Four Signs Your Expectations Are Too High

Since I can remember, I have always had a huge imagination.  Maybe part of the reasoning is because I was an only child, so entertaining myself meant creating incredible stories in my head.  I used to watch the cartoon, Muppet Babies and try to emulate their imaginative play, pretending to be in a rocket ship headed for the moon or traveling through the forest while speaking to animals.

My imagination was so large that many times when I would go to experience something new, it didn’t live up to my larger-than-life ideas. I remember, standing in front of the tree at Rockefeller Center and saying to my mom, ‘this is it?”  In my mind, I thought there would be a plethora of ornaments engulfing the tree with tinsel glistening against the colorful lights. 

There are so many quotes that subscribe to the idea of not having expectations so you don’t live life disappointed.  I don’t agree with that concept. I think expectations are a part of who we are, helps us strive for more and many times, is the extra push we need to succeed.  Yet, there is a fine line between healthy expectations and those that create an undertow of unhappiness. 

As a high-achiever, I have had to examine my own need to succeed and why I place these extreme expectations on myself.  It was not an easy path to self-discovery. It meant being vulnerable, flawed and shockingly honest with myself.  

I also recognize the negative impact my expectations were having on all my relationships. The more outlandish my expectations were for myself, the more those ideals spilled over to my employees, my husband, my child. In the moment, I didn’t believe my expectations were unreasonable, employees should be at the office by 9; my kid should get 90’s on all her tests; my husband should know that I need him to do the dishes tonight because I had a long day. 

I would internalize these expectations and find myself looking at individuals similarly to the way I viewed the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center at age 9, not quite what I had hoped.

The tricky thing about having high expectations is how it never just impacts our own actions but seeps into our relationships.

How do you recognize if your expectations level is too high?  Here are four signs;

1- You believe that those in your life (personal or professional) should know what you need without you having to say anything.  Come on, if you are reading this article, you have high expectations, which means you have gotten angry at your spouse for not doing something that you BELIEVED he should have known to do.  It is common and can easily be solved with just asking for the help your support you are looking for with direct communication.

2- You want others to be just like you.  Yes, if we are going to pull all-nighters at work or wake up extra early to throw two loads of laundry in and put a meal in the crock pot before everyone gets up, we expect the same as others.  Individual pace and drive is just that, individual, so don’t judge others by your own standards.

3- Don’t worry, they’ll change.  Oh how we think we are so mighty that we can change others.  People who want to change for themselves have a hard time doing that so thinking you wield even more power is insane. 

4- When I get, (insert material possession or money here) I will be happy.  Yes, you know when finally get IT you believe it will feel as if the sky opened and the rays of happiness will wash over you.  What you’ll see is that happiness doesn’t come from things and expecting items or money to make you happy is dangerous. 

Manage your expectations so that you can make smarter choices and have healthier relationships, not only with those in your life but, more importantly, with yourself.

Marissa Bishop