What Did You Expect?

Originally published 10/12/2016

We often hear the adage, “Expectation breeds disappointment,” or some variation on this.  I believe there is a critical part of this statement that is, ironically, missing.  It is “unstated.”  The truer phrase is, “Unstated expectation breeds disappointment.”  Through experience, I have found that the best approach is not letting go of all expectation, which I think is almost impossible, but rather to get your expectations out in the open.

When you start out, you may not think you have any expectations, but if you begin to practice communicating your expectations with others, you will become better at articulating them for yourself.  We often load expectations on ourselves and others without realizing it.  We have unspoken expectations about our interactions with others, thinking they should be obvious or natural.  We expect to conform to societal standards that may fundamentally be at odds with who we are as people.  We assume others have expectations of us we must conform to.  I have found the number one reason people fail to voice their expectations is fear.  What are we so afraid of?  Rejection, not belonging, not being loved.  These are all very real, but we become entrenched in fear without realizing it, afraid of shattering the careful reality we have constructed.  We are afraid of showing up and being seen.

I say it’s time to let go of fear.  As the quote at the end suggests, it’s better to put your expectations out there and speak your truth, because the truth will become known sooner or later.  You can save both time and pain by learning to put a name to your expectations.  By putting yourself out there, you will feel vulnerable and scared, but with practice, you overcome the fear.  As Glennon Doyle Melton describes extensively in her memoir Love Warrior, it’s a journey of making your internal self and external representative one and the same.  Putting our expectations on display will inevitably end the worlds of fantasies we craft in our heads, but who wants to live in a fantasy?

It’s not about letting go of expectations or lowering your expectations to avoid disappointment.  It’s about owning your expectations and speaking them honestly and authentically.  Stepping into your truth can be more beautiful and rewarding than you imagined.  You will still be disappointed, but it will happen less often and to a lesser degree if you can nip the disappointment in the bud early on.  And the best part: you will be free.