Expecting something from other people often leads to a sense of disappointment and disillusionment, which ultimately eats into one’s sense of happiness and joy. You give others power over your emotions if you expect them to do something for you. “To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves — there lies the great, singular power of self-respect,” writer Joan Didion once said. And how right she was!
Expectations are a very passive aggressive way to deal with one’s sense of self. If someone doesn’t call, for example, we focus on how hurt we are by that inaction, not the circumstances of the other person. We give this non-caller so much power over ourselves. I am not sure why we do it, but we allow our expectations to override our reality. I am often reminded of that, and I am constantly working on letting go of those expectations. As a result, I am often very pleasantly surprised by someone who does something that I wasn’t expecting.
I have a baseline approach to relationship: most people have self interest at heart — and so, it shouldn’t be a surprise if they put themselves over my desires or feelings. In some very special relationships, where we form a bond of reciprocity, expectations evolve into expression of value, and thus, a good thing. We want to feel the joy reflected back.
But mostly, it is easier to simply have expectations of oneself. As former US First Lady Michelle Obama rightfully noted, “I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values — and follow my own moral compass — then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.”
October 4, 2019, New Delhi