could completely rupture your sense of self. It’s not easy to let go of the expectations that you once had for yourself, to realize that they are no longer relevant or realistic. It’s hard to cope when what lies at your subconscious is severely impacted.
The expectation we have for ourselves gives us a sense of security and consistency; they are familiar. But holding onto them once they no longer apply can be hugely debilitating. However, healthily changing your expectations gives you the ability to deal with what has happened to you, helping you to be more aware as you adapt to new circumstances.
Our biases, prejudices, and poor judgments are exposed to the expectations we have for others. In some ways, they are helpful as we size up the people around us. They can warn us of a threatening person. But other times, they can be harmful as they influence us in negative ways. You might react to someone as if they are a threat when there is no threat.
Since the way we process people around us is subconscious, we often don’t even realize how we negatively process new information about them in a way that helps convince us that our judgment was correct and justified. We miss out on so many opportunities and quality relationships as a result.
No matter how enlightened you may be about prejudice, gender, race, religion, or appearance, no one is completely immune to the power of their inner expectations. Since our expectations function at a level below our conscious, you may not even be aware of how you are judging or behaving on a daily basis. What we need to do is go beyond the automatic and consider those around us more carefully. The more aware we are of how the expectations of those around influence how we live our lives, the more we can genuinely live within our values with integrity.
Research has shown that you can judge the same person differently depending on what lens you are looking through. For example, you may meet someone in the workplace and think one thing about them and meet the same person at a social gathering and come up with a completely different opinion. We operate out of different expectations depending on the setting we are in. In another way, the reason we are meeting someone changes the way we perceive them. Is it a friend of a friend? Your sister’s fiancé? Your boyfriend’s parents? Your lens will change with each one.
Let go of expectations
Unhealthy choices begin when we base what we do too much on what the expectations of those around us have. We need to be careful not only of how we judge others but of how we respond to other’s perceptions of us. If not, we’ll end up losing our own sense of self.
To an extent, of course, the expectations of others must be considered. Social etiquette and work environment expectations should be abided by and can even be motivating, but when undue pressure is added is when we must take a step back. It can easily point us in directions we don’t want to go and interfere with our own success. This is another level of awareness – knowing how the expectations of those around us influence our behavior. Know this aids you in effectively ridding yourself of roles you don’t want to play. You’ll be able to judge others fairly and to have a realistic sense of self.
Self-awareness is key to reaching your goals and having a happy, satisfying life. Freeing yourself from the expectations of others opens yourself up to more success.
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