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Let's Talk Expectations

Expectation breeds resentment.

Someone close to me said those words to me once. We conversed on the phrase for a long time. But, even then I didn't realize how applicable it was to my life and my purpose with this blog. Upon reflection, I see that these words almost entirely encapsulate a very common human experience.

From others, we expect things like reciprocity, kindness, mutual benefit, goodness, an open mind, and integrity. We expect these things even in situations where the opposite is the most probable. I struggle, personally, with feeling "let down" on my expectations. My expectations never drive my behavior, nor do they seem to exist until after I evaluate my environment. Expectations become present in my mind, that is, when I realize that all my efforts to be "enough" for others are not enough to gain the response I would hope they earn. In high school, of course, this is ritual. I give my all to the friends around me--I smile and laugh and never pose any inconvenience. Yet, I become forgotten? I feel irrelevant, under appreciated, boring, etc. And so, the resentment builds. I resent these teenagers for their inability to fulfill the hopes I have for appreciation. But, that's not really their issue is it? Of course it would wonderful to live in a world where people always recognize and appreciate your efforts--but its NOT the world we live in. Everyone has their own conflicts, worries, thoughts, and priorities, so how can we measure our worth on their reactions to a side-story in their life?

In this rather vague, yet niche, example I mean to highlight how much of a trap that expectations can create. If we are so consumed by what we expect and hope others will do that's when we begin to resent others and ourselves. Allowing our expectations of others to guide and define our life is self-destructive. Counter-productive, unyielding, and draining, that is.

Expectation is not merely relevant in external matters. I've found that expectations for ones own self are the MOST harmful. Ambition and discipline are one thing. Unprecedented expectation and disappointment are another. I struggle most with my excessive self-expectations. I expect myself to be "better." Better, smarter, fitter, more talented, more sociable, more fun. But the more I expect myself to be these things, the greater the expectations become, and thus the less attainable they become. In most cases, expectations are never truly fulfilled, only displaced. And in these cases, resentment fills its initial spot. The resentment has varying affects, but many times it consists of discouragement, frustration, and hopelessness.

Even situations in different areas of life become susceptible to our expectations. And that's where I tie this whole conversation into the matter of mental health.

When struggling with mental illness, health, and well-being, the level of satisfaction with oneself absolutely plummets. You may feel "difficult," "unlovable," "hopeless," or "broken." But where do you think these ideas grow from? They grow from the expectations we, as humans, have for ourselves to be the seeming best version of ourselves. And while its not a bad thing by any means to want to better oneself, it can become toxic very quickly when you perceive yourself not to be on the perfect track to this goal.

But mental health is not a linear process. There is no measurement for how long the feelings may last. There is no textbook that will understand the perfect way to treat any specific person. And there is certainly no way to predict what is to come next. Therefore, I URGE you not to expect too much of yourself. Its so daunting to receive no solid explanation for your struggles, and to have no laid-out plan for recovery. And as a result, we create our own expectations for ourself of when we must heal, what we must feel, and how we should go on. At some point, though, we realize that our expectations may not be fulfilled. Then why waste the little energy you may have towards something out of your control? Consciously resist the expectations, and avoid the resentment.

If we really identify all the evidence we have in front of us (as I attempted to exemplify previously through my own experiences) it is obvious that expectations rarely provide the result we hope it will. It is only human to have them, obviously. But it is not impossible to redirect them, or resist them.

Be more mindful of the expectations you set for yourself and others, and you just might avoid additional pain on a mind that is already at war.

Give yourself a break!

Taylor Hay


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