Letting go of ExpectationsNov 09, 2023
Have you ever got to a stage in life, where you have turned to yourself and said:
“I am not where I am suppose to be!”
Everyone in agreement … shout hell yeah! One thing is for sure, you are not alone. Expectations that you put on yourself and others set you up for failure, heartache, frustration, suffering and disappointment (99% of the time). All of these emotions then leave you feeling tired and confused. We are going to look at four areas that we can focus on to begin to understand how to let go of expectations. These include Control, Awareness & Reflection, Acceptance & Compassion and Core Values & Needs.
What is an expectation?
An expectation is a strong belief that something will happen. Having an expectation means focusing on a particular outcome. Of course it’s ok to be disappointed when things don’t go your way. However, there are tools you can learn to set yourself up so that you are not focusing so tightly on the outcome as well as ways to build resilience when things feel like a let down. There are unrealistic expectations and realistic expectations.
Unrealistic expectations = suffering
Realistic expectations = focusing on what you can actually control
Very often the expectations we put on ourselves have come from our beliefs we hold about where we think we should be at a certain stage in life. This usually stems from pressures from family and friends and what society has programmed us to believe. Expectations are massively intertwined with comparison - the more you compare yourselves to others, the more you are going to create unrealistic expectations for yourself. We are going to look at four areas where you can start to reprogram and readdress your expectations.
A coaching client of mine - lets call her Sally, was going for a job interview and wanted to ask for a month off every year. We can call this her desire.
The unrealistic expectation would be: her thinking that she would definitely get a month off a year.
The realistic expectation would be her focusing on what she can control. i.e showing up with the energy that she wanted to bring to the interview - confidence, clarity, a sense of calm and decisiveness. Ultimately, her getting the month off was out of her control. The energy she brought to the situation was within her control.
It’s important to remember that desires and expectations are different. It’s great to have desires but we cause ourselves disappointment and suffering when we have expectations. We can have a desire for something with the openness that the who, when, what and how is not within our control.
When we try to control things that are not within our control, it immediately set us up for struggle. This can trigger a shame spiral - where you begin to tell yourself: “I am not worthy” “I am useless” “I am not enough.” The shame spiral starts with you feeling like you can control things, doing your best to control what is out of your control (i.e someone’s reaction to you) and then feeling like it’s your fault when things don’t turn out how you had expected them to.
Instead we must focus on what IS in our control - the energy that we bring to situations and how we decide to show up. Having desires in life is important. We just have to learn to be flexible with these desires, letting go of exact expectations. For example, if you desire to have a boyfriend, choose to focus on the energy you want to bring to this rather than trying to control a timeline.
Awareness & Reflection
The first step with awareness is asking yourself some simple questions. A great way to begin would be with some journalling prompts.
- Where did I think I would be right now?
- Where am I placing pressure on outcomes that are out of my control?
- What expectations have I put on myself? Did they come from others people’s expectations of me?
Maybe what you thought you wanted, wasn’t actually what you wanted at all. Maybe it was outside pressure from family and friends, your cultural upbringing, our just general societal rules. Did you believe you would be married with kids by now? Climbing the ladder in a job that you thought was everything you wanted, but now just depletes you?
By allowing time so sit with your thoughts and journal it out, you are able to reflect on the choices you have made so far, and look at where you can make new choices, that align with who you truly are.
- Did I genuinely want these things, or was it social conditioning?
- Do I still want these things now?
- What is it that I actually want?
- What feels good to me?
- What’s my true definition of success?
Acceptance & Compassion
Let’s move on to gratitude journalling. Gratitude journalling helps you to understand what it truly means to live in the present moment. You begin to accept where you are right now choosing to see all the incredible things about your life. You can also start to choose to be grateful for the choices you have made so far and see how they have got you to where you are now. Gratitude is a great exercise to cultivate acceptance and compassion. Acceptance and compassion are antidotes to expectations!
- What three things are you grateful for today?
- What are the three reasons you are glad to be alive today?
- What is something you are grateful to have learned recently?
- How does expressing gratitude make you feel right now?
Through self-compassion we are able to be kind and understanding towards ourselves, forgiving ourselves for the mistakes we made, realising that these mistakes have led us to where we are today. And if you are here, reading this blog, you have a certain level of awareness that most people don’t! And that’s a wonderful thing! By being self-compassionate we are motivated to reach for realistic goals and we choose to grow from the mistakes we have made. By putting pressure on ourselves and being unkind to ourselves, because we haven’t matched up to our expectations, we inhibit our own growth.
When we carry a load of expectations, we begin to paint a picture of how our life ‘should be’. This then creates guilt, frustration, perfectionism, resentment and anxiety. We must begin to make a conscious effort to let go of the ‘shoulds’ we have created in our lives. Compassionate exercises could include:
- Write a list of where you are using the word should, and see how you can change the narrative eg: “I should go to the gym." You can change this to “I really want to feel energised and would like to go to the gym.”
- Practice compassion for others
- Set boundaries
- Catching any critical language you use towards yourself
Core Values & Needs
It’s important to look at your core values and needs because when you get to know yourself on a deeper level you can look to see where your expectations have come from. When you start to align yourself to your own values and needs you will likely let got of such high expectations for yourself and instead focus on what really matters and what fulfils you on a deeper level.
Your core values are your own personal beliefs that dictate how you want to lead your life. Core values are traits or qualities that represent what you deeply care about, what drives you and what sets your soul on fire. They are the anchor in which to ground you and help you get really clear on your decisions about how you lead your life.
When you get clear on what it is that you value, what is it that you believe, you care less about what those around you are doing and you are able to get laser focused on yourself.
I believe that finding out what your core values are allows you to set better boundaries for yourself, they help you steer clear from self-abandonment, they stop you comparing yourself to everyone else, they allow you to grow and they allow you to get super clear on your purpose in life.
When you do the work to understand who you are and what you want to give out to the world, life becomes a lot more easeful! Decisions become more natural because they come from a place of truth and therefore you don't have to constantly question everything you do. Through this you can set more realistic goals that give you ease within the expectations you put on yourself.
Ultimately your core values are the heart of what you stand for and how you want to be seen in the world.
A great way to dive into your core values and needs is through journalling.
Here are some prompts to get you started -
- When have you felt the most happy, fulfilled and proud of yourself?
- When have you felt the most regretful / frustrated / unfulfilled or annoyed?
- What core values are important to you eg: growth, happiness, respect, resilience, self-acceptance, being present?
When you begin to align with the core values you set for yourself, then your expectations will be in alignment with what it is that you truly value. You will let go of expectations that don’t actually feel important to you. For example, if you have placed expectations on yourself all your life to get a corporate job, yet you value nature, you are likely going to set yourself up for struggle as you sit in an office block hours on end!
We all prioritise our needs differently. You can choose to fulfil your needs in a healthy way and bring balance to your life. What are the 6 human needs?
You can find further details on the 6 human needs on my blog.
When you let go of expectations you will:
- Stop placing such high expectations on yourself and others.
- Let go of the need to be perfect.
- Build resilience to things not going your way.
- Choose to learn and grow - a fundamental human need.
- Lean into the energy you can bring to certain situations, rather than outcome.
- Reach your goals in a healthy way.
- Not let your goals define you.
- Let go of other people’s expectations of you and also let go of your expectations of others.
Want to live a more conscious life? A life on your own terms? Want to break free of other people's expectations of you?
Join my self-worth boost challenge.