Five years and two kids ago, when we would go out to eat as a family of four, I’d lay out the ground rules for behavioral expectations for my four- and three-year-old. Then, as we were waiting for our meal, if they began to argue, get out of their seats, whine or need to go to the restroom for the umpteenth time, I would grow frustrated. We had just talked about all of this in the car. I expected better behavior. Dinner would not likely go as I imagined and as a mom, I’d leave stressed and feeling like a failure.
Truth is, I was not a failure; I was living life attempting to manage the unmanageable with all my expectations.
A couple of years ago, thanks to a phenomenal therapist, I began implementing a new practice. He suggested I start relinquishing my expectations of others and myself. I fully understand this concept may sound rude and offensive to some, but I urge you to continue reading and consider my point.
Many of us have been accustomed to believe that we want people to expect things from us, just as we were taught to expect things from others. Affirmations, certain behaviors, sympathy, agreement, congeniality, something to happen, reliability, popularity, happy-go-lucky, productivity, milestones – this is just a tip of the iceberg of expectations we have. When we have these expectations of others, we do not always see them for who they are, but rather we are seeing them for the person we expect them to be. Then, when that person does not do what you anticipated, you are left feeling frustrated.
Letting go of your expectations does not mean you are lowering your standards; it means you are fostering gratitude.
When good things happen that I do not expect, my gratitude is overwhelming. I’m also finding I am more appreciative of the not-so-good moments. I am not as pressured by the weight of the expectation. There was no anticipation of a plan, therefore there was no plan to go badly. Moments that would previously stress me out are less negative now. I can appreciate all the moments while they last.
As one can imagine, when we venture out to eat as a party of six, it’s a circus. Picture this: you see us at Los Potros, the older two boys fixated on the soccer game on the large TV in the back. The three-year-old in her own world wanting to wander around our table and the two-year-old chugging the salsa from the bowl; we never leave the table without spilling a drink (or two). We sound like a hot mess express, which is precisely what we are (I do pick up our area before we are finished). I no longer leave frustrated or stressed or feeling like a failure as a mom for kids being kids. I leave with appreciation.
This is the same for my husband. I used to expect certain things around the house to be done by him. Then, when those things would not get done, I would again find myself frustrated. As an example, he dressed our two-year-old for bed tonight. His little clothes from today are sitting right where he changed him. When I held onto expectations, I would expect him to put the dirty clothes in the washer, mostly because that is what I would do. When I let go of my expectations I’ve learned he has a process and I respect him and his method.
Expectations are heavy. Living life without them takes the weight off. It’s a lighter load to carry as you’re juggling around everything else. Have you stopped to think about how cumbersome your expectations are? Have you considered a portion of your stress could be the expectations that you have of others or even yourself? Those unmet expectations could be the cause of your dissatisfaction. I know my past expectations of friends, family and even strangers weighed me down.