In a way, expectations in life can be helpful: they can give us a sense of motivation and direction, or help us meet certain standards. However, when expectations influence our thoughts too much, or when we give into family members or friends wishes instead of following our own path, it can greatly affect our personal wellbeing.
Pressure and expectations in life:
Having too much pressure and specific high expectations in life from the people closest to us. Can result in broken relationships and increase in depression and anxiety levels.
Many of us have expectations placed upon us, by either ourselves or others, which can dictate how we live our lives. These ‘shoulds’ can provide structure and security because they can move us in the direction of traditional, planned routes, which don’t surprise us.
But these expectations can also be negative and prevent us from following the path we really want to. Who decides what we ‘should’ or ‘must’ do? Even if that decision is something we make for ourselves, is it really a free decision, or do we make it because we think it will please somebody, such as your parents or peers?
For example: “Your father is a doctor, and your grandfather was a doctor. You should study medicine and become a doctor too”.
“You’ve been married for a while now. You should be having children”
These types of expectations often cause problems for several reasons: Is this expectation what we really want to do? Do we really want to be a doctor and work in conditions which may now be much different. We are now left with a difficult decision to make: Do we follow our heart and do something else, which risks upsetting others or do we give into pressure and conform to supposedly conventional wisdom, knowing that we are not following our heart’s desire?
Everyone is an individual, so what is right for somebody else may not be right for us. So, if we are compared with someone else and given the expectation to follow in their footsteps, this can create unrealistic expectations. What if we are pushed into studying medicine and find we are not particularly good at it? We could feel like a failure which can begin a whole range of issues with our confidence and self-esteem.
It can be easier sometimes for us to know what we don’t want to do, rather than know what we actually do want to do. So, how come other people think that they can decide for us? Should we really allow others to place their own expectations on us?
Thoughts on how to overcome this:
We need to take the time to reflect on what we really want, emotions and needs. We need to challenge what others want or expect and then consider in a logical way what is actually best for us.
Many of us feel we need to explain or justify our actions to others, but this really isn’t necessary. After all, it’s our life, so, as adults, who should have the greatest control over the path we take? Not someone else!
So if we do not follow the path expected by others, or make a decision that they don’t agree with, what do we tend to do? You probably guessed it, we apologise! Why are we doing this – is it an admission of guilt? Have we actually done something wrong? No, not at all; we have simply made a decision in doing what we choose to do. We are not rejecting anybody else’s views – just following our own path.
Don’t forget, we need to be careful not to impose our expectations and wishes onto others.
A few key tips to true help you over this:
1. Change the way you currently think.
You cannot control what others think about you, but you can choose how you talk to yourself. That little voice inside you which we all have can help or harm you, choose the words you inner voice says to you wisely. Listening to that voice and allowing positive words come from that inner voice can change your life completely.
As stated above, we can get external pressure from friends or family but are you being kind to yourself? Are you also putting too much pressure on yourself to make a decision. Are you allowing kind words to come from your inner voice or are you adding fuel to the fire. Be kind to yourself and put your mindset in a good place not a bad one.
2. Allow yourself to be free
If you remember back to when you were a kid. I bet you didn’t have any time to think about expectations in life, this is because you were out playing with your friends enjoy your life. Ultimately doing what you wanted to do with your life. Why should this change as we get older?
Take full ownership of your life and the decisions you make throughout it. Once you start to live the life you have always wanted to live, you feel completely liberated.
3. Stop judging, stop expecting.
Being judgemental adds frustration and negativity— perfectionists are never happy. When you let go of expectations, you create space to enjoy the here and now. Your life is not what should happen, but what is actually happening right this second.
Learning to accept reality is hard, but it’s a significant step towards improving your mental wellness. Removing expectations doesn’t mean lowering your bar, but rather letting go of the unnecessary pressure. Only when we are relaxed can we give our best.
Any moment is a turning point if you decide to make the most of it. Remember that you are in charge.
It won’t be easy. Maybe you are used to going along with what other people tell you to do, and perhaps conforming has become a habit. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Just consider what you really want out of your life. After all, it’s your life and you really can choose to live it the way that you want to.