The topic of expectations is always an interesting one in my eyes. I actually just finished watching the film Great Expectations, the 1998 version with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke, after not seeing it for years, and the movie title is lingering within me. (If you haven’t seen this film, I would recommend it. I think it’s great.)
I believe that, often times, because of our “great” or fixed expectations around a situation or person we can complicate or add friction to an experience that would otherwise pan out smoothly. It’s our doing, at times, that complicates and creates a negative spin on an experience or person. Learning to walk into situations with an open mind and curiosity instead of a structured plan of how we think it should look, allows life to be much more enjoyable.
It can be eye opening to step back and get truthful about what or who in your life you have expectations about. Perhaps you can notice where expectations may lie due to your emotions around a person or topic. Check in with your body and emotional reactivity as people and situations come about. What are the environments or who are the people that cause more reactivity within you? For example, are you more tense, anxious, nervous, critical or insecure around certain people or places than others? Examine those feelings that are coming up within. Are they negative, neutral or good? Take some space to notice this.
Here are some more questions to help you to evaluate your level of expectation. It’s not for you to judge yourself by, rather to become aware of where you're at with this subject at this time. Like everything, it can begin to shift and change with awareness and a motivation to be different.
Questions for Self Examination Around Expectations
Do you allow situations to BE as they are or do you have an idea or story of how you think they should be?
Do you often feel disappointment that “things didn’t go as you had hoped” after interacting with another or attending a social event?
Do you find yourself feeling like things never “work out as they should” generally?
Are you rarely satisfied with your results in your personal or work life?
Do you struggle with never feeling “good enough?”
If you found yourself answering YES to most of the questions above, perhaps you can benefit from practicing mindfulness around the topic of expectations. A helpful starting point is to examine the expectations that you hold for yourself. What are they? Are they reachable? When you become more familiar with what these specific expectations are, you can choose to change them if you deem that they’re not working for you. It’s common that the expectations that we put on ourselves, we also naturally place onto others. We do this by unconsciously projecting what we expect for ourself onto others. This can lead us to be judgmental and critical toward ourself as well as those around us. Tough crowd, right?
All change and shifts begin with awareness. Being aware of how you’re navigating your life can only benefit you. Stay away from self judgement and just notice and allow where you are at with this topic, as well as others.
WE are ALL works in progress. There is no perfect, so just be gentle with yourself and be stoked on the fact that you’re awake enough to be reading articles on wellness and self growth. That’s huge. Let that be enough.
Film Link: Great Expectations
* If you have a netflix account, you can find the film there.