Expectations – are they good, bad or ugly?

April 6, 2016

Every time people tell me not to have expectations of others it both surprises and irritates me. Is that really do-able? To just live life not wanting anything from anyone – love, respect, punctuality, patience, trust?

I have heard this several times, “Don’t expect anything from your parents because then if they don’t give you anything you won’t be disappointed. Seriously? Okay, so how would that play out?

I didn’t expect anything from my parents and so they have given everything to my siblings and I have nothing, but hey, I didn’t expect anything to begin with, so I shouldn't be disappointed right? (!), or how about a friend that I invested in who has forgotten to call me on my birthday, invite me for her wedding or even visit me before I was wheeled in for major surgery? I guess because I didn’t have any expectations her indifference should not really matter right? Wrong!

Everyone has expectations – parents expect their children to be obedient and do well in their exams - couples expect fidelity, love and trust from each other –friends, loyalty, sensitivity and concern. So back to my initial question, is it really bad to have expectations of others and more importantly how do you handle your feelings when the expectations aren’t met?

Tone your expectations down
There is nothing wrong in having expectations but you need to ensure that you have realistic expectations of people. If your husband isn’t a top chef in the kitchen but you still expect him to wake you up with a home cooked gourmet breakfast in bed for your 10th anniversary then you need to check your head instead of your expectations. Seriously, you can’t expect people to excel in areas that they aren’t good at or interested in. So make sure that your expectations are inline with what the person can do.

More conversation and less confrontation
Many times, we might feel immense disappointment when a parent lets us down. The reason could be something minor –forgetting an important event, not treating a friend/partner politely, saying something rude or could be major – not coming for a wedding or birth of a child, not donating a kidney or cutting you off completely. Should you just let it go and hide the disappointment till it gives you ulcers or should you confront them? Confronting them might still get you a tight slap irrespective of your age. So what you can do is invite them over for a nice cup of coffee or send a carefully worded email. Don’t lace your content with sarcasm or #ifeelsosorryformyself. Rather let it come straight from the heart. Let them know you are sharing what you are because you genuinely care and want the relationship to be better. This method works well with siblings, co-workers, employers and pesky neighbours.

To let go or hold on?
So you toned your expectations down + you sent a gigantic gift basket +wrote a letter which you poured your tears and feelings into but it got you nothing. Its in this moment you decide, should I let the person go (obviously certain people can’t be fit in this category) or you can learn how to handle your disappointment when your expectations are not met.

Having expectations is as natural as singing in the shower. But just make sure that your expectations are not so hard and difficult that even you won’t be able to meet them.

by Jacqueline Olivia

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