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.