NOTE: This post has been updated with new information and moved to here:
18 Important Reminders About Living Up to People’s Expectations
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Practical Tips for Productive Living
Written by Marc Chernoff // 44 Comments
NOTE: This post has been updated with new information and moved to here:
Photo by: Erin
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Kevin B. says
Excellent. I decided to free my mind.
Excellent post here. Wisdom!
Great article. I can totally relate, and I think the principle as a whole is extremely important. At 67 years of age I have realized the need to stop caring so much if certain people like me. It’s OK to please some, but we can’t please everyone all the time. Also, one-way relationships are just too exhausting over time. As I get older, I don’t want to put that much energy into relationships that aren’t giving anything back or, worse, taking too much emotionally. Would rather put the extra energy and time to better use.
Your Q.: What’s the best reason you can think of to give up trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations?
My A.: My own personal growth is at stake. The more I please or attempt to please others, their wants, their needs, their demands, the more I overlook my own, and hinder myself from learning new things, from opening my self to new views, experiences and growth. I will remain locked in someone else’s little word of opinions and never be free to ‘roam’ on my own because I set myself up with fear holding me back regarding how others might think of me, to failure. That is no longer acceptable. An opinion is ok, advice is ok, but when we ourselves allow our minds & our actions towards our own life to be dictated by the naysayers, we lose ourselves and sadly sooner but later we realize it and we’ve wasted much time, which those other people don’t really care much about that you wasted your time and essence on them at all.
Sandra Pawula says
The most obvious reason to me is that living for others expectations just brings unhappiness and suffering. It means you’re always living with a subtle tension and looking outwardly to see if things are OK, when really the source of genuine happiness lies within.
I loved this truth: “Our entire lives can be described in one sentence: It didn’t go as planned, and that’s OK.”
The idea of going it alone can be a challenging one. I understand why people hesitate about that. But, in the end, if we’re not true to ourselves, we’ll never find genuine happiness.
Yvonne I. Wilson says
Thank you Marc for articulating my exact thoughts in this post. I gave up living to other people’s expectations some years ago for the simple reason/s, it was wearing me out thin, there was no value being added to my life and my spirit felt depleted!
I will be sharing/pinning this!
I think that we can all relate to this. We all start our life living by other peoples expectations. When we break free of this, and starting living life based on our own expectations, we truly start to live. The sooner that we can figure out our purpose, create a plan, and live our plan the happier we will be. Thanks for sharing.
mike i says
I have never amounted to much by society’s standards in my 56 years of life because I am a dreamer. I decided not to change though; my dreams are worthy and can be good for many people. And the world needs dreamers.
From a past conversation with a friend, I found out that the need to compare ourselves with others will lessen the need to live up to people’s expectations. I don’t know if this is the ultimate truth but I guess it’s because we can finally see how time-consuming the act of living up to people’s expectations really is.
“What’s the best reason you can think of to give up trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations? ”
The world revolves around us. No, I’m not advocating selfishness but instead, I urge others to filter people’s expectations. Some expectations can get along well with our own expectations but most of them – nope. Be deliberate. Listen to other people’s expectations but only listen to their purpose of having that expectation and not the very words themselves.
Thank you for this site – I am so glad to have found it and look forward, with enthusiasm, to your regular updates.
Jonathan Look, Jr. says
I have started living with the attitudes brought by these reasons and life has become amazing. Now I live by my own expectations and find myself frequently exceeding them!
Judith Barillas says
My challenge is when I stand up for myself and the person (with whim I have a close relationship) totally disagrees with me AND throws it back in my face. eg saying, well, I may do that but YOU do xyz. I then feel defensive and going forward I choose to not say anything rather than deal with that response.
I have been working hard on speaking up, I call it “being brave” but this person is a super challenge. Any ideas??
Hi guys – first off thank you for your blog and the messages you post! Often, you hit the nail on the head for me, and I am re-inspired and motivated to make changes in my life – or re-start making those small changes!
One thing I would ask – and the stories you share at the beginning of the blog sometimes does this – but would you ever consider giving a list of examples of things to change? Or decisions to consider in order to prioritize my values? Some examples of how good things/actions are sometimes not good -for me- which is where I often get de-railed in trying to live my life to the fullest… sometimes I feel like I only see in hind-sight where I’ve made decisions that don’t put my values at the top, because I’ve prioritized someone else’s values.
Hello, I have been following your blog for about 6 months now, and it has been a wonderful gift! In the past, I have been a worrier, anxious, always concerned about what other people think. I have done things over the course of my life that others questioned, but when it was very important to me, I was able to push peoples expectations to the side, but this is something I always need to be vigilant about. Now I am 56 years of age and I finally feel a freedom to do what I want and say what I want! What has helped me the most in the last six months, is your blog, a book titled “If you had controlling parents” and “Promise, never have a negative thought again”, which I learned about from your blog! Thanks again!
Jennifer Bachman says
Thank you so much for all the wonderful Articles you have written. Since I have began receiving your newsletters in my e-mail inbox, I have gotten a lot better about not listening to the naysayers, and instead taking care of myself for once. I feel I am growing so much more as my own person. Thank you Marc and Angel for your inspirational words and helping me to see that I too am important and that my life does count.
