There is an inherent fear of expectations in today’s society, to the point where we become completely willing to push anything to the side that we’ve been wanting to explore because of fear that the experience, or even we ourselves, may not live up to the expectations that have been set.
What is an expectation?
An expectation is defined as “the feeling or belief that something will or should happen” – in other words, we just make stuff up and then believe it “should” happen. At the same time, by doing so, we can create our own vault of disappointment, as though we’ve been slighted because the universe didn’t play by the made up rules we created.
The spiral thinking that occurs when considering potential outcomes can create it’s own ball of anxiety as we start to create expectations for ourselves for an event that hasn’t even happened yet. The fear of expectations can leave us frozen, unable or even unwilling to move forward, or face the consequences of our misdirected actions.
The fear of expectations influences our decisions
We put expectations on our relationships, whether it’s how our partner should respond to us or the direction things must be going. On our friendships, about how much time that we should be spending with them, or the way that they should be interacting with us. Our careers, about the direction that we should go and when we should be getting a promotion. Our lifestyles, when we should meet societies milestones by getting married or having kids.
We’re so used to measuring our perceived success by what we “should” do, that the concept of possibly “wasting time” will often lead to us not even trying in the first place. We mark outcomes as being the true mark of success, instead of recognizing the value behind the journey we took to get to that conclusion in the first place.
Shame comes up – “What does this say about me?”
Shame stories come up so quickly when we start to concern ourselves with what it may say about us if we do meet our own expectations. They say we’re a failure, or even create new expectations that this is the way things will always be, because this is just “who we are”. We find it easier to create these stories, to create disappointment for ourselves rather than just looking at these experiences for what they are – experiences.
Albert Schweitzer said “In the hopes of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.” That quote resonated so deeply with me, I got it on my first tattoo.
I wanted to make sure that for all the time I was reaching for the moon, I was making sure that I was seeing the beauty that I was already experiencing along the way. That’s not to say that I promote settling for what you have, but instead, being able to see the value in the time we’ve invested in ourselves and what we’ve learned along the way. Rather than categorizing periods we’ve spent somewhere as a waste of time, such as that relationship or job, we need to see what we really got for our efforts.
Maybe you hated that job, but the money that came in helped you to buy your dream home. Perhaps that marriage was an absolute disaster, but you got wonderful children out of it. The friendship that blew up but taught you incredible conflict resolution skills. Maybe that hair cut was really fucking bad, but you won’t do it again?
Mindset isn’t a fad, it really does make a difference
Reframing really can seem like a bit of a wishy washy coaching, but when it comes down to it, if you’re constantly telling yourself that your life is always going to suck and things will just keep turning to shit, congratulations, you’re probably right.
This is something that I myself can fall into the trap of doing, after experiencing so many traumatic things – I began to just assume the worst possible things would happen to me. That way of thinking, while with my track record can seem understandable, is also creating expectations around my own misfortune. Instead, I try to look at the fact that despite all of that shite, I’m still here. Sure, history says that I can have particularly worse luck that some, but I also have a lot of strength and I’ve achieved some really wonderful things.
Your success rate after giving it a go has already got a higher chance of success than it did when you weren’t moving anywhere. Sure, there’s no guarantee that you’ll achieve what you set out to do, but every single decision we make in life if a gamble, so stop acting as though there’s any way to know in advance if you’re making the right decision and take a step forward.
Expectations could either be a bench mark to work towards for a better life, or they become your prison.
It’s up to you.
Dana Maree xx