“My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.” — Stephen Hawking
Have you ever expected someone to take your feelings into consideration, only to be hurt when they didn’t?
During a time when you were struggling, have you ever expected someone near and dear to check in? Then when they didn’t, you felt hurt and resentful?
Have you ever expected someone to be there for you in the same way you’ve been there for them, then when they didn’t show up as you would have, you found yourself royally ticked off?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you’re definitely not alone.
You’d think after being disappointed and having my feelings hurt repeatedly, I’d maybe get the hint that having expectations of others might not be a good thing.
Nope. Didn’t get that hint.
My expectations were clearly on the rinse and repeat cycle until a coach I was working with made a suggestion.
Lower my expectations of others.
Pardon me? What? Lower my expectations?
I didn’t get it. I didn’t get that it wasn’t for me to expect other people to be decent, kind, caring, aware, giving, loving, considerate, etc.
I honestly thought it was okay to have those expectations. Isn’t that what people should be?
In short, those expectations became a habit, a perpetual dance with disappointment, anger, and resentment. And being totally honest, they were sometimes a way for me to feel “better than” during a time when I felt the exact opposite. (Cue the inner voice: “I’d consider your feelings before doing that. I’d be there for you.”)
I didn’t understand the lower my expectations thing until I was ready to change the habit. Once I was ready, here’s what I got: My expectations were the issue, not others.
I expected others to handle things in a similar vein to me.
I expected them to be what I wanted them to be.
I expected them to show up for me in the way that I’d show up.
No wonder I was disappointed, resentful, hurt, and angry. Those people weren’t me, and it was unfair of me to expect them to be. And in hindsight, kind of pompous of me.
Once I got that, the disappointment, hurt, and anger lessened. That was, until I got my feelings hurt again.
Somehow, most recently, that little lesson on expectations skipped out of town.
I completely forgot about the lowering of expectations. I completely forgot it’s unfair of me to expect others to be what I want them to be or react in ways I need them to. And subsequently, I got my feelings hurt.
I won’t bore you with my pity-party-ish details because they don’t really matter. What matters is the reminder that expectations are an unfair bitch when it comes to others. An unfair bitch that we can kick to the curb.
And in honor of her departure, I offer these insights:
1. It’s OK to have reasonable expectations. Yep, for yourself. And here’s a little “litmus test”: if you’ve set an expectation for yourself and you’re having a difficult time meeting it, it could be a cool indicator that it’s time to lower it a smidgen.
2. It’s not personal. Someone not showing up in the way you wish them to or not taking your feelings into consideration isn’t because of you. Trust me, it’s because of them and how they see or don’t see things, how they feel, what’s going on in their world, etc. The bottom line: it’s not personal.
3. Ask for what you need, because people really aren’t mind-readers. I don’t say that to be snarky. I say that because it’s true. Sure, it would make things easier if they were, especially since asking can be kinda challenging to the old ego. The one thing I remind myself of consistently is that if I don’t ask, the answer will always be “no”.
So, my friends, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to take a page out of Stephen Hawking’s book and lower my expectations again. That way, anything positive someone else does is an unexpected bonus!