Thank you for another great post. I agree, we need to do more than just exist. I would rephrase it as we need to do more than just survive, we need to thrive in this life – to grow, enjoy, create, share, and love. These are all simple things, and their capacity lies within each of us if we choose to make them a priority.
SO well written. 🙂
Also, quite frankly, even if you did live your life to others expectations, they probably wouldn’t even notice it, or appreciate it, even if you mentioned it. You make this ‘great effort’ and they don’t even care. So why bother?
vinay nagaraju says
Thank you :). I have often wondered how much of an effect the external situations and people have on us. Turns out it is a lot more than I had in mind. I thought why on earth would people want to satisfy others at all costs, and then I realized even I was trying to do the same consciously or unconsciously. A few really lovely pointers on the site, letting oneself go, endearing the truth, realizing that the same people will not be there to hold our hands forever… These certainly are 18 gems to follow 🙂
It’s taken a really hard time, but I am realizing… this very year and maybe working on it this very moment… that I can’t please everyone. Trying is just exhausting and it doesn’t always work. Better to try to please me while still being a kind, gracious person.
I have spent my entire life pleasing others before myself, looking for approval everywhere. If you remember the movie, “The Runaway Bride” there is a scene in which Richard Gere tells Julia Roberts that she doesn’t even know what kind of eggs SHE likes. She’s too busy liking eggs the way her other boyfriends liked them. Well that’s me – but I’ve decided that I need to look at what makes me me, get some counseling and use what years I have left to enjoy this, one-time-around, life. By the way, I don’t really care for eggs – no matter how they’re prepared 🙂
Barbara Radisavljevic says
I was into middle age before I learned this. It wasn’t until I moved to Paso Robles and started over that I rebuilt my life to answer only to God and myself for my choices. I’m sure I still have a lot of growing to do, but it won’t be in the direction of meeting the expectations of others anymore. I have learned to say no when I sense someone is just trying to fill a slot and the request is not an urgent one in line with my priorities.
Michelle S says
I couldn’t agree more with making yourself a priority too.
Destiny okafor says
I believe that after everything… we are all left with that one person we see in the mirror as we wake up… that’s our superman and motivator.
I think this website was sent to me (via a photo on FB) as a reminder of lessons I learned when I was much younger. Having grown up in very difficult circumstances with various abuses from different people – including my own mother – I had to teach myself that I could only accept responsibility for me and my actions. I don’t normally have a problem accepting my part and letting the rest go, but recently at work I have been dogged by people – whom I help through the non-profit work I do – telling me that I’m not doing enough or verbally beating me up over things that don’t matter in the grand scheme. Sometimes my own inner voice gets drowned out by the din of the others yelling at me and making me feel small. Today was one more rough day in a three week cycle and then I opened the picture on Facebook. Sometimes things are put in our path for a reason. I needed this reminder to make my own inner voice rise to the top again and remember to leave the others to themselves.
My problem is that I set expectations for myself that are too high. I have always not really cared what others thought of me, which should have made me a lot more content in life. The problem is that I guess I took that self granted freedom and constrained it by placing too high expectations on my self. I am bar far my own worst enemy, I can never live up to my own expectations.
Maybe if I view myself as an “other” I will be a little more at east. Just then I worry that I will never accomplish anything. Just keep doing what I do and maybe one day I’ll impress myself.
I’m pretty sure JK Rowling did not get tons of rejections for Harry Potter. Love your work either way though. Thanks for being awesome!
I’m one of your readers who always benefits from your posts. But this is the first time I wanted to share my experience how I was able to realized to think of me first.
In all my relationships and interactions with people (i.e. Friends, partner, family, colleagues at work), I always prioritize them. Myself and my needs is always last on the list. There came a point that I gave everything that I have and that’s when and where I felt the worst disappointment in my life ever. After an incident that opened my eyes and forced me to be hospitalized for the first time. No one I cared for even cared to see how I doing in my hospital bed. And I will never forget what my doctor told me: “Usually when I enter the room of my patient I can see either their family, parents, siblings, husband, children, friends. As I can see, it seems you’re living alone.” It was an eye opener for me. And I replied “Yes I’m living alone”. It was a painful realization to myself that I can only depend to myself.
From then on I promised to myself that I will put ME first on my list and in all situations. With that I started the PROJECT ME. Maybe you will think maybe I’m not a good person, that made it more painful for me because I am not. I was abused and used, yes. But it will never happen again. At least, at the age of 48, I learned to give importance to what I need, what will make me happy, what will make me grow, what will make me a better person. And that’s included in my PROJECT ME.
Thank you Marc and Angel for guiding me thru your wonderful site. Thank you.
@judith.. hi, i read your comment and i really felt that it’s brave of you to have been holding on to that relationship, even though it’s holding you back. but i think u should let go of it now. it might seem very hard, but it will be worth it. true love gives you confidence and freedom to stand for yourself. But if its the opposite then its a parasitic relation. That person might be with you for his/ her own confidence boosting.
