How Expectations Can Keep You From Feeling Good Enough Posted in: Happiness We live in a culture deeply infatuated with easy, immediate, perfect, and the way it should be. We love an over-simplified option of “this” or “that”. I mean, who doesn’t prefer having two clear cut options over complicated explanations and insights requiring thought and consideration? Turn on the news. You’ll watch it happen on every channel. The diet community is a terrific example of how extreme this idea can become. You’ve seen the headlines: Lose 50 pounds in just 5 weeks, love exercise with two quick mindset changes, your perfect body in just 3 months. Yuck. Unrealistic, shaming, and completely false. My own wellness community can be heard saying things like “use daily gratitude to be happy”. Gratitude certainly helps but, sadness and grief don’t leave forever just because someone develops a simple gratitude practice. That’s an unrealistic expectation. Life is complicated. Not simple. Solutions, understanding, and wisdom live in the grey middle space rather than the polar opposite end caps. You don’t have to be wrong so that I can be right. I don’t have to be wrong so that you can be right. None of us has to be perfect to be enough. When we place a requirement for simple and easy solutions, we are led into disappointment, frustration, anger, and martyrdom. A simple illustration of this happens when a friend tells us about an amazing movie he just saw. His eyes light up as he describes the action and cinematography. He loved it and we can’t wait to go and see the best movie of all time! Once settled into the theater, we don’t get why our friend liked the movie so much. It isn’t close to our expectation and we feel disappointed. We just knew it was going to be so much more. What a waste of time. It’s an easy thing to have happen. It’s as if the movie had to be the BEST ever or not worth seeing at all. What about letting it be a good, entertaining, or mediocre movie, that could still be fun to watch? Maybe the movie was horrible, but was it nice to be out for a bit, or at least enjoy some popcorn? A more complicated example would be when we decide our family interactions with Aunt Pearl should be easy. [here come our expectations] We decide she should be understanding and kind. I mean, that’s what good family members do. Who doesn’t know that?! And, we can’t have a relationship of any value with her if it isn’t exactly like we want it to be. Aunt Pearl isn’t easy though. She’s tough, and when we run up against the difficulty each time we see her, we resent the injustice of having a family that is so difficult. Why do we have to be stuck with an Aunt Pearl? But, we suck it up, because it matters to our spouse, or someone else in the room, that we all get along. We feel rejected, trapped, misunderstood, and angry. Even worse, our own behavior becomes less than stellar, and regret, a familiar companion, follows us home. That’s so painful. I promise you, it doesn’t have to be this way. What if we stopped needing Aunt Pearl to be different? What if we considered she could be enjoyable and valuable “as is”? I’ll bet your immediate response is “oh, heck no”. The fear of letting go of an expectation is too strong. But, what are we afraid of really? That if we stopped needing her to be different, then she wins? That if we stopped needing her to be different, she would be even worse? That we would have to accept the reality of who she is? Actually, what happens is that when we stop needing Aunt Pearl to be different, it stops mattering that she isn’t. When I stop needing things to be different, I feel better. Ohhhh yeah – that’s called personal power! Dropping the expectation of easy and simple, and the way we are certain life should be, opens up the possibility for what is. Most often, the present moment is enough. Perhaps you are able to notice that Aunt Pearl is really kind to your Uncle Eddie. You love Uncle Eddie and say a silent thank you for how she treats him, not you, but him. Maybe, when you stop needing Aunt Pearl to be easy, you notice that she has interesting stories to tell. The possibilities are endless for what else you will find when you can let go of the expectations you carry. When I’m not disappointed and angry, I am able to enjoy the moment. Life is easier. Consider the places where you limit your options by using good/bad, right/wrong, or all/none thinking. Can you move toward some common ground? Is there any other possible way to look at your situation? Standing in a court of law, would an opposing attorney be able to present a reasonable case for the other side? Drop the expectations, and let it be what it is.