Several years ago I had a position in a very stressful field of work. I loved my job, but the stress seemed to get to a few people around me even more. Without giving away too much information, I ended up having a “run in” with my boss’ boss. Ironically, it was because I did my job too well and it would have gotten him in trouble. So, to take the heat off of myself and to smooth things out in the office, I tried a little reverse psychology and told him that I was having some issues and would seek out counseling from our employee assistance program. I had hoped it would take the pressure off our relationship and help him be nice to me again. I then proceeded to go see a counselor.
As I explained to the counselor what was happening in my office, she said something back to me that threw me off balance. She told me my expectations were too high. Apparently by having such high expectations of people around me, I was setting myself up for failure. What? Where did she get that? This did not even pertain to the situation that was at hand. Needless to say, that was the last time I saw this counselor. My plan backfired.
Several years later, I still think about what that counselor said, “Your expectations are too high.” It pops up in my head often. Now looking back I can see that this a very true statement (though I still do not think it applied to the reason I saw her in the first place) and has played out in my life many many times. I did have high expectations. I expected people to be like me; to work as hard as me; to be as clean and organized as me; to be as courteous as me; to be as honest as me; and the list can go on and on and on. Expectations. Turns out the counselor was right, they were the root of much unhappiness in my life. For example: I like a clean house. So when I got home from work when the spouse or kids had been home all day, I would expect to come home to a clean house. Would I? Nope. Instant disappointment when I walked in the door.
So why do we expect others to be like us? Were we all raised the same way? Of course not! Do we all have the same values? Some, but not identical. Do we all have the same priorities? Well we do in that the majority of people prioritize themself. But technically that is not the same.
Luckily for me, over time I have learned to lower my expectations of others. Sure it would be nice for me if we were all…(insert your expectations here…. clean and organized; hard workers; generous; etc. etc. etc.)…but we aren’t, especially children. It is our job to guide and direct children in the right path, but we cannot force them to be someone they aren’t, any more than we can force another adult to be someone they aren’t.
Now even though I don’t expect too much from people, I have also learned that I can align myself with people I know that do share my values. We may not be completely alike, but we share a respect for each other. We push when we know it is acceptable to do so, and we let go when we know it isn’t acceptable. Respect…not expectations. It creates a much happier existence, and a whole lot less disappointment.