Dan is a 35-year-old guy just trying to figure it all out in life. For the most part, he’s happy.
But there’s one problem that’s really been tripping him up.
The problem? Dealing with others’ expectations.
See Dan isn’t a bad person, but he worries that he is. He doesn’t want to let people down. But he also knows that not all expectations are realistic.
In fact, he’s compiled a list of some of the expectations that he’s found especially problematic and uncomfortable:
1. Being in two places at once
2. Working endless hours while also maintaining high-quality work for his boss and work team
3. Being required to travel to see his parents AND his spouse’s parents every two months
4. Needing to respond within minutes to a certain needy friend via text, and Facebook Messenger, and whatever other platforms the friend happens to be using at the time
Why are these unrealistic expectations?
Because they are not based in reality.
It’s impossible to be in two places at once. It’s impossible to work without stopping without sacrificing the quality of the work. It’s VERY difficult to maintain a travel schedule to keep multiple people happy.
And with needy friends, the dynamic of the relationship is, by its very nature, unrealistic.
But we’re not done. Before you can overcome the expectations that others have of you, you need to consider an important component in the equation.
Self-Criticism and Expectations You Have of Others and Yourself
You ready for it? Consider these questions:
How do you treat yourself?
What do you expect from yourself?
If you think about that for a bit, you’re going to find that your own beliefs about yourself creep into what you allow in your relationships with others.
Self-love is a crucial ingredient when it comes to the mix and quality of relationships you have in your life.
Do you think you are worthy of love in the first place?
If not, you might let people walk all over you.
Take some time to consider how you feel about yourself.
Limiting beliefs can suck the life out of you and your relationships. They’re especially tricky because they’re not true, but they seem oh so true.
Here are a few examples of common limiting beliefs:
1. I’m not a good person
2. Others don’t like me
3. I’m always letting others down
4. I’m not good at relationships
5. I’m not a good friend
6. I can’t be as cool / funny / entertaining as _________
These beliefs seem so extreme when you read them, but I’ve been guilty of having some of these, and I’m guessing that you might be too.
To overcome unrealistic expectations from others, you must first mine through any unrealistic expectations you have of yourself. You must be ruthless in picking apart any limiting beliefs that are holding you back. No person is all one thing or another.
It’s only by getting your uncomfortable thoughts out in front of you, on paper or a computer screen, that you’ll start to see them for what they are.
How to Overcome Expectations From Others
Now for the good part–how to actually overcome expectations from others.
Follow these four steps the next time you’re dealing with an expectation or demand that you feel is unrealistic:
1. Categorize the expectation / demand
What do I mean by this?
I mean, what kind of expectation is it? Is it a spoken expectation, something that someone has repeatedly said to you?
Or is it an unspoken expectation, something that’s just “how it is” in your family or relationship?
And are there ulterior motives or preconceived notions? Do you sense that the other person is setting you up to fail?
These are all important questions to ask because they will give you more information to use when you move on to step two of the process, considering your reaction to the expectation.
2. Consider your reaction to the expectation
Knowing what you now know, think about your reaction to the expectation. If someone has a history of tricking you or has been malicious to others in the past, you might have a right to be annoyed and not want to handle the expectation.
But maybe it’s coming from a close friend or family member. Maybe the nature of your relationship is impacting the way you feel about the unrealistic expectation. That would be a different kind of situation.
Remember, this is all data–that’s all it is.
When you document what kind of expectation it is and any motives that may behind it–and then you quantify your reaction, you’re just collecting data that you can use when you select how you respond.
3. Determine your response
This step is often the one that most people take first. But you are not like most people. You read stuff. You expand your mind.
Only after you’ve analyzed the situation should you decide how to act. And only you can act. You’re the person living your life.
If you decide to end a relationship based on what you’ve learned, that’s OK.
If you decide you do want to try to travel to see both your parents and your spouse’s parents, that’s OK too.
What matters is that you’ve taken the time to pursue a course of action that is thoughtful and personalized to your unique situation.
4. Commit to your response (Over and over)
And now here we are at step four. But alas, it’s no the end of your journey.
Because when you choose a response to unrealistic expectations, you must choose it again and again.
People are stubborn. They form their behaviors and habits over periods of months and years. And so…it’s going to take some time to get people to accept your new responses and the boundaries that you establish.
But if the relationship is one worth having, it will come around and morph into something that doesn’t place unrealistic demands on you.
You have more power than you realize.
You are not your limiting beliefs.
You are greater than that. You can choose to transcend your beliefs and the demands people make of you.
Follow this 4-step process whenever you think you’re dealing with an unrealistic expectation.
This tool is yours for the taking.
It’s up to you to decide how to use it.