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Expectations and comparisons, of other people, nature and self; how we can tweak them to live a more satisfying life

This article talks about the expectations we have of other people, nature and self. I have also written an article on how the expectations of others’ can affect us (to see it CLICK HERE) Even the most relaxed people have expectations – it’s human nature. Whether it’s expecting the weather to be as the forecast predicts, that our parents or siblings will be a certain way as family members, or that our job will be secure in the future. From the small stuff to the big stuff, we have expectations and that is fine and dandy. However, it can become problematic to us if our expectations are (all too often) not met, and our disappointment leads to negative emotions such as sadness or anger. But some of this can be avoided if we tweak what we expect and how to expect it.

There are different categories in which we can place our expectations.

  1. Expectations of others’ emotionally close to us
  2. Expectations of others’ not emotionally close to us
  3. Expectations of nature
  4. Expectations of self

Expectations of others’ emotionally close to us incorporates friends, family or partners and often has the most impact on us if our expectations are not met. This is because our emotions can be more easily triggered, and we are out of control of what is happening.

We like to be in control. I don’t mean controlling people, as that is another matter entirely. I mean generally in control of what is happening if it impacts on us. So, if someone close to us is doing something that hurts us or disappoints us, we want to get control of the situation, so the person behaves or does things in the way we think they should. But this is just not possible unless we become controlling, so we need to either accept what the person is doing or not doing, talk to them to find out why they are doing what they are doing and explain how it is impacting on us, or just suffer the effects, helplessly.

What is important to remember is that although we are not in control of what is going on, we are in control of ourselves and how we view things, how we react, and what we will do with our feelings and the actions that come from them. If we remain against what the person is doing, we will be in an internal battle, helpless and frustrated. If we accept that the person is doing what they are doing and there’s nothing more we can do about it if we think it’s wrong, we free ourselves of our helplessness and frustration.

This is simplified, of course, for the sake of this article not being pages and pages long, but you get the gist…

Negative impact expectations of those close to us also may also be self-driven just because our expectations are too high or impossible. What do we expect of our mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, friends, partner? Are they realistic? What are they based on? Are we comparing what other people’s mothers, fathers etc are like to them? Are we judging? Or are we just basing them on getting our basic needs met from these people? Because if we are not getting our needs met, then maybe change does need to occur. And if the person does not want to change, we have to make decisions based on what is best for us – even if it means not communicating with them for our own benefit.

These things are not black and white, but it does pay to look at things from as many angles as possible, so we can be sure of what we expect and why, and how important it is to us.

Expectations of those not close to us. This could be work colleagues that we feel don’t pull their weight, how we see strangers behaving in public or customer service levels we receive. Was the waitress rude? (Am I taking it personally? Was she just having a bad day? Did I misinterpret efficiency for rudeness?) Why is that person I don’t know being loud/slurping their tea/dragging their feet? (Why am I bothered about it?) Why does my co-worker leave so much work for me yet gets all the credit? (Maybe something needs to be done as this is directly impacting our ability and attitude to work).

Expectations of nature (weather, events unfolding etc) requires a lot more acceptance as we usually cannot do very much or nothing at all about it. However, we can be prepared for anything (take an umbrella or have a back up plan) to ease our disappointment of unwanted surprises.

Expectations of self. Now this is something we really ARE in control of, like it or not, but often don’t see it.

OK, we need to have a certain amount of expectations of ourselves – this keeps us motivated, helps us to set goals for ourselves (personal or work driven), and keeps us in order with regard to how we treat others’. Expectations of self are important, even if they lead to a certain amount of disappointment. That’s natural. But, when we pile them up too high and expect things of ourselves that we cannot possibly achieve, or we beat ourselves up too much if we don’t do things well enough according to our high standards, it’s not good. This can lead to even more negative emotions and a feeling that we have ‘failed’ or am a ‘failure’. Those feelings can then take away our motivation to try again or move on and much more. Feelings of failure can lead to depressive moods or anxiety and so it goes on. But, some of this can be avoided if we are realistic in our expectations of self and are kind to ourselves if we don’t achieve exactly what we set out to do. Some questions to ask ourselves… What do we want to achieve? Do we have the ability? If not, can we get help? Am I expecting myself to do something based on how other people do it? Am I comparing to others? Is it realistic?

We don’t fail, we learn.

We don’t lose, we learn.

All the above tips on this subject are simplified and are not individualised as they would be in a counselling session, and I have only covered this topic for the sake of positive psychology and helping us to feel better. If we really do mess up with the actions we take, then of course there can be consequences, and the same for if someone oversteps the mark with us. That is another matter entirely, and sometimes plain acceptance or ‘learning our lesson’ are not apt or good enough. It is too big a subject and things like that cannot be discussed one way in an article such as this.

I hope these tips help to make you think about your expectations and how you can take some pressure off yourself by tweaking your expectations in life.

Take care! 😊

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