Angel S says
Thank you so much for these. These are such awesome reminders for everyone to stop caring about what other people think. Live a happy and meaningful life, as long as no one gets stepped on along the way, and you’ll be fine!
Some nice points. I think our life boils down to the fact that it is YOUR life. Other people’s opinions, and particularly their opinions of YOU, are none of your business.
My life is the sum of my decisions at the end of the day. I take full responsibility.
Married, twice. Divorced, twice, the 2nd was 25 years ago. A handful of failed relationships later, I have spent the last several years living alone, & have no qualms about doing so for the years I have left. After a lifetime of giving in, compromising, giving up, postponing, placating & hoping things would change, I finally have peace at the end of the day. I don’t have conflicts, I don’t have to explain myself or my actions. Only one of my friends has taken a similar path; the rest are a bit baffled by my independence. At times I see old couples together & think that must be nice, but then I wonder what price they have paid. I have become a difficult woman………it would take a truly amazing man to persuade me to even entertain the possibility of a relationship now. It is hard to explain to someone else just how sweet it is to be free to be myself, finally!
This list struck my inner core to the max. When I was growing up I thought that it’s so cool that I get things done and my strong trait of independence is at the highest peak. Until recently, I realized that i have allowed co-workers, family and some friends to depend on me too much. I am a co-dependent and I’m working to set healthy boundaries to empower others and allow me to breathe also. It’s very hard but I’m a constantly developing to be better and better, to allow change happen in harmoniously. I breathe deeper now and I choose to like me more!
Thank you so much for this post – it really hit home. A few months ago, I had an epiphany and realized that I had spent the majority of my adult life living to please others. I wondered why I was so unhappy and why I felt so unfulfilled. Then something clicked, and I realized that I wasn’t living for me. Many of my decisions had been made out of fear – fear of not living up to others’ expectations of me. As you stated in this post, I was existing, but not living. I have made a conscientious choice to focus on what’s important to ME, not what’s important to others. I only have one life to live and that’s my life, not anyone else’s.
Marc Chernoff says
@Kevin B: Good for you! Sounds like your wife and son are pretty awesome too! =)
@mike i: One of the most influential sources of peace is simply being comfortable with who you really are. Not trading your reality for a role, or your truth for an act. Not giving up your freedom of thought. You’ve invested your thoughts and time into the things you love. You’re an inspiration!
@Jonathan Look, Jr: Everyone should read your comment. Guaranteed results!
@Judith Barillas: Remind your friend you’re not being argumentative, you’re simply expressing your opinion. The two of you should be able to participate in thought provoking conversations without one being right and one being wrong.
And remember, if you feed your confidence you’ll starve your fear. So in small and manageable situations, practice acting confidently – even if you don’t feel confident. Speak up in a meeting. Introduce yourself to someone new. Challenge yourself to do something a bit beyond your comfort zone. As you take action and see some success in these smaller situations, you’ll feel more and more confident.
@Laurie: You’re welcome! Thank you for the book recommendation.
@Craig: I can completely relate to what you’re describing. I remind myself of all I’ve accomplished and really take a moment to recognize how far I’ve come. It’s great to pursue dreams and constantly strive for greatness but not at the expense of enjoying and appreciating the present. You are enough! You have achieved so much in the last 5 years! I know it’s not easy but set aside some time each week to reflect on your accomplishments.
@April: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was rejected 12 times and J.K. Rowling was told “not to quit her day job.” Pretty inspiring!
@Elijjah: Project ME, I love it! Great idea. =)
@All: If the face you always show the world is a mask, someday there will be nothing beneath it. Because when you spend too much time concentrating on everyone else’s perception of you, or who everyone else wants you to be, you eventually forget who you really are. So don’t fear the judgments of others; you know in your heart who you are and what’s true to you. You don’t have to be perfect to impress and inspire people. Let them be impressed and inspired by how you deal with your imperfections.
You all inspire me by the way you speak and own your truth. And as many of you have pointed out, it’s never too late to reconnect with your true self. Thank you for being YOU! 🙂
Hi, very enlightening post. We cannot please everybody, that is life. So you might as well be yourself. Thanks for sharing.
Ryan Spicer says
I think it’s important to distinguish between “ignoring” and “letting go of negativity”. If we simply ignore the negativity, it’s still there, we are still feeling it, but you are pretending not to. I find it much more helpful to come to terms with it, observe it, and be with it and allow it to pass. This way we train ourselves not to react, but to accept the reality of what is happening, and learn to let go of the attachment associated with it. Simply by recognizing “I am feeling anger”, or approaching the negativity with compassion as to understand that the person or circumstance is more than just what is appearing at that moment, in this way we move away from judgment as well, which I find very important.
I wrote about my experience with this on my blog just last week. I found that I was deeply unhappy in my life because I was constantly trying to live up to others’ expectations instead of living the life that I truly dreamed of. Because of that I make a lot of bad choices. I’m through with that now and living the life that I truly want. Thanks for the great post.
Navona Langley says
You all have helped me so much. You will never know how much I have learned. I am in my sixties and never knew most of these things. I certainly didn’t know them in my thirties. Bless You
G Angela says
Simply Brilliant ! Loved every word you spoke, and made a lot of sense to me