Every day in your interactions with family and work colleagues, you set and meet expectations. Most of them are unspoken ones driven by individual perceptions and shaped by the roles you play at home, the workplace, and in society (Eg father, mother, son, daughter, sibling, manager, leader, volunteer, citizen)
Setting and meeting expectations are normal and healthy. Human beings are social creatures and need each other to grow and flourish. The challenge begins when there is a mismatch between meeting the needs of others and having yours met.
As an Executive Coach privy to hundreds of coaching conversations, my observation is that the equation seems to skew towards giving and not enough of getting.
A few manage to strike it right. But, most people ignore their wants and spend time and energy fulfilling the expectations of others.
” An old belief is like an old shoe.
We so value its comfort that we fail to notice the hole in it.”
~ Robert Brault
Some feel they don’t deserve any better and that others are more important.
Some have grown up in homes where sacrificing your needs to meet others was considered a virtue. Now, as adults, they struggle because living by this belief seems unsustainable.
Perils of Mindreading
What about you?
Do you often ask for your needs to be honoured, or do you tend to ignore them?
If it’s the latter, you are likely to associate various disempowering meanings with asking for your expectations to be met. You may also indulge in mind reading about what someone else may say or feel when you place a request.
Remember, as a species; we are poor at mind-reading. All it leads to are assumptions, presumptions and preconceived notions.
“A life that is burdened with expectations is a heavy life. Its fruit is sorrow and disappointment”
~ Douglas Adams
Give and Take
Try this brief exercise
List down your family, friends, colleagues, manager, and team members’ usual expectations from you.
Next, please write down your expectations from each of them.
What do you notice? Does it look like a fair exchange?
Is there too much giving and not enough getting, or is it vice versa?
How do you feel looking at the expectations that people have for you? Does it fill you with a sense of joy, pride, achievement?
Does it feel exhausting? Stressful?
Is it uncomfortable to approach this topic?
The Self Blame Trap
Putting others before you and meeting their expectations works provided your’s are satisfied too;
However, you are likely to experience frustration, stress, and anger if there is an imbalance.
Another fall out of this is that sometimes you will unintentionally disappoint others and then judge or blame yourself, thereby inviting feelings of shame and guilt.
Challenge the Status Quo
You can choose to change all of this.
Here are six actions that you might find helpful.
1.Begin with self-awareness.
You matter, as do others; acknowledging this in no way reduces the importance of others. The idea here is to strike a balance between the two, so you feel nourished.
2.Develop greater compassion for self
Look from a place of kindness to drop your self-judgements and labels
You are a human just like others and are entitled to your feelings, needs and wants. Acknowledging and honouring them will fill you with positivity and energy.
3.Learn to set and honour boundaries
Boundaries are signals to others where they have to stop and cannot ask, take, or demand more from you. It’s your responsibility to set and honour the boundaries for your well being.
Start by communicating your needs in a calm, composed and confident manner. Then, stand your ground and politely decline any further requests that can cause you stress.
Saying no when needed helps you develop courage and supports in boundary-setting.
4.Speak your mind
Practice communicating your thoughts and feelings openly, some people may not like it, and some may not agree with it. That’s alright.
Holding back what you wish to communicate with the assumption and fear that others may not like it is unhealthy. It can lead to frustration, stress and resistance.
If you intend to express yourself and not hurt anyone, then go ahead and do just that. By communicating clearly you are clarifying your needs and making it easier for others to meet them
5. Treat others like the adults they are.
The more often you show up to fulfil their needs, the more dependent they will be on you. Learn to detach where necessary, allow others to figure some things on their own; it’s a skill they will be grateful to you for years to come.
Also, sometimes the expectations may be unrealistic and unfair; learn to call it out and state your position.
6.Make it a habit to take some time before committing
This approach can be helpful as it gives you time to reflect, process and become aware of your current and upcoming commitments.
You will then be more mindful while saying yes or no to the new request. Agreeing quickly out of fear or shame can cause you problems later.
By following the above action steps, you will feel heard and experience a sense of freedom. You will also have an opportunity to build more fulfilling relationships while reducing your stress, fear, shame, and guilt.
What’s more, you are likely to meet the expectations of others without resentment
and feel honoured by having yours met.
Giving and taking is a natural part of our existence; by being mindful about it, you can learn to bring more balance and harmony into this process.
May you live a fulfilling and joyful life!
Points to Ponder
- Where do I need to be more assertive?
- Where do I need to be more accepting and understanding?
- What can I do to set better boundaries?
- Where do I need to let go of shame and guilt?
- How can I be kinder and more compassionate to myself?