You get up every morning with a certain expectation of how the day will go. You leave for work knowing that there will be expectations when you arrive. Throughout the day, you will be interacting with scores of people who have defined expectations of you. Likewise, you have expectations of them. It all continues when you get home at the end of the day. It doesn’t cease until you climb into bed and fall asleep.
Expectations are a normal part of life. We all have them. We all try to live up to them. However, there are three hidden dangers of living this way. They are discussed in a post on the Manhattan Mental Health Counseling website. This post will discuss them in a little more detail.
1. They Are Not an Accurate Reflection
Expectations are a reflection of the person who projects them. They are what that person wants; what that person believes is right. The problem is that expectations are not an accurate reflection of the thoughts ideas of everyone in a group – even when that group has a shared identity, belief system, etc.
Your expectations of someone else probably do not reflect who that person is. Likewise, the expectations others have of you don’t necessarily reflect who you are. We all have different perspectives. We have different starting points from which we see the world and make decisions about it. Trying to meet someone else’s expectations requires trying to fit into their worldview. Projecting your expectations on someone else is projecting your worldview.
2. They Are Almost Always Unrealistic
The curious thing about expectations is that they are almost always unrealistic. They are based in an idealistic view of what life would be like if it were perfect. Your boss might have the expectation that you are going to complete a certain amount of work before the day is over. But that expectation probably doesn’t account for things going wrong.
Likewise, you may have certain expectations of your spouse. In your eyes, that other person should always behave a certain way. Going one step further, your spouse’s behavior should always please you. But such expectations are not realistic. Your spouse is a flawed human being, as are you.
Unrealistic expectations are often unmet for that very reason. If we are not careful, we can allow them to lead us to a place of anger and resentment. More than one relationship has been harmed by unrealistic expectations and the inability to meet them.
3. They Are Rarely Consistent
Manhattan Mental Health Counseling’s third point on this particular topic is that “expectations are contradictory.” Another way to say it is that they are inconsistent. Because no two people see the world exactly alike, no two people have exactly the same expectations of others. But it goes deeper than that. What you expect from one person is probably not the same thing you expect from another. Your expectations are consistent as are those projected on you by others.
Plurawl, a New York City LatinX clothing brand for Hispanic communities, is very big on the idea of authenticity. They encourage their customers to live authentic lives in celebration of their heritage and culture. One of their T-shirts even goes as far as to encourage them to not try to live up to others’ expectations.
That is not bad advice. Expectations are not an accurate reflection of those we project them on. They are almost always unrealistic and rarely consistent. So rather than obsessing over them, it is better to keep them in perspective and move on from there.