This book was given to me by my last, (most fantastic), counselor. I haven’t been in therapy for a few years now, and the book has been sitting idle on my shelf. But a little routine maintenance for my mind is always a good idea, and this book has short daily passages designed to promote healthy ways of thinking. It’s written for adult children of alcoholics, (which I am), but is great for anyone who struggles with codependency. Anyway, the other day I took it off the shelf, and the quote inspired me to write a little in the hopes it may help someone else.
In the same vein, I’ve held onto another pearl of wisdom my counselor shared with me: “Sometimes you have to lower your expectations to meet reality.”
When I first heard these quotes I thought they were idiotic. I was not a lowering-my-expectations type of person. I was like a bank robber with a hostage: meet my demands or face my wrath. But my expectations were causing conflict in my life and my relationship, and she helped me understand my refusal to be realistic was causing me torment.
When we don’t adjust our expectations, we end up miserable. When we want something to be a certain way, or we want someone to behave in a specific manner and it doesn’t happen that way, we become upset. We may be angry, disappointed, depressed, anxious, frustrated. We might lash out, pull away, or resort to bad habits to cope. If we hadn’t had the expectation in the first place—had we gone into the situation with more realism—we wouldn’t be on such an emotional roller coaster.
So what does it mean to meet reality? Well, if your expectation is to be able to get 12 hours worth of work done in 8, you need to lower your expectation to meet reality. If you think you can run a marathon even though you’ve never ran in your life, you might need to be more realistic.
How about revising our expectations of others? You might expect your 3-year old to write their name, but it’s not developmentally appropriate, so they may not be capable of doing it. Or if you are expecting someone to meet your emotional needs, but they are struggling with their own, then the need will never be met because the other person is incapable of giving what you seek.
Your expectation has to be feasibly possible. We all know the saying ”Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and it would be unrealistic to think so. But we do tend to place expectations on ourselves or others in our lives that may be just as difficult for them as constructing a city in 24 hours. Like the old phrases my dad liked to say, “You can’t cram ten pounds of shit into a five pound bag.”
So how do we balance lowering expectations with getting our needs met? We don’t want to be doormats to other people, especially if they are important people in our lives. We also don’t want to let go of what we want out of life, and just say, “Oh well.” We want to live our best life, chase our dreams, fulfill our desires, be happy.
What’s helped me find balance is prioritizing needs and facing reality. It requires great consideration, and sometimes difficult choices.
(And here’s my sidebar: Your expectation should never be for the other person to make you happy. It’s our own job to find happiness for ourselves, not others responsibility. End sidebar.)
In order to make sure you get what you need, prioritize what’s most important. Know what you absolutely have to have, and what you can live without. We really only need food, water, shelter, and love, but of course we hope for a little more. What we don’t need is to get our way all the time, or get everything we want. To determine what is most important beyond the basics is where great consideration is required.
For example, I need at least 7 hours of sleep each night to function the next day. Therefore, I have to sacrifice other things to make it happen. I am not the woman who is washing dishes, folding laundry, or scrolling through social media at 10pm. There are only 24 hours in the day, and I know when I need to be asleep in order to get my rest. It has to be an emergency or special occasion which causes me to sacrifice those precious 7 hours, because they are a priority.
Once you prioritize your needs, reality comes in. You have to be realistic about life and other people. When dealing with human beings, we have to know their abilities and limits. This is the part requiring difficult choices. If someone isn’t capable of giving you what you need, a decision must be made. Either the need becomes less of a priority, the person becomes less of a priority, or you find another way to get the need met.
Myself, I am a talker. I enjoy telling funny stories about my day, or venting about bad moments. I like the back-and-forth of swapping ideas, shared struggles, camaraderie. I need to do this to decompress from my day, process everything, bond. But my guy, Paul, is more the strong, silent type. Maybe he’s listening, but I’m never sure if he’s interested because he doesn’t ask questions or understand my emotions. This expectation of mine caused a lot of problems, and it’s taken me years to understand it isn’t his personality so he is never going to meet it. Thankfully, as we lived in the area longer I made friends, and I truly appreciate these women because they help keep me sane!
I’ll admit you guys, lowering my expectations took me a long time, and I still haven’t mastered it. If you’ve followed me for a while you may remember I don’t care much for reality—what dreamer does?—so I had lots of work to do! But do you know what? Sometimes when we let go of something we need, we discover more about ourselves, and it can be pleasantly surprising. Or we find out we didn’t need it as much as we thought.
How about you, dear readers? Do you have high expectations which have caused troubles? How do you handle being disappointed or let down by others? What is one thing you wish you could get better at for your own peace of mind? (I’m still working on the worrying!)
Happy May Day Dreamers! 🦋🌷🌈
Disclosure: The book above is an affiliate link, which means I may make a small commission if you buy it through the link (at no additional cost to you). Yes, I decided to become an Amazon Affiliate. Why? Because if there is a book or product I really love, and I end up blogging about it, why not try to make a little extra? I will only promote items I honestly believe in, and only when it makes sense with what I post, as selling is not the main point of my blog. Except when I write my book of course, then I will promote it like crazy on here! 😉