When I first saw this meme I laughed a little on the inside – because hell yes I’ve been there a time or two.  I’ve been both the expect-ee and the expect-or.

And then a day or two later I came across this quote by Soren Kierkegaard –
“The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you’ll never have.”

And then I knew I wanted to explore the idea of expectations more – but that was at least a month, if not six weeks ago. I have procrastinated, I’ve pondered, I’ve gone round and round, I’ve wrestled – and I think I’m finally ready to put some thoughts to paper.

Why so hard?

Because expectations are EVERYWHERE! We have them about ourselves, our spouses, our children, our co-workers. Hell, we have them about LIFE in GENERAL. And that LIFE one – that’s the hardest. We basically expect LIFE to play out a certain way and spend a lot of our time trying to align people, places, and things to fill those expectations.

So let’s break it down shall we…

The expect-ee

While I’ve been there – this personally isn’t that big of a deal in my life.  I was pretty much allowed to follow my dreams in college, marry who I wanted, and for the most part pretty much do as I please.

However, I believe the whole expect-ee movement can be a little bit more sneaking than what’s on the surface.  Especially as a young woman, I was caught up the whole 90s woman movement – you can work AND have a family.  Women’s equal rights in the workplace. Seen as a valuable player at work.  Silent expectation pitfalls all over the place. Then there were the young family expectations – do this or that – but not that.  It was bad but not near as bad as today’s world – especially on social media. Expectations come flying at us in all directions.  And with exceptions comes judgment – which I am just so over.  I’m gonna throw it out there that to survive this current time in society – you’ve gotta have some pretty good personal habits in place.  Journaling, reflection time, good friends, perspective. Know who you are, who you belong to, and where you are going.

The expect-or

This is where I caught my breath after I laughed a little.  I was hit with a pang of guilt.  Do the people in my life feel like they have failed to live up to my expectations? Does my husband?  Does my child?  I get in a lot of trouble when I expect people to act a certain way.  I also struggle with judgement when I disagree with your lifestyle choices.  Perhaps some of that is human nature but, regardless, it’s something I am continuously working on…because resentment is a terrible thing to be sitting in.

“Expectations are resentments under construction…Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” ― Anne Lamott

Here’s a couple of other thoughts about expectations and being the expect-or:

I’m not talking about generally accepted expectations – like faithfulness in marriage, kids home when expected, co-workers doing the job they were hired to do, people in the fast lane actually driving fast.  HOWEVER, I will maintain that even when generally accepted expectations are not met we still have a choice on how to respond.  But more about that another time.

It’s more about assuming we know best…and wanting to be in control.

Expectations of others are dangerous and manipulative – at the very root they are self-centered.  We buy into the lie that if people would just behave a certain way, we’d be more comfortable, happy, productive, etc.  They are the problem, not us. Total set up for disappointment.

When we try to apply our expectations and control another’s behavior, what we are really saying is that you suck and I’m gonna make you better.  You essentially diminish their soul, their worth.

Parenthood, in particular, is a minefield of expectations. How do you parent and properly influence while allowing your child to discover their beautiful life journey?  Along that thought – how to build their strength and courage so they can excel and fly?  What if their life choices are contrary to yours?  Back to that self-centeredness – our children are not us.  They are not our accessory, our extension, our project, our report card.  They are individuals with paths to follow, dreams to dream, and yes, struggles to maneuver.

But this stuff is easily said but really hard to practice.  Because let’s face it – we do know best sometimes.  We each have insight and discernment in areas of our lives.  Marriage is a team of two with different skills and talents. Our children’s brains aren’t developed to make the best decisions. We’ve been at the job longer than others.  We ARE the faster driver in the fast lane.

How do we walk with and not control?  If we accept what is, is that kin to giving up?

I believe the answer is somewhere within love, trust, motive, and letting go.

Love is so much more than a sappy emotion.  It’s fierce, brave, and strong.  It’s not petty.  It’s about living above the fray and really tapping into the person, the soul of another. Do the people in your life KNOW that you think they are amazing?? Or do they live in the knowledge that you are disappointed in them. Not gonna lie – my motherhood experience is totally not going the way I thought it would/should – not at all how I expected/desired – but I have a choice – to fiercely love or turn my back and give up…which if you know me at all would never happen. And who said?  Who ever said that life would/should be a certain way?  No one – I just expected/assumed.

That kind of love builds trust:
You know I know you’re amazing!  You choose the clothes you are wearing – and I have experience in the work force – maybe a different outfit would be more appropriate for a job interview. No? Okay…call me later and let me know how things go. Love you.

Influence/advice, not control.  Really…WHAT if they bomb the interview?  It’s not you that bombed the interview.  Back to that struggle – give them the opportunity to work through the struggle and build some grit and moxie. And no saying “told you so”. We’ve all been there where we thought we knew what was best and landed on our face. Be the light and help them up with dignity.

Letting go:
We don’t always know best.  We don’t always have the best answer.  Or maybe we do but they DON’T CARE. As a believer, there is so much at play, that really, sometimes the best response is to let it go. And letting go is not giving up. It’s more along the lines of detaching. There is a tremendous freedom in only being responsible for your actions.

So yeah – expectations is a tough one – no easy answers and certainly no easy, one size fits all, application. And I feel like there is so much more to say but alas, not today.

Here’s to serenity, acceptance, courage, and wisdom…
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Blessings – DM

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Donna Matthews is a blog writer at the DJRanch where she strives to remain authentic while not taking herself too seriously. She is also the creator of Slay The Chaos (www.slaythechaos.com), where she writes about productivity and organization. She is a member of The Writers Guild and Write Space in Houston and is currently writing her first book.