Are Your Expectations Too High?

When our expectations are too high, they become our nemesis.
When our expectations are too high, they become our nemesis.

Check Your Expectations

What are expectations?

"I thought that he would at least call."

"The company said that it would be easy. This is one of the most difficult I have ever done!"

"She came, but she didn't bring everything with her."

"You didn't do it? What on earth were you thinking?!"

In every one of the above expressions, expectations were not met. Our expectations are what we think will happen. They give us a look at the future. We expect the sun to rise in the morning, the eggs to be on the shelf when we go to the store, and the money to come in after we have put in our hard work and effort.

These types of expectations are based on facts, contracts, and natural laws. Unfortunately, the expectations we have for human beings are based on what we think "should" or "could" happen. Nothing is guaranteed, and we frequently end up hoping for more than we get. This phenomena leads to the emotional issues of disappointment, disbelief, discouragement, disagreement, distrust, dissatisfaction, disrespect, and discontentment.

Every one of these words begins with "dis" - "a Latin prefix meaning 'apart,' 'asunder,' 'away,' 'utterly,' or having a privative, negative, or reversing force" (Dictionary.com). When our expectations get the best of us, we have a disconnect between what with think ought to happen and the reality of life. This space gets filled with all sorts of negative thoughts and feelings.

It seems that no one escapes the troubles, challenges, and disappointments of this world.

— James E. Faust

Where do our expectations come from?

Our expectations are the sum total of what we have experienced in the past, what we have done with those experiences, and how we want our future to be. We develop beliefs that govern our actions and what we think is right and proper.

These beliefs are in the form of statements that we tell ourselves. We use them as the basis of our expectations. We assume that they are true and valid because the circumstances of our lives substantiate them.

We may even adopt statements that are irrational or unrealistic. We think that certain things are true because we see them played out in our lives. This complex web of cause and effect connections plants seeds of negative emotions that eventually undermine our emotional health.

These unrealistic expectations become skewed, upside down and inside out. We find ourselves disillusioned, disheartened, and disappointed with our lives. See the table below for examples of some unrealistic expectations and how we skew them to make them even more detrimental to our feelings of self-worth:

Unrealistic Expectation
Skewed Version
I have worked hard, therefore, I deserve to take it easy
I can't take it easy now, I haven't worked hard enough.
If I do everything right, I can avoid pain and suffering.
I am suffering and in pain, I have done something wrong.
Life is supposed to be fair. Everyone should be treated equally.
I am not being treated equally. Life is terribly unfair.
If I am nice to others, in return, they will be nice to me.
People are being mean to me. I must not be very nice.
When I have everything I need, then I will be happy.
I am not happy. I don't have everything that I need.

How do unrealistic expectations affect us?

Having unrealistic expectations is like having a cracked windshield on a car. Each time we look through it, we see a distorted view of reality. We think that we are close to an object, only to find out that we are farther away. We think that we see someone approaching us from the right, and in reality, they are driving down a street next to us.

Unrealistic expectations give us false alarms. We think that something is happening, or going to happen, and it doesn't. We end up on a roller coaster ride with the highs of hope in between the lows of disappointment. We develop issues with anger, frustration, and grief as part of the package. If we don't correct the problem, we end up in despair. Despair is the prelude to emotional heart failure, the most tragic of all human conditions.

Emotional heart failure surely leads to suicide, a tragic result of unfulfilled expectations.
Emotional heart failure surely leads to suicide, a tragic result of unfulfilled expectations.

How can we change our expectations?

It is possible to change our expectations, but we first need to understand what they are and how they affect us. We start by looking at our relationships. If we find that we are often impatient or critical with ourselves and others, we may be dealing with expectations that are overly perfectionist in nature.

For example....

Unrealistic expectation - I have to get it right the first time.

Problem - this particular expectation is problematic because we all make mistakes during the learning process. No matter how talented or intelligent we are, we will need more than one attempt to get everything right. Even then, there are many variables in life that can affect us at any given moment, changing the outcome of the things that we do.

Solution - Allow room for error. Change the expectation to the following: If I don't get it right the first time, I will keep on trying until I get it. That way, we don't beat ourselves over the head and feel bad when we make a mistake, we give ourselves encouragement to try again instead.

All about us are those in need of encouragement, assistance, and help—help of a kind we can all give.... time and attention and personal encouragement....

— S. Dilworth Young

It is possible to prevent unrealistic expectations

Preparedness allows us to learn more about ourselves and to change our expectations so that they are more realistic. When we prepare, we feed our knowledge bank of how the world works and how we affect the things around us. As we do so, we program ourselves with statements that are more likely based on fact than assumption or estimation.

We are in a better position to develop high quality relationships with others, and to have our time with them be more pleasant and encouraging. We become a positive force in the world, and are less likely to be tossed about by the whims of chance or change. Preparation gives us the power to choose more wisely.

Develop the ability to recognize and change unrealistic expectations today, for your emotional health!

©2015 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved. For more information on emotional health, see www.denisewa.com.

