We all have them. For ourselves. For our relationships. For our families, friends, and peers. For how we thought life should look.
The problem with expectations is that it requires perfection. There is no room for error or unplanned events. And when things don’t go as we planned, or people don’t behave as we’d like them to, we find ourselves in a plethora of negative emotions.
Why is that?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.
Life is Fucking Messy.
Both of my parents are alcoholics. They divorced when I was 8ish or so. There was so much animosity that I persistently felt on edge. I could go into how dysfunctional my childhood was, but I’ll save that for another time. The point is that I grew up without the experience of “normal”.
As I became a young woman, I decided that my life would NOT be like that. I would get married, have a child, work hard, and create a healthy, normal life for my child.
The problem arose when I began to place so many expectations on what I THOUGHT should be normal that I placed unhealthy expectations on not only myself, but my then husband.
What ensued was years of stress, torment, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Instead of enjoying the life I had, I was busy trying to create the life I thought I needed.
I’ve always been a “good” person, with inherently positive intentions, but I was not always kind. I was not always forgiving. I was not always accepting. I was not always supportive. In hindsight, I became the exact opposite of what I had hoped to become.
This is what expectation does to you. It robs you of the qualities that make you human in an effort to maintain some sort of unrealistic version of the people and events around you.
But guess what?
Those expectations? They’re all in your head. You manifested them and you have the power to challenge them.
When I think about my divorce, I am saddened by the fact that my expectations were unreachable and he was always on the losing side. You see, he hurt me in the end, but I hurt him in the middle. This is something the two of us have come to terms with and we have moved forward with in a respectable fashion, but wherever there is pain, there is a lesson.
I strive to be more of who I want to become daily.
I am not perfect, but I can be kind, and forgiving; loving, and supportive… even when I’m disappointed, irritated, or hurt.
I am in a new relationship now. One that is healthy and fulfilling. He is kind, and curious, and loving, and objective. He has brought so much change to my life by just being in it. I am grateful for this… I am grateful for him.
My desire as I move forward in this relationship is to not re-create the mistakes of the past. I don’t ever want him to feel like he is competing with some version of himself I’ve created in my head. I just want him to be himself. Wholly and unapologetically.
Here are some examples of how my perspective on expectations have changed:
Hope For, but Don’t Expect: Don’t confuse not having expectations with not having hope. I can hope for something, but not be obliterated by it when it doesn’t happen. In a reverse scenario, my daughter unexpectedly spend a weekend with a friend. I am a very introverted person and I don’t get very much alone time on the reg. I spent the weekend taking hot baths, reading, and writing. I found out that Sunday that he was disappointed that I didn’t choose to spend my alone time with him. He didn’t communicate his desires for me to give him some of my time, he just expected that I would want to. His mood was clearly affected by what happened and what he expected to happen.
Communicate Clearly: Which comes to communication. He had this idea in his head of what he wanted me to do, but he didn’t express this to me. Had he expressed his need at the beginning of the weekend I would have been able to make the decision to either give him some of my time or explain to him the reason for my need to be alone. He hoped for me to choose him, but had I not, he wouldn’t have spent the weekend thinking about it. He would have known my intentions for the weekend and been able to do something else with his time. He may have been disappointed, but he wouldn’t be stewing on the emotion all weekend. Your needs are important, but if you don’t communicate your needs they surely won’t be met.
Don’t Allow The Behavior of Another to Change Your Mood: As a mother, this has become more important as my daughter has gotten older. She gets moody and rude sometimes. She leaves messes around the house and freaks out when things don’t go her way. While I can sympathize with what she is going through, I don’t have to let it have an impact on my own emotions. For example, She wanted to have a sleepover and I told her no. I can’t even remember why at this point, but that’s not the point. The point is that she was disappointed and became very disrespectful so I had to ground her to her room. I took the moment to call a friend and we were laughing and commiserating on life when my daughter came out and asked, “why are you laughing?” My response, “Your bad afternoon isn’t going to ruin mine.”
Crappy Shit Happens. Find The Humor and Let It Go, or Create a Plan and Fix It, or All of the Above: There are things you have control over, and there are things you don’t. It’s just the way of life. Little things, big things, red things, blue things.
Take Responsibility for Your Actions and Emotions: You, and you alone, have the power to control your actions and emotions. If I’m being a bitch, it is no ones fault but my own. This was something I did a lot of when I was younger. “It’s your fault I’m acting like a crazed psycho lady because you forgot to take out the trash.” WTF? I was a crazed psycho lady all on my own manifested by my expectations that were not met.
Always Express Gratitude: Guess what I did when the trash was taken out? Nothing. It was expected, and I wasn’t very grateful when it got done, but I sure was irritated when it wasn’t. I try to express gratitude whenever I can now, because the truth is there is always a choice to do something or not, to say something or not, and when the choice by another is made to please you, to help you, to elevate you in any way it should be met with thanks. And the less I expect, the more genuine my gratitude.
Acknowledge and Complement: Because positive reinforcement promotes positive behavior, and to be honest, it feels good. When I do a good job at work and someone notices me, it encourages me to keep it up. People love positive affirmations. Give them and receive them frequently and freely. Be a positive force and watch how your life changes.
Forgive and Move On: Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Holding onto toxic emotions and using them to fuel your expectations will only hurt you in the long run.
As I’ve learned to practice these behaviors, I’ve secretly “Unlocked my happiness”.
Positive Mind. Positive Vibes. Positive Life.
How have unrealistic expectations shaped your life? What lessons have you learned? What kind of impact do you want to make? What kind of person do you want to be?
If you enjoyed this article, check out “Perfection Impedes Acceptance” where I write about the expectations I had of myself as a mother, and how I overcame the Perfect Mom Persona. https://oneflawsomemomma.com/2017/01/17/one-flawsome-momma-perfection-impedes-acceptance/
One Flawsome Momma