expectations

E: EXPECTATIONS

Sylvia Plath: ‘If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed’:The Bell Jar.

 This may seem a rather negative and pessimistic outlook on life but let’s look at how ‘expectations’ impact on our every day lives.

‘I expected that I would get the promotion at work’.

‘I truly expected that my husband/wife would never have an affair’.

‘I expected that my relationship/partner/spouse would bring me happiness and fill the hole in my heart’.

‘I just assumed that all was ok with Jane/John and expected that s/he understood …’

‘I expected that after all I had done for Jane/John that s/he would have reciprocated when it was my turn …’

So many expectations, so many disappointments when they are not met. Our sports heroes – Oscar Pistorius here in South Africa, Lance Armstrong – we set them up as heroes and are crushed when we feel failed. They have not upheld the ideal of what we expected.

What about the reality of our lives? Do we build a wall around ourselves when we have expectations of how ‘things should be’? Because sadly, along with expectations is this ‘assumption’ of how things should be. What about seeing life for what it is, instead of how we expect it to be? Many times our expectations are false and/or unrealistic and place an uninvited burden on the other.

I am not sure whether this is something we learn as we experience disappointments, or whether it is as plain as day. Surely it is unfair on the other to have expectations of them. Yet, paradoxically, I am at home with my family having expectations of me – that I can be depended upon no matter the situation. My friends can expect loyalty from me and a willing hand to help whenever needed. This is a valid expectation which I am happy enough and prepared to fulfil. This is on my terms or way of being. But, do I expect my friends to be at my beck and call just because they are my friends?

We do have certain expectations I suppose, that e.g. our president and the cabinet, or colleagues, or health care system, or road agency, or spouse, or children or school will meet the mandate given them. I expect that the flight that I have booked will leave on time. I expect that the hairdresser’s scissors will not accidentally slip when my hair is being cut. I expect that I will die; I expect that according to the law of averages, my sons will outlive me. I hope they produce children – that would be a lovely bonus.

I think the only legitimate view on expectations though, is to have high expectations of our own self, and then work hard to make that a reality – and even to exceed our own expectations.

13 Comments on E: EXPECTATIONS

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  2. You hit the nail on the head Gwynn about assumed expectations .. it is so not fair! And you summarise it so well when you say about living up to our own expectations of ourselves, hard though this may be – as I personally know so well.

    I guess we keep on learning and the gift of being through what you have been, is to know not to repeat the pattern.

    Thank you dear Gwynn for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate this very much!

  3. Having been brought up in a judgmental and critical family, I attempted to be a “people-pleaser” but never knowing what the “expectations” were, I always felt I lost the battle. Assumed expectations can be so lethal to one’s self-esteem, particularly when we think we have failed, we beat ourselves up even more.

    The critical point is to learn to live by our own reasonable and clearly defined expectations, but sometimes that is easier said than done.

    As always, Susan, you give a thought-provoking posting. Thank you.

  4. Love this : ” I think the only legitimate view on expectations though, is to have high expectations of our own self, and then work hard to make that a reality – and even to exceed our own expectations”

    I have learned over the years now to set higher expectations of myself and not of others, because others seem to always let me down I guess.

    Great post, with deep insight , truly enjoyed it!

    • Thank you for stopping by Leslie and commenting! It’s awful to be let down – I guess the important thing is for each of us is to avoid where possible letting others down. Yet, if others have put a high expectation on us, they may well be disappointed – but it seems to me that this then becomes their own ‘issue’ .. as in Lance Armstrong etc ..

  5. Raised by an emotionally and verbally abusive mother who demanded perfection, most of my life has been spent attempting to get someone’s approval for who I am. Therefore, my expectations for myself and too often for others as well are extremely high. I’m learning (now at 67) that this is not healthy, and through a series of family circumstances have achieved peace and understanding that I don’t have to measure up to the expectations of others. I enjoyed this post and the truth in it. Thank you!!

    • Thank you Sherrey for commenting! I appreciate this. What a great lesson to learn that it is not important to live up to others’ expectations!

  6. Hi,

    Sometimes even our own expectations of ourselves are murderous. We are all human beings, and I believe there is a desire in us to excel and do our best. There is also a healthy desire to expect that others will do their best towards us.

    The paradox appears when we expect this without having a loving heart. If love is not the foundation of my expectations, then I will look at whatever I do as something that must be paid back.

    If I cannot love my neighbor as I love myself, then my expectations will not allow for their weaknesses as my love for myself will not allow for my weaknesses.

    To realize that my failings or my mistakes, when I don’t meet my own expectations, don’t wipe away my desire to receive love and be kind is a major step towards being myself and the person I am call to be. It helps me reach out to people as I inwardly reach out to myself unconditionally, regardless of who they are and what their status in life may be or may have been.

    I base it on the principle of everyone make mistakes and everyone falls short of his own expectations.

    Thank you for the opportunity to espouse on how I see expectations.
    Great post, I enjoyed it.
    Ciao,
    Patricia

    • Patricia, as always such a thoughtful response thank you, that makes me rethink my post on expectations.

      But I still think that we may wish and hope that others would treat us the way we treat them. I do not expect it of them – they may have their reasons unbeknown to me and maybe not even based on me personally.

      I certainly fall short of my desire or wish or hope to fulfil a dream – many, many of us do – and you are right, they are murderous. I would not call it an expectation that I have, that my dream will be fulfilled. I know that all I can do is the best that I can for myself to fulfil my dream (which is not so often), and have no attachment to outcome.

      I will do the best that I can vis a vis people, but I do not expect the same in return. I may wish it, or desire it, or hope for it, but I don’t expect it.

      I have taken the liberty of copying and pasting your words below in my reply to you, because they reflect the way that I too feel. I wish I could write them in red, italicise them etc but I cannot manage that.

      “To realize that my failings or my mistakes, when I don’t meet my own expectations, don’t wipe away my desire to receive love and be kind is a major step towards being myself and the person I am called to be. It helps me reach out to people as I inwardly reach out to myself unconditionally, regardless of who they are and what their status in life may be or may have been”.

      Beautiful words, thank you Patricia.

      Shalom.

  7. Disappointment – one of the saddest words in the English language. Thanks for commenting Dan. You put it so well about having something or someone to depend on or trust and have faith in …

  8. Unmet expectations big and small are a huge part of life. Sometimes having to adapt on the fly when plans don’t work out can be fun but disappointments can be so painful. I guess that’s why it’s nice to have something or someone you can truly count on, something you can trust and have faith in.

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