Oftentimes, we blame other people for our unhappiness.
We claim we don’t trust anyone and build a wall around our hearts.
In my own attempts to learn to trust people again, I’ve discovered that I tend to set myself up for disappointment. I’ve come to realize that people do things to us for all sort of reasons, which we might never understand—and it’s challenging to try to understand why people leave, lie, or do us wrong.
The more we try to trust people, the longer we stay stuck in a vicious cycle. Since people and conditions change, “bad things” are always prone to happen. And so, we’ll usually find ourselves trusting again, only to lose this trust (again) once something goes wrong.
As strange as it may sound, the problem isn’t about trust: the problem is the management of our expectations.
We’ve grown accustomed to solving problems outside ourselves. This is why we often blame life or people for our misery. We constantly separate ourselves from others and deal with situations without recognizing the role we play in them.
The truth is that we play the largest role in everything that happens with us. So, before considering whether we should trust “this or that” person, we should ask ourselves, “What am I expecting?”
We always have certain expectations about things going in a particular way or about people treating us in a special manner—but, things don’t always work out the way we’d like.
Now, I’m not implying that it’s okay for people to treat us badly or that we should just blame ourselves for expecting too much. However, we must observe the reality of things.
What is the reality? It’s understanding that people might disappoint us, and we might disappoint them (or ourselves).
To see the reality means to see things as they are and not as we would like them to be. When we manage our expectations, we decrease our chance of being disappointed. I understand that it’s difficult to change our thinking patterns, but with constant practice, we can learn how to lower our expectations.
So, what does it mean to lower our expectations? To start off, we need to know that expecting less is not a negative or pessimistic thing to do. It’s something that will make others more comfortable around us—and that will, in return, make us happier.
There’s a quote that says, “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”
This is exactly what lowering our expectations means. It means to be prepared—and accept—that people might hurt us. It’s akin to standing close to a fire while staying aware that it might burn us.
To lower our expectations doesn’t mean to tolerate bad behavior or to walk around and think everybody’s evil. Because if we start to believe that people will definitely harm us, then we have just created a new problem. So, lowering our expectations simply means to realize that bad behavior from other people is likely to happen. This recognition then becomes a mental note. Just like we know our name by heart, we should know that bad things happen.
Besides preparing ourselves for the worst, we shouldn’t expect the best too much—we should just hope for it realistically. Because expecting the best outcome all the time is what essentially causes disappointment.
Here’s the thing—the mind creates scenarios for all sort of situations. If we watch how our minds operate, we’d see that they create realities on their own.
We fall for these mental scenarios and miss the actual experience that’s happening right now. We may mentally chase after an experience that doesn’t even exist. When we hold onto a notion that isn’t present, we kill our present moment and prevent ourselves from enjoying what’s yet to come.
When we lower our expectations, we improve our relationships with others. Because when we build high expectations of people, we put them on a pedestal and indirectly pressure them to fit the image we create of them.
Not only will we improve outer relationships, but we’ll also improve the relationship we have with ourselves. It’s easy to blame others for our inability to give or to love or to be good. Oftentimes, bad events from the past change us or leave a scar that we can’t easily heal. But we should check if our way of dealing with things has changed anything. If it’s not, then it’s time to try another approach—to look within and take responsibility for our own emotions.
How to stop having unrealistic expectations:
1. Identify your expectations.
Whenever you catch yourself weaving a new reality in your mind, stop and focus on the reality that’s happening in your life right now. Keep reminding yourself that it’s only your mind’s creation. Realize that creating expectations stems from our fear of the future.
2. Reflect on the consequences of your past expectations.
Have your expectations ever benefited you? Check and see if expecting too much did you any good or if it’s working against you. When we realize the absurdity of expectations, we release our attachment to them.
3. Realize that uncertainty is beautiful.
“Expectations” equals “fear.” So long as we’re scared of the future, we will keep on expecting too much, hoping to stop unwanted things from happening. Know that the universe doesn’t work against us. Things beautifully flow at the right time, but we must let them.
Communication lessens expectations. If there is a truth we need to know or a problem we need to address, we must communicate it with the person involved, instead of creating expectations about it. Talk, talk, talk.
5. Be ready for change.
Change is the law of life. Everything changes from moment to moment—including ourselves. When something doesn’t go your way, don’t beat yourself up about it. Be ready for the next thing, and believe that all is for the best.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: WikiMedia Commons
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Catherine Monkman
Social editor: Waylon Lewis