When we prepare, we give ourselves the knowledge and understanding to change what happens in our future.
When we prepare, we give ourselves the knowledge and understanding to change what happens in our future.

More by this Author


Comments 19 comments

OneMorePage profile image

OneMorePage 18 months ago from Richwood, Ohio

Thank you for the well-written article. I appreciate your thoughts on the subject and really needed to hear it today!


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 18 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Wonderful and important words to take serious stalk of. You do a great service here Denise.

One of the greatest pleasures I have in life is getting all ready for the foreseeable and then sitting back and waiting for God to create the unforeseeable. As I mature I actually look forward to life's curve balls like a new adventure just waiting to happen. I find my disappointments are fewer and I can go with the flow with contentment.

Well done!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 18 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for your comment, OneMorePage. I'm glad that you found the article helpful. Expectations can wreak havoc with our emotions, especially when they are unrealistic!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 18 months ago from The Caribbean

Denise, once again you have spoken to an issue that is popular, but does not get enough attention. Thanks for making us think about our unrealistic expectations, their disadvantage, and the opportunity to change them. Another valuable lesson!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 18 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

It is interesting, Eric, that as we get older, our expectations change. We have seen about all there is to see, and our wealth of experience becomes a cushion that we land on when we experience the unexpected. I like your philosophy of "going with the flow," it makes us much more content. It also allows us to let God do what he will with our lives, while we enjoy the ride!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 18 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Dora. This is something that I have been having trouble with as of late. I was telling my husband how I was feeling, and he looked at me and asked, "Are your expectations too high?" This was after I was already writing this hub! It has been an eye opener to see what I need to do to make things better for myself and my family.


florypaula profile image

florypaula 18 months ago

I am always trying not to create high expectations because almost every time they didn't concluded. It is not easy and I'm not always succeeding, but I am trying.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 18 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

No it is not easy, florypaula, especially when we want what is best for ourselves and those that we love. The important part is that you keep on trying. Each time you experience unfulfilled expectations, it is important that you be kind to yourself. It is easy to be critical of ourselves and think that we are not "good enough" when this happens. Rather than allowing this to happen, keep a record of your experiences. Write down what happened, what you were thinking, and how you felt. As you do so, you will gradually be able to curb your high expectations and exchange them for those that are more reasonable. My best to you in your efforts! Thanks for commenting!


Dr Pran Rangan profile image

Dr Pran Rangan 18 months ago from Kanpur (UP), India

Thanks for a well written hub. We all create expectations because they are intricately connected to the interactions in our life. And the irony of life is that mostly expectations cause pain and hurt to us because we get much attached to them. Non-attachment to our expectations will save us from pain and disappointment in life. I don't deny that it is quite difficult to cultivate the attitude of non-attachment to the our expectations. But it can be done with practice and patience; it will protect our emotional health.


clivewilliams profile image

clivewilliams 18 months ago from Nibiru

My thoughts. The world is an extremely simple place.....people make everything difficult. Society shapes our decisions and our expectations. It is subliminally drilled in our subconscious by the media every day. The rich and greedy and those who use psychology to enslave our existence and minds.


florypaula profile image

florypaula 18 months ago

Thank you Denise. You make some great points and I'll consider them :)


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 18 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is a good point, Dr Pran. We end up attached to our expectations because they are so integrally connected with our emotions. Cultivating an attitude of non-attachment has a lot to do with setting boundaries or limits. Rather than allowing our expectations to rule our emotions, the boundaries we set keep our emotions in check. We are able to look forward to and anticipate what we want to have happen, but are able to have a good attitude when things don't work out the way we had hoped. I appreciate your comments and insight.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 18 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, clivewilliams. Society certainly has a great deal to do with our expectations, especially if we allow ourselves to be steeped in the norms created by the media. We are the only ones who can keep that from happening. Your comment about the world being a very simple place gives us the answer. When we simplify our lives, we are able to get a handle on our expectations and avoid being a victim of the times.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 18 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are welcome, florypaula. Thanks for stopping by.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 18 months ago from New Delhi, India

Another thought provoking hub and you made some quite valuable points here. I believe having expectations from others may lead to disappointments. And unrealistic expectations hurt even more.

Living in the moment really helps.

Thank you for an enlightening read!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 18 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are welcome, ChitrangadaSharan. You are right about living in the moment. It keeps our expectations more realistic. I appreciate your comments.


Padmajah Badri profile image

Padmajah Badri 18 months ago from India

Your Hubs are always my favorite.I do get more clarity after reading your hubs as the topics are need of the hour.Practical hub explaining the goodness of realistic expectations and consequences of unrealistic expectation.Voted up as always.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 18 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are welcome, Marsha. It is tough when you think you know what is happening, and then something unexpected takes front and center stage. I hope that your friend is able to work through the difficulties she is experiencing. You may want to refer her to my profile page, as there are a number of articles that will be helpful to her. I appreciate your comments.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 18 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Padmajah, I appreciate your vote of confidence. Unrealistic expectations can cause major problems, especially if we don't realize what is happening. They wreak havoc with our emotional health.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working