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Are expectations ruining your happiness?

As humans - we like certainty, routine and knowing what lies ahead. We like these things because they make us feel safe.

However, when our reality and expectations don’t match, we’re often left feeling disappointed, angry and confused. And by attaching those expectations to a person - we feel those things even more.

That person could be a friend, lover, parent, child, or even yourself.

For me, I put a lot of expectations on my mother. I expected her to love me unconditionally. To be what I deemed ‘“a good person”. And I wanted my family home to be a safe place, always.

So when my reality didn’t fully align with those expectations, it left the taste of a bitter taste (not unlike bad tequila) in my mouth for some time.

We get hung up on how things should be. How we imagined they would be.

It’s become such a common trope - Expectation VS Reality is a meme. You see it everywhere.

How many times have you heard “It’s not fair!” followed by some sort of tantrum? Perceived injustice is the route of anger. No one’s immune.

We like to try and “manage expectations”, but that means putting lots of weight into our sense of control. Which, frankly, is an illusion. So we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.

This stuff starts in childhood before we can distinguish between cause and effect. We’re pure sponges taking the world at face value.

Jean Piaget, a developmental psychologist, found that young children believed their thoughts could directly cause things to happen. Piaget referred to this as magical thinking and suggested we outgrow it by around age 7.

However, as adults, we continue to engage with magical thinking in a variety of ways.

By magical thinking, I’m not talking about changing your focus or perspective. Even if the results can sometimes feel and sound… well, magical.

Shifting to a positive mindset helps you see opportunities that you previously would have subconsciously dismissed. You see things that didn’t go your way as opportunities to learn. You accept that you have to put things into motion to achieve what you desire. You have to say “Yes” if you want to make things happen. Or no, as the case may be - boundaries are important too. This is The Law of Attraction.

Picture this. It's Saturday, and you’re in bed craving a fry up. You picture the foods you want and you taste them in your mouth. That particular kind of tasty happiness that comes from having breakfast in bed.

This picture will motivate you to explore your many options, depending on your personal situation. You may; order brekkie to be delivered; do unspeakable things so your partner will make it for you, or make it yourself. Either way, you know you have to take some action for the food to appear.

Magical thinking, on the other hand, means you expect something to happen without you doing anything to make it happen. And when you pair this with our tendency to pin our hopes for happiness on fulfilled expectations - you start to realise why it’s such a big problem.

If you expect the fry up or want your bedfellow to make it (without communicating this effectively) - you’re not likely to get what you want. And worse, you may end up unfairly resenting your partner for not meeting your expectations. Yet you think your expectations will influence their behaviour, or that they’ll do what you want because that’s what you’d do in the same situation. Which is complete nonsense and doesn’t work.

This undermines your happiness because you can’t control how anyone else thinks, feels, or reacts. 


You may try to, and you may want to. But ultimately, it’s up to them.

So when you base your happiness, your worth, or your confidence on other people - you’re setting yourself up for many moments of regret, resentment and rejection.

What you can do instead!

Be open to the reactions of others and try to understand it’s not personal. Their behaviour reflects them, not you. People are mirrors, acting and reacting in accordance with our individual realities, belief systems and projected insecurities. The sooner you make peace with this, this better.

Try to find something to be grateful for, every day. When reality doesn't match your expectations, the world doesn't have to fall apart. In fact, it usually doesn’t. There's always something new you can learn, an opportunity you can go for, or a chance to deepen your self-awareness.

Be thankful instead of resentful and you’ll find you’re a happier person.

Personally, I learnt to be grateful for the lessons my mum taught me. Without her, I wouldn't have the wisdom and the strength I have today. I wouldn't have learnt how to cook a prime roast dinner. And I wouldn't have found the love of my life and created a family of acceptance and love.

I also wouldn't love Christmas the way I do, which means I probably wouldn't be able to drink most of you under the table. I’ll drink to that.

Stay well. And whatever else you do, keep growing.

If you need any help with that, DM me.