Expectations: (Merriam Webster) The act or state of expecting.
(Urban Dictionary) A guaranteed way for you to make sure that people will consistently disappoint you
Song of The Week: “I Wanna Be Free” The Ohio Players
When I was a kid, I grew up watching Disney movies and believing in fairy tales and happy endings. I believed that everything worked out in the end because they were supposed to, and that people kept the promises they made. I believed in the good in people. I always saw the light.
I also was the product of divorced parents and I had what some would refer to as a “Disneyland Dad”. I didn’t live with him and would only see him during pre-arranged visits sporadically throughout the year. Remember that I just said I believed in the good in people and I believed people would keep their promises? I was often one of those kids who sat in the window for hours at a time waiting around for their dad to come pick them up. But, that was ok. Because after 4 hours of sitting in the window and watching cars pass by, my dad finally showed up with a series of bullshit excuses. I didn’t care about why he was late. Little did I know that all those years of waiting in the window for my father to pick me up would be excellent practice for lowering my expectations for people……
As I got older my beliefs in happy endings and fairy tales were dashed when I realized how messed up Disney movies really were. (Disney movies really aren’t for kids if you haven’t noticed that by now). People slowly but surely began breaking their promises to me, and color-by-number kits never quite ended up like the picture on the box. I couldn’t find a good enough explanation to give to myself as to why things were happening the way they were. In the past when my father would pick me up late and began running through his list of excuses, I didn’t care because in the end he always showed up. But now that I was getting older and things weren’t always turning out right I wanted, no, I needed an explanation and a reason as to why. I needed a solid answer. I needed receipts. FACTS ONLY FAM. NO BULLSHIT.
I think I was in high school the first time I became completely devastated by someone or something not meeting my expectations. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I remember the feeling of the devastation. I remember the feeling of the devastation because it set off an alarm in my mind. “If someone is not able to meet your exceptions again, CUT. THEM. OFF.” And for about the next 10 years, that is exactly the type of unhealthy behavior I engaged in. I began setting myself up for failure in my relationships with everyone I knew. Friends, family, co-workers, significant others, etc. I began placing unrealistic expectations on people in my mind and the moment a person could not achieve that “expectation” I would immediately cut them off, no questions asked. I offered no explanation because I literally was devastated and could not deal with my emotions.
It wasn’t until I found myself in the midst of a dramatic and sudden move at the age of 24, by myself packing up my apartment in NYC that I realized just how bad I was at cutting people off. Here I was literally up and moving with almost no notice, breaking my lease, telling practically no one and having no real action plan for the future. All because I had this long list of expectations that had not been met. Here I was, heartbroken and devastated to the point where I could no longer stand living in NYC anymore. I had stopped talking to friends I had mad that were supportive, quit a job that I had actually moved to NYC for, I was moving out of a beautiful apartment that folks would die to live in. And most importantly, I was moving out of a city that I woke up every day as a kid dreaming I could live in.
Expecting a situation to go a certain way (especially one you have never had an experience with) because your experiences up to this point have been ideal. But understanding that setting expectations for situations, and people, can set you up for total devastation, fall out, disappointment and an unrealistic preparation on how to deal with people. When you set your expectations high, you end up missing out on opportunities and not allowing people the benefit of the doubt. Allowing certain narratives to drive the story in your mind especially when they are false can play a damaging role when it comes to managing your expectations in the world. This can be especially hard when you have not been given the tools to deal with the things that life throws at you…….