Expectation: n. 1: the act or state of expecting: anticipation; 2a: something expected; 2b: basis for expecting: assurance; 2c: prospects of inheritance; 3: the state of being expected; 4a: expectancy; 4b: expected value
Expect: v. 1a: to consider probable or certain; 1b: to consider reasonable, due, or necessary; 1c: to consider bound in duty or obligated; 2: to anticipate or look forward to the coming or occurrence of; 3: suppose, think; 4:await
It is nearly impossible to not have some sort of expectation. Whether it is to get a passing grade, to make a sports team, to land your dream job, or to have healthy children. Our lives are filled with expectations, sometimes ones that we are not even aware of – making it home safely from work/school, waking up tomorrow, having a job to return to, or being paid on time.
At times, we have unrealistic expectations – expecting a passing grade when you have not studied or completed the necessary work, being able to lose 20 pounds in one week, or thinking everyone will behave the same way as you.
I believe that we should have expectations. We should expect to put in work to achieve goals, to expect that we can achieve our goals when they are realistic. There is nothing wrong with looking forward to being married and having children. The caution with expectations is that there is no guarantee that what we desire will happen (or happen when we want it to).
The question is, how do you respond when your expectations are not met, when your partner breaks up with you unexpectedly, you are not married by your 30th birthday, or you did not get the promotion you felt you deserved?
I have experienced so many disappointments in my life, that I had gotten to the point where I had very few expectations of myself, others, or how my life was. I set the bar so low, that I would allow others to treat me any kind of way and found myself apologizing or justifying their behavior by belittling myself. Which led me to believe that I did not deserve any better. I would often apply for jobs that I was probably overqualified for because I did not want to deal with the rejection of not getting a job that I desired. I did not apply to certain graduate schools because I did not feel I was good enough to get accepted or do well. I mean, how embarrassing is it to not get into your dream school or land your dream job? I always expected the worse to happen. I would rationalize this behavior by considering myself honest and in tune with reality. This was all a mind game to minimize the disappointment felt when things did not go the way I secretly desired. I would put a smile on my face and say, “It’s okay, it was not meant to be.” Then sit in my room crying, hurt, and being angry that things did not go my way and then blaming myself for not being good enough to have what I desire.
This year, I have been working on setting realistic expectations. This includes distancing myself from anyone who does not feel they are required to give me the same level of respect that I give them, who feels it is okay to speak to me any kind of way. While I know there is no such thing as perfect, I have always made that my goal. I am getting better at being nice to myself, to allow myself to fail, to try new things and get out of my comfort zone, and being okay with the learning process. I expect to lose weight but I know that it will only happen when I am consistent in exercising and making better food choices. I do not expect to lose 40 pounds in the next month. I expect my children to try their best, but I understand that they have their strengths and weaknesses and that I cannot compare one to the other or expect them to behave or respond the same way that I would. You can be realistic without lowering our standards or expectations of yourself or others. It is okay for things not to go as planned or expected. Life happens. It is more important how you respond to the unexpected.