Let’s Talk About Expectations

I remember when I was much younger I was devastated that something I had expected to happen did not turn out as I thought. I was so angry that I decided that I would never have expectations again. That was a very wise thought and would have been very helpful for me to avoid tremendous disappointment and depression if I had followed through with that decision. I allowed my unmet expectations to cause me great emotional distress many times over the years. I really didn’t get that having expectations was complicating my life. It took many years and a great deal of disappointment for me to revisit having expectations.

One thing I learned over the years has to do with what I have control over and what I do not have control over. For the most part, only those things I do for myself and are not influenced by something outside myself are the things I can reasonably have expectations of the outcome. Even those things can turn out in a way I don’t expect. Anything that is not totally in my control I have little control of the outcome. Having expectations can give me a feeling of entitlement and can cause me to be in the role of the victim if the outcome is not what I had expected. If life does not meet my expectations it can have a negative impact on my self-worth.

We all have wants, desires, and preferences. Try to avoid having expectations.

Unconditional Love

Katy Perry has a new song entitled “Unconditionally.” The song refers to the notion of romantic love being unconditional. Although this is a very appealing notion, I believe it to be more of a romantic wish than a reality. Many people have the expectation that they will find a partner that will love them unconditionally. It is an ideal that would be rarely realized. Healthy adult relationships are based on mutual honesty and trust. When trust is broken and a person feels disrespected by their partner love can be damaged or destroyed. People grow apart and love sometimes ends.

We are most likely to see unconditional love by a parent for their child. Parent/child bonds are very strong. When someone does not receive that kind of love and acceptance from their parent, they are likely to seek that in their romantic relationships. They expect to find someone that will love them unconditionally. This leads to approval seeking behaviors and unrealistic expectations of those they have relationships. With the expectation of unconditional love comes great risk. Self-worth and esteem are tied to the love or lack thereof from another. When someone expects unconditional love and that love ends it can result in feelings of not being good enough and shame.

Our value as a person does not come from how others feel about us. It is important to love ourselves unconditionally and embrace our humanity and flaws. Then we will not have unrealistic expectations about the love of others.

Taking Care of Mind and Body

It is important to recognize that our emotional health affects our physical health. The converse is also true. Our physical health has an effect on our emotional health. It is equally important that we care for our body as well as improving our ability to cope with life’s issues. What we eat and the amount of activity we engage in can either improve or diminish our ability to manage our mood. Blood sugar levels can affect feelings of anxiety or depression.

A healthy diet and physical activity have a positive impact on brain chemistry. Here are some suggestions:

1. Engage in moderate physical activity daily.
2. Eat a healthy diet consisting of all the food groups.
3. Eliminated simple carbohydrates from your diet (sugar, white rice and potatoes). Complex carbohydrates will keep your blood sugar more stable. Blood sugar impacts mood.
4. Eat small meals throughout the day.
5. Drink a lot of water.

If you look better you will feel better. The healthier you are the better your mood as well as your self-esteem.

How We Grow and Learn

If you are currently experiencing difficulty or struggling in your life, there is something that you need to keep in the back of your mind. As difficult as things are, your life will continue to evolve and change and you will get past this.

I have found that growth takes place when you have to overcome adversity. We improve our ability to cope and to solve problems. It gives us a different perspective of life and shows us just how strong we are.

When I look back on the worst times in my life I recognize that these were the best times of my life. They created situations that gave me the opportunity to change and grow. Those times forced me to change the direction of my life. I was able to learn life lessons and become a better person.

Seeing The Whole Picture

I was watching an interview of the singer Pink on TV this past week. She has had a remarkable year with a lot of personal and professional success. That got me thinking about how we see others and compare ourselves and out lives to others. Making these kinds of comparisons is inherently emotionally unhealthy.

When we look at moments or a small portion of someone else’s life it is like looking at a snapshot. If things are going exceptional well for someone we tend think of them as having some kind of charmed life. If we step back and see their life as a whole what we are more likely to see are ups and downs and highs and lows. Nobody has a perfect life without some trials and tribulations.

Pink has had many problems in her personal and professional life that lead her to where she is today. All the experiences have made the woman she is today.

The same goes for us all. Life is a full length movie not a snapshot. Keep this in mind when viewing yourself and your life.

Looking For Answers

The most common question that is asked when something bad happens is: why did this happen to me or why would someone do that to me? We look for simple answers to questions that may have complicated or even non-existent answers. Many people think of divine intervention or punishment or even karma.

In some cases there are easy answers to these questions. Many times, as hard as we might try, we are unable to find answers when something happens. It is necessary at times to accept that there is no reasonable reason for a specific incident in our life. Life is easier if we can learn to accept that both positive and negative things happen in everyone’s life.

If there is a lesson to be learned, make every effort to learn that lesson and not repeat behaviors you can change. If you cannot identify a lesson or a reason, it is very important to accept your situation and move on.

It is possible that answers may reveal themselves at some time in the future.

Making Changes in The Way You Think (continued)

It is important to understand that our perception of reality becomes our reality. In many cases our perceptions have become distorted based on beliefs we developed early in life. Therefore, just because we perceive something to be true it might not be the case. Using the example of a person who is bitten by a dog; some people develop a fear of all dogs. Most dogs are not likely to bite us and we approach all dogs with the same fear. The fact is that only a small percentage of dog bite people so fearing all dogs is a perception not based in the truth.

Avoid thinking in absolutes or all or nothing. The concepts of always and never are invariably the result of faulty and distorted thinking. Also, it is not helpful to think that you should have done “this” or shouldn’t have done “that.” Regrets for previous actions are not helpful in improving mood and moving forward in our lives.

Identify the thoughts or beliefs that are faulty, erroneous, or self-destructive. Find alternative thoughts and beliefs. The next step I call “catch and correct.” Every time you “catch” yourself engaged in faulty thinking replace that thought with one that is more helpful. That way you are “correcting” your old patterns of thinking. This requires increased awareness of your thoughts and vigilance. It also required you to be persistent in your effort. This process will take time in order to change old automatic thinking to a new way of thinking. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of keeping a journal to record your thoughts and feelings. This strategy works for depression, anxiety, other fears, and self-esteem issues.

Most of all be gentle and kind toward yourself. No one does it perfectly and neither will you.