I have been thinking a lot about expectations recently and how expectations have a direct relationship with our physical and emotional wellbeing. So let me start with a definition, the Collins Dictionary defines ‘Expectations’:
1. the act or state of expecting or the state of being expected. 2. Something looked forward to, whether feared or hoped for. 3. An attitude of expectancy or hope. 4. In statistics the numerical probability that an event will occur
But what if the thing we feared most, or hoped for, does not happen? This can be the case in many relationships: be it with our work colleagues or boss, our friends, our partner, a member of our immediate family or distant relative. Both as a therapist and in my personal life I have often come into contact with expectations both my own and others not being met. As much as we would like life to be like a simple maths sum, 1+2=3, our expectations can be skewed by our previous experiences in relationships with a partner, friends, work colleagues, or other family members. By this I mean our historic relationship insecurities can come to light.
To negotiate your expectations assertively, one needs to know what the bottom line is. I hear you say ‘that is all very well, Joel you make it sound so simple.’ I am also human; I always try my hardest to think of plan B when my expectations are not met. This is part of life’s journey. When those expectations are not met and I ‘try’ to not act up in any way, this also presents with challenges in how one reacts to any given situation. As when expectations are not met it can turn up the volume full blast on our previous history of expectations not being met. In turn this can result in heightening our feelings around trust and any unwanted shame. We need to remember that we are responsible for our behaviour, our expectations, our feelings, ourselves and our thoughts.
Expectations are NOT about fault, blame and guilt. Therefore our responsibility in managing our expectations IS about having the ability to respond to situations and take action accordingly in as respectful a way as possible.
In Sharon Salzbergs book Loving Kindness (1995) she talks about ‘Generosity’ in which she discusses that having Generosity provides us such power because it is characterised by an inner quality of letting go or relinquishing, of us being able to let go, to give up, to renounce and to give generously. She goes on to explain that these qualities are in all of us. When we practice generosity, she discusses that we open up to all these liberal qualities at once.
In our modern hectic world remember to be generous to the expectations that you may have of others and of yourself. Take time to provide yourself with the quality of generosity that Sharon Salzberg discusses. Think about where your boundaries begin and end. Remember, if you have high expectations of others they may expect the same from you.
Are you able to live up to those expectations?