4 Things that Happen When We Create and Hold On to Expectations (365 Days of Spirited Living — DAY 351)
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
— Alexander Pope
Sometimes, we go through life allowing expectations to get the best of us and to hold us back from new and better opportunities that are often right around the corner if we get over disappointment and just keep going. We all experience the hurt and anguish that a dashed expectation can make us feel. But many times, expectations are nothing more than little games we play with ourselves because they are very misleading.
We get our hopes up for a new job position or even a promotion within our current company and then when it goes to someone else or for whatever reason, doesn’t work out, we throw up our hands and wallow in disappointment or depression for days. Our feelings are ruined, our hopes are crushed. We begin to question ourselves and our abilities. Why didn’t I get that promotion? Was I not good enough for the position? How was so and so able to get it and I am more qualified and experienced?
I know the feeling. Fresh out of college, I applied for jobs I was well-qualified for in my field and received too many rejections to count. Some told me I wasn’t what they were looking for, or I was over-qualified (surprise, surprise). Others told me to check back with them at a later date and then days later, the position I applied for was given to someone else. For a moment there, I questioned my abilities, my intelligence, even my future. But then I began to ask different questions.
What if that wasn’t the right company for me? What if I deserved a better position? What if there is some other opportunity that I just haven’t found yet? What if I am overqualified (there’s a slight privileged feeling that sort of comes when you’re told you’re overqualified)? But what if I was? What if I just needed to stop questioning myself and keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep going? So that’s what I did.
When we create and hold on to expectations, we attach our whole being to a result that is equally possible as it is impossible. When things don’t happen the way we expect them to, we feel like we’re not good enough and then we begin to feel insecure about everything in our lives. When we feel insecure, we tend to hold on to what we do have while at the same time grasping for everything we don’t. And when we’re trying to get everything we don’t have, we get stuck in a dangerous cycle.
When we create and hold on to expectations, we ruin the sincerity of hope. Hope and expectation are two different things. When we hope, we patiently, trustingly, faithfully, peacefully wait for something to happen. Whether it does or not, we always have that thing inside of us that keeps us looking ahead and moving forward anyway. When we set expectations, we’re still looking for something to happen but with the added pressure of being hurt and disappointed if it doesn’t. With expectation, we leave no room for wonder, only fear.
When we create and hold on to expectations, we risk wearing the martyr mask. The disappointment and subsequent bitterness that comes from holding on to expectations eventually pushes us to wear a mask of martyrdom, that deadly combination of “I do everything, I work so hard…people should reward me, appreciate me…” and so on and so forth. After a while thought, martyrs collapse from being tired because whatever it is didn’t work out or from being fed up. They act out in hurtful ways, sometimes dangerous ways. Any action they take or words they say, they believe they certainly have a right to do it or say it because, well, they’re expectations weren’t met.
When we create and hold on to expectations, we live in some other moment, other than the present. Expectations create a very wide gap between what is and what we think should be. And when things aren’t the way we think they should be, we tend to succumb to feelings of doubt, uncertainty, and worry. On the other hand, when we let go, we have the space to believe and accept that everything is as it should be, will change in time, and you will arrive when you’re supposed to. Expectations keep you trapped in the future and life isn’t to be lived that way.
So right now, give up your expectations. Let go of the need for everything to go according to plan or to always be perfect and as expected. Don’t let yourself bypass the open highway of wonderment and possibility, creativity and curiosity. Think about what else could be in store, what opportunities are up ahead, what you’re supposed to be doing. Do yourself a favor and allow yourself to be free and happy.
“Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.”
— Brandon Sanderson