In the wise words of William Shakespeare, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”
Ain’t that the truth.
We get our hopes up, only to have them dashed.
Whenever we cling to something —whether that’s a person, an idea, or a desired outcome— it hurts when it doesn’t pan out the way we want.
But contrary to what we often believe, the problem doesn’t lie in the outside world, it lies within us. The good news is, that means we have the power to change it.
If you’re always feeling disappointed, it’s time to say goodbye to these 8 expectations…
1) That people should behave how you want them to
People are not puppets.
We all have free will. On top of that, we’re all so very different.
We have totally unique personalities, backgrounds, experiences, and entire frameworks of how we see the world.
So we cannot expect anyone to view things the exact same way we do. Yet we can quickly lose our cool as soon as people don’t.
We get annoyed if someone suits themselves, rather than putting our needs first.
We get angry when someone “lets us down” by breaking a promise.
We are hurt when someone behaves disrespectfully or rudely towards us.
I’m not saying it’s okay to do those things. But we create disappointment within us whenever we:
- Take the actions of other people personally (rather than see it as a reflection of them)
- Make somebody else responsible for our feelings
When we do so, we give away our power.
Because, as we’ll see next, it’s easy to get lost in a story of how everything “should” go in life.
2) That bad things shouldn’t happen
Maybe they shouldn’t. But hey, that’s also life.
I’m sorry, I know that’s not particularly comforting. But whenever we internally resist whatever realities already exist, we only make more suffering for ourselves.
Plus, when you keep telling yourself “It’s not fair” you slip into victim mode.
You feel less in control and tend to focus more on what you cannot change instead of what you can.
When I was a kid I would complain to my mum that “it’s not fair” (basically whenever I wasn’t getting my own way) and she would remind me:
“Well, life’s not fair”.
This fact doesn’t need to defeat us. We don’t have to use it to feed into some kind of woe-is-me narrative. We can use it to prepare ourselves.
Because we’re far better off accepting what already is and getting on with things.
When we expect that unjust, unfair, or unreasonable things should never happen to us, we unwittingly fight against life.
When we learn to flow with it instead, we can take the rough with the smooth and build our resistance.
You can never stop some bad or sad things from happening, but you can become more resilient to them. And that all starts with accepting that life will sometimes deal you an unfortunate hand.
3) Hoping that a partner will complete you
Romantic relationships are a breeding ground for unmet expectations.
It’s unsurprising considering the amount of pressure society has pilled on them.
Up until the 18th century, the idea of love and marriage going hand and hand wasn’t even a thing.
Marriage was a practical union and had very little to do with feelings. But after the Romantic Revolution, we started to expect more…way more.
Fairytales filled our heads with the notion that our other half would come along and save us so we could live happily ever after.
Romantic comedies have us daydreaming that life will totally fall into place, just as soon as you’ve met “the one”.
The problem is that it does real relationships a disservice.
As soon as we build our entire world around just one person, we expect far too much from them.
They must be our confidant, therapist, best friend, support system, and lover all rolled into one.
4) That people will automatically know how you feel
Silent expectations are the absolute worst.
Not only do we pin our happiness on what someone else says and does, but we also expect them to guess what it is that we want from them.
As ludicrous as this approach to getting our needs met sounds, how many of us are guilty of it?
I know I’ve done it plenty of times.
We think things like:
- If they care, they will pick up on my feelings
- They should understand me well enough to know exactly how I feel at all times
- They should pay enough attention to sense when something is wrong
- I will test them by seeing if they act how I want, without actually telling them what it is that I want
But alas, people continue to not be able to read our minds, and so we continue to feel disappointed.
How dare they!
5) That others will validate you and make you feel good about yourself
It’s undoubtedly a lovely feeling whenever we are appreciated. But praise is fickle, and we cannot rely on it as our main source of validation.
We avoid far more disappointment in life when we take both accolades and criticism with a pinch of salt.
If you constantly chase the approval of others, you are bound to wind up disheartened.
It’s not someone else’s job to make you feel good about yourself.
That’s why we need to create our own deep source of self-esteem and self-love.
We simply cannot rely on kind words, compliments, and applause from outside sources. We must develop our own internal motivation and acknowledgment.
6) That everything should go according to plan
When we are adaptable we can make the best of a situation.
When we’re not, we cling to an idea in our heads of how we think everything “should” have worked out. So we feel crushed when life has other ideas.
We can quickly get stuck in the past rather than moving forward.
Sometimes things don’t work out the way we had hoped. That can feel very disappointing at the moment, but it could actually be for the best.
Think about it:
In the overall context of your life, you don’t know enough yet to say whether any particular event will end up having an overall positive or negative impact in the grand scheme of things.
For example, you may go through a nasty breakup that makes you feel terrible. You could reminisce and long to get back together.
But in 5 years from now you might be counting your blessings that it ended. You are happier than ever before and married to the love of your life.
The point is:
There isn’t only one route to happiness in life, there are multiple. Don’t get fixated on taking one particular path.
7) That life should hand things to you on a silver platter
The way your life looks right now is up to you.
If you want something, it’s down to you to get it.
If you don’t like something, it’s down to you to change it.
If someone treats you poorly, it’s down to you to remove them from your life.
If there’s something you want to be, it’s down to you to make those changes.
Extreme self-responsibility is one of the best ways to cut out unnecessary disappointment.
Because rather than putting ourselves at the mercy of life to be kind to us, we roll up our sleeves and decide our happiness is down to us.
When we sit around waiting for life to deliver everything we are hoping for, it’s an entitled attitude that will get us nowhere.
8) That you should feel happy all of the time
When I was a mixed-up teenager I saw a psychologist. I’ll tell you something she once said that has always stuck with me:
“Happiness is a fleeting emotion, it should be contentment that you seek”.
We can spend our entire lives chasing happiness. It’s understandable. That is the ultimate goal for all of us, right?
But sometimes the more we play hide and seek with it, the more elusive it feels.
I am not saying that we should accept depression, anxiety, stress, sadness and just live with it.
I’m just saying that it’s okay to set the bar a little lower. Because happiness 24-7 is unrealistic.
We end up setting ourselves up for failure and making ourselves wrong for the so-called “negative” emotions we inevitably have.
But they are an unavoidable and important part of the richness of life.
When we can make peace with the wide range of feelings that make up the human experience, they lose a lot of their influence over us.
We’re no longer swept away by them and see them for what they are — passing energetic moods that come and go.
Final thoughts: Lower expectations don’t mean lower standards
It’s always useful for us to question whether our expectations are fair and reasonable.
But that’s not to say that we should shift our standards. Our basic expectations of others are useful in creating healthy boundaries.
Yet we can consider where we might be dumping responsibility for ourselves onto others.
That way we can ditch the disappointment by shifting our way of thinking and better communicating with people.
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