“What’s so wrong with having expectations of others?” you might ask. Quite a lot as it happens.
When we expect things of others, we are presuming that they can, and should, meet needs that we have not met ourself. This is a little unfair. It places a great deal of pressure on them and our relationship with them. We leave ourselves open to disappointment and we risk our relationships as a result.
Another danger of having expectations is that we stop appreciating the things others do for us. Imagine your partner picks you up from the airport after a trip away. You’re incredibly grateful. The next time you go away, though, if you expect the same to happen again, then there are two possible outcomes:
- They do pick you up, but you don’t feel as grateful this time because you expected it to happen anyway.
- They don’t pick you up and you feel let down and disappointed.
Neither of these are good.
Ultimately, though, the real reason why having expectations of others is not a great idea is because you’re placing your happiness in their hands. And this can never work. You are the only person who can find within yourself all the love, validation and acceptance you need. (Learn more in Finding Happiness.)
So, how do you stop having expectations of others?
Firstly, you have to look after yourself. Self-love and self-care are not selfish practices. In fact, they’re the opposite, because when we get these things right, we take the pressure off others.
Whatever it is that you’re expecting from someone else, look for a way to give it to yourself. Expecting to be taken out for dinner? Call up and book a table. Expecting compliments? Look in the mirror and tell yourself how beautiful you are. (Learn more about self-love in Ahimsa: A Self-Practice.)
Expecting help with the washing up? Ask for it. Because it’s okay to seek support from someone, as long as you ask for it, rather than expecting it. Ask with honesty and openness, respecting the other person’s right to say "no." Take time to get clear about what you want and need, what you can give to yourself and what you would like support with.
One of the reasons we can have unrealistic expectations of others is because they tend to mirror our expectations of ourselves. So, instead, know your own limits. You do not have to be the perfect partner, parent or friend. Remember, it’s okay to say "no" and let good enough be good enough. When you loosen the binds you tie around yourself, it’s easier to do it for others, too.
Finally, when you catch yourself expecting something from someone or feeling let down because they haven’t lived up to your expectations, shift your focus. List all the things you appreciate about them instead. Better still, tell them. You’ll find that when you change expectations to appreciations, the difference it makes to your relationships and your whole life is huge.