Expectations – a Great Way to Stress Yourself Out
I expect my kids to get along. I expect traffic to be fairly smooth. I expect people to treat me respectfully and with kindness. I expect my body to cooperate with me as I eat healthy and work out.
These are just a few of the expectations I carry subconsciously, almost unknowingly. They run just barely under my radar, leaving me wondering, often, why I’m so freaking angry and frustrated.
The reality is, I put expectations on most everything. People, situations, experiences. I guess I’ve always assumed everyone did this. A lot of people do. But I’ve found that a lot of very successful, very happy people don’t.
My middle son struggles with this big time. He expects such specific things of his day, of the people around him, of every situation and experience that comes his way. When things inevitably go differently, he effectively loses his shit.
It drives me up the fucking wall. I can’t wrap my head around being that set on things being a certain way that I just can’t handle them when they’re not. And then it dawned on me that, god help me, I’m exactly the same way.
While I may not have a complete and total meltdown when life doesn’t go as expected, I definitely make my frustration and irritation known to those around me. It’s funny, isn’t it, how the behaviours we refuse to tolerate in our children are so quickly and easily justified as they manifest in our own lives? ‘I’m stressed.’ ‘I’m in a hurry.’ ‘I can’t deal with your bickering.’ These are all excuses I’ve given on a regular basis when things aren’t living up to my expectations and I get downright pissy. Cause you know, that makes it ok to act like a cranky five year old.
I am, quite honestly, pretty ashamed to admit how much of a problem this is for me, since I’ve always prided myself on being an open minded, go with the flow kind of person. As it happens, that’s true, only as long as ‘the flow’ doesn’t flow too much outside of what I was expecting.
And then there’s how I allow other people’s expectations of me to affect my life. It’s a constant source of stress, trying to please everyone…meet all of their expectations. I often adopt other people’s expectations of me as my own, usually without question. It’s bloody exhausting and causes endless anxiety and strain in my life.
The worst of it, one of my biggest downfalls in terms of expectations, is what I expect of myself…what I expect success to look like in my life. So often because I expect success in one area or another to look a specific way, I miss the huge strides I’m actually making and frequently scrap the whole process, assuming I’m failing.
On the plus side, few things are ever set in stone. If I’ve learned anything about myself over they last couple of years, it’s that I’m capable of enormous change. And once I’m aware of a problem, I don’t rest until I resolve it.
As I’ve started to address it these past few weeks, working to let go of my control freak tendencies, I’ve discovered that rather than producing panic and unease as I feared it would, it’s actually given me a great sense of freedom.
Combine that with my efforts to stop taking things personally, and I’m finding a delicious sense of peace and acceptance that I never thought possible for me. It’s almost like there’s a whole side of my brain that’s been freed up for other more productive and positive thoughts.
The bottom line is, we only have control over ourselves. Life, people, they have a way of throwing you for a loop, no matter how carefully you plan and prepare. The fewer expectations you put out there, the less you have to scramble and adjust to what comes your way.
It gives you the freedom to stop labeling situations or people’s behaviour as good or bad and just take things as they come There is so much more room for growth and tolerance, it’s amazing.
There are very few black and whites in this world and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can truly start ‘going with the flow’, living lives of harmony and joy.
What kind of expectations do you put out there that you’d be better off without?