A woman walking in a warehouse looking downward

You’re probably familiar with disappointment of some kind. We probably all started 2020 with spoken and unspoken expectations. Maybe you can relate to a few examples.

Spoken Expectations

  • I expected to visit family across the country because we bought plane tickets and put it on the calendar.
  • I expected to walk across the stage at graduation because that’s what you do after completing school.
  • I expected to walk down the aisle at my wedding because I’m engaged. It’s planned, and we’re so close to the date!
  • I expected to get promoted because I was next in line.
  • I expected my small business to thrive because word had finally spread.

Unspoken Expectations

  • I didn’t realize it but I expected to be in my friend’s wedding. I thought we were close. 
  • I expected that my partner or roommate would take out the trash because they knew I wouldn’t be home until late.
  • I expected this degree or relationship to make me feel better about myself.
  • I expected my work environment to be positive.
  • I expected motherhood to feel more natural. 

According to GoodTherapy, an online source for therapists and counselors, rehab and residential treatment centers and mental health resources, “Expectations are determined by a combination of experience, cognitive processes, communication with others and cultural norms.”

We’re not crazy for having expectations. It’s normal! Unspoken expectations, however, often leave us disappointed because we don’t realize we have them until we don’t get what we hoped for.

Unspoken expectations are like a silent thief because if you’re not careful, they can steal your joy. Before you know it, your inner critic is feeding your mind false beliefs about your identity. For example, at the end of most of my disappointments, are words like “not enough,” “better,” “should have,” “more,” “quicker” or “easier,” which leave me feeling let down and unfulfilled.

Maybe I was looking for something to satisfy me? Maybe I’m creating disappointment?  

There’s a lot of quotes out in the world about lowering expectations. Some say they will always lead to frustration, but I can’t fully stand by that. It’s difficult when our expectations aren’t met by ourselves or others, but we need to recover and learn how to return to joy after unmet expectations.

We need to recover and learn how to return to joy after unmet expectations.

We need to learn how to manage expectations, not get rid of them. They keep us forward-thinking, driven and hopeful! What would the world be without expecting change? Without expecting more kindness from humanity? We can walk in both grace and expectation. 

Have you ever had unmet expectations? Do you often practice communicating the expectations you have of others to them?

Image via Jack Belli, Darling Issue No. 17

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