“All expectation creates disappointment”-Steve Ross, Happy Yoga
Don’t worry, this isn’t a book review of the Dickens classic. Honestly, I’ve never read the book. I’ve just watched the glorious 90s movie version with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke.But there are some similarities between the theme of that book and today’s blog topic. Each and everyone of us has expectations. There are expectations of ourselves and expectations of others. While there are merits to these expectations and they can be used as a guide to navigate relationships they can also ruin them. Both types of expectations can destroy relationships and can be set so high that they set us up for failure.
First lets talk about expectations of ourselves. From the time we are born expectations are placed on us. Who remembers what your parents expected of you? Were you expected to make all A’s, be in every extra curricular, play musical instruments, excel at a sport or two or three, be the best Christian in your youth group, never say a bad word, “act like a lady” (my favorite), be home by 10 pm, never let people see you struggle, be on top and in control of e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g…you were expected to be the best. Maybe you were expected to be just “OK”. Not quite the over achiever but make decent grades, play one sport, “act like you have class” (another great one!). How about being the brunt of low expectations. You were expected to just get by without getting in trouble or ending up in juvenile detention, or “not being like your dad/mom” (parents have brilliant moments don’t they?).
Where did those expectations come from? Who is responsible for telling us what is expected of us before they understand who we are, what are circumstances are, and where we are in the moment? Unfortunately, most people cannot answer this. Growing up I would ask my parents all the time why they believed in something or why we did certain things (most of the time it pertained to a religious aspect but sometimes it was about why they believed what they did) and all I could get was “that’s just what we do” or “that’s just how it’s always been”. I never liked that answer. These expectations of “what is becoming of a young woman” (I got that at least 2-3 x/month) , “what love is like”, “only good girls who make all A’s get into college” or whatever else pertained to you growing up shapes how you view the world, view others, and view yourself.
In addition to familial, cultural, and societal expectations placed upon us we begin to generate our own expectations. I’ll share with you one of my expectations. I treat everyone fairly and with kindness (As much as I can I am only human). I expect for people to do the same for me. I’m a firm believer in the golden rule and the whole concept of karma (law of action). We all have expectations and place them on others whether we want to admit it or not. When someone fails my expectations and doesn’t reciprocate kindness for kindness *insert your expectation* I am hurt, disappointed, and angry. I constantly find myself saying to my husband, “I just don’t understand how people aren’t nice”, “I don’t understand why people can’t be kind”, “I’ve been nothing but nice, considerate, and giving. What do I get in return? Nothing! Not even a thank you note!”. I recently experienced this first hand. I was very upset that all my hard and free work, my life, my soul was given to an institution. When it was all said and done, I gave my thank you notes, kinds words and nothing was reciprocated. I immediately lost all control and wanted to drop all contact with the institution and individual. I expected them to see my hard work and give me what I was seeking for-kindness and appreciation.After some long venting sessions with the husband I realized that they didn’t know my expectations. That not everyone shares my same opinions on how to treat people. It isn’t their problem, but mine for projecting and expecting them to be how I want them to be. These failed expectations also lead us to judgemental behavior, “if only they were raised better they would know that is how you do x-y-z etc…”. And judging gets you no where! No one likes to be judged…
So where do these expectations truly come from? Everything we know and believe is a construct of society. For example, if you grow up in upper middle class America you are per-dispositioned to one kind of expectations–need I say more? If you are like me and grow up in the South there are plenty of expectations set upon both sexes–that’s a whole different post. When we dive deep into finding where the construct was originated you again find a muddled mess.I never thought much about constructs and where we get our mindset till I read the book Happy Yoga by Steve Ross. Ross defines social concepts as, “a mental construct unverifiable in the moment by experience. It is a framework of thoughts and beliefs in the mind as opposed to an actual experience in awareness” (17). He goes on to say, “Concepts are in the mind. They are inferred and often useless and illusory. Experience is the real thing; it occurs in the present moment. Concepts are labels that keep us thinking about the world”(18).
It is up to us to challenge our expectations and constructs. Explore where they come from and what good do they do us. Upon examining them maybe you will find that they keep you from seeing the best in people and developing relationships with others. That they do more harm than good. They actually don’t guide you but destroy you. Maybe your expectations don’t do that this going within leads you somewhere else. I’d love to know what you find.