Many books refer to the regrets of old and dying people. The No1 concern seems to be about the life path they have taken: “I wish I’d dared to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”. But why would one not decide for themselves and succumb to others’ expectations? And what do we mean by expectations, after all? Keep reading to discover it all.

Defining Expectations: a social reaction 

Usually, you have many expectations for yourself and your life. You expect to do good in school or work, pass the exams, go on holidays, have a specific salary, go out, anything. Although you did not form most of these expectations consciously, they still play a vital part in your daily life.

But if you notice carefully, your expectations are not about you. Your expectations are all socially conditioned. Your expectations are generally a reaction to the social situations around you. You expect to become this way or that way because somebody else has become this way or that way. You want to become a doctor because your family and social circles praise this profession.

To complicate things further, social situations change almost too rapidly. That will inevitably have a drastic effect on your own expectations as well. Have you noticed how your expectations keep constantly changing every year? If your expectations are continuously changing, it looks as if you are unsure what you actually want. You are simply reacting to trends and society around you.

Other’s expectations of you

So, you have expectations about your life, but other people have expectations about you too. These expectations are all things that come from a social arrangement. Think, for example, of the expectations parents have for their children. Of course, you better fulfill those to some extent. After all, if there are no expectations, you will never find your full potential. However, that need not become the basis of directing your life. 

If you go by people’s opinions, you will find that people’s expectations are always concerned with what is already there. You cannot stand out and create something new if you only do what people expect. Instead, you can choose to do what is best for yourself and everybody around you, even if it is at the cost of being unpopular. That seems like a good use of your enormous intelligence.

The fact is that everyone is capable of creating something new and standing out. When you make an effort in that direction, do not expect that you will find agreement with the people around you; either those are people you know, or they are simply strangers. When success comes, then everyone will come aboard with you. Until then, you need to put an effort against the odds and others’ expectations.

So, if you want to do sth, do not expect to do it with everybody’s approval. Life doesn’t happen that way. Whatever you want to do, do it well. If you’re going to do what you want, and what you want is not in line with your family, society, or other interests of what is around you, they will make you pay the price. If this is the case, all you have to do is ask: “Does what I want to mean so much to me that I’m willing to pay this price?”.

Photo of sunset in Stockholm close to my room there in 2019

Your expectations of others

Apart from expectations others have of you, you also most likely have your own expectations of others. And this is especially true in all kinds of relationships, from parent-child, wife-husband to employee-boss and citizen-government. You have consciously or unconsciously set your assumptions and expectations of people in your life.

In this case, the fundamental matter is that relationships are constantly changing. Relationships can never be absolute; human relationships are variables. You cannot have the exact expectations with your partner the day you meet and one month later or ten years in the future. Relationships change every day because situations change and because people change. 

To manage your relationships, you may often attempt to mind-read the other person and fulfill their expectations constantly. But if you do that long enough, you will soon become tired, especially if you want their expectations to match your own. To some extent, yes, it is helpful to mind-read the other person, but that is not the basis of a beautiful relationship. A relationship is really worthwhile when you include and involve the other person.

Depression from non-fulfilling expectations 

Another good argument in favor of having minimal expectations of others has to do with what people call “depression”. Getting depressed seems to be subject to the non-fulfillment of your expectations—the bigger your expectations of other people, the more failure you will see with people around you. No human being can live up to your expectations. 

What you can do instead is: just be involved with people around you but have no particular expectations of them.

Take away:

  • If you want to do sth, do not expect to do it with everybody’s approval
  • Don’t just do what others expect of you; instead, choose to do what is best for yourself and everybody around you
  • Get involved with people around you but have no particular expectations of them.

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