There is a movement in the modern culture that looks to encourage people to be authentic. The movement is one of unshackling ourselves from the expectations of others in order to be true to our own selves. Perhaps authenticity is impossible in its purest form, but there is plenty of room for letting go of others’ expectations.
A great post published by Manhattan Mental Health Counseling digs deeply into the idea of letting go of the expectations of others. One section is dedicated to explaining why trying to live up to what others think can be harmful. The section touches on three things this post will discuss in a bit more detail.
1. Expectations Breed Resentment
Living up to someone else’s expectations sometimes means not living up to our own. Unfortunately, one of the big traps of expectations is breeding resentment. Interestingly enough, that resentment can be bred in both people – the one who projects the expectations as well as the one who does not meet them.
Think about it. If you have certain expectations that someone else does not meet, what is your natural response? You are unhappy with that person. Over time, many unmet expectations can make you resentful. Likewise, your attempts to meet others’ expectations can make you resentful of yourself. You feel like you are not being true to who you are. You can resent yourself as well as those who project their expectations on you.
Plurawl is a New York City Hispanic clothing brand whose target audience is the LatinX communities. They have a saying, sin verguenza, that literally means ‘without shame’. They encourage their customers to live authentic lives without being ashamed of who they are. That is the opposite of living up to someone else’s expectations.
2. Expectations Impair Decision-Making
We all have decisions to make on a daily basis. Some of them are minor, others are major, and most are somewhere in between. Here’s the thing: trying too hard to meet someone else’s expectations can harm one’s ability to make decisions. In fact, some people feel crippled in their inability to decide one way or another.
The problem is that we try to make decisions based on what other people think. Yet that really shouldn’t matter. What is right for one person may not be right for another. Each one of us has to make decisions based on our own circumstances, needs, goals, etc.
3. Expectations Can Lead to Mental Health Issues
Unfortunately, spending too much time worrying about others’ expectations can lead to obsessing over them. This can lead to various mental health issues including depression and anxiety. It boils down to an inner conflict created by wanting to live up to expectations but knowing you are incapable of doing so.
When you cannot live up to others’ expectations you may have feel like you can never make them happy. And if you’re not careful, that can lead you to believe that you are the problem. Anxiety and depression are right around the corner. It’s not a good place to be.
So how do we combat the problems associated with living up to others’ expectations? It starts with keeping things in perspective. The expectations of others are not the be-all and end-all. If you don’t meet them, it’s not the end of the world. From there, it is a matter of getting to know yourself as a person and not being afraid to express that.
Expectations are a part of life. They are normal and natural. However, they don’t have to be harmful if we keep them in check.