The one thing that I have learned over the past 10 years is, the reason why you get hurt, or perceive someone to have hurt you, is simply because the other party did not meet your expectations. Here’s an example. If you always expect your best friend to support you and be there when you need them, the moment they aren’t there for you, your perception may be that they don’t care. You feel disappointed, hurt, and resentful. It is very easy to blame the other person and point out how they hurt your feelings and made you feel unloved; the harder stance is to take a look at yourself and own the fact that they simply failed to meet your expectations.
The common sense answer to address someone failing to meet your expectations is to not have expectations at all. Unfortunately this strategy is fantasy, since to a certain extent, everyone has expectations. When you start a business or begin working for a company, your expectation is to succeed and do well, otherwise why would you even start? The same goes for when you play a competitive game; you want to win. Expectations are a part of life, and the more you can understand that the way you frame your experiences and choose to accept what happens, ultimately determines whether you fall into a pit of despair or a whole world of hurt.
My past strategy was to not expect anything from others and essentially do things for myself. That way if something didn’t happen according to my plan, I was the only one to blame. However, this strategy, although extremely effective, is also very isolating. I was reluctant to ask others for help because my ego didn’t want to be disappointed and I didn’t want to deal with the uncomfortable feeling of confronting my friend, family member, or loved one. The fallacy of this protective strategy, is that it prevented me from allowing another person to be there for me, because I didn’t allow for any space to be supported or assisted.
The strategy that I have adopted over the past few years is to have expectations, but to also be open to any surprises that may arise. I haven’t given up on expectations, but I do have a built-in clause to be open to potential modifications of my expectations. For example, if I know that I have an expected timeline for a project to be completed, and it doesn’t happen as I expected, I conditioned myself to stay open as best as I can, to understand why the timeline wasn’t achieved. I found that complaining doesn’t solve anything, although sometimes it does feel good to express and gripe. Being flexible to the timing and outcome, can bring unexpected gifts or insights that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t stay open.
The other strategy I have learned, is to recognize that there are benefits to my expectations not being met. This takes practice, just like the other strategy. Who wants to see the benefits of an unmet expectations, such as not receiving a job promotion, a delay in a loved one’s arrival from a trip, or a project you invested substantial money in, not panning out. If any of those experiences happened in your life, I bet you were thinking that there are NO benefits. However, if you begin making a list, writing out the benefits of those unmet expectations, at a certain point, whether it be 15 or 50 benefits, you will feel less charged and you could possibly feel the disappointment dissipating. Until you have found the equal amount of benefits that match your disappointment, you will still be upset, instead of recognizing that it was just an experience.
I do my best to deal with my disappointments from unmet expectations, but I am still human. When I do lose my cool and get upset, I allow myself to emote for a bit and then I do my list to see all the benefits of the experience. I also reflect on the role I played in the experience and take ownership of any actions or non-actions on my part. I recognize that every experience with another person is shared 50/50, and by taking responsibility for my part frees me up, even if it takes a while for my emotions to settle and dissipate. You have the power to choose to stay in anger and resentment, or surrender and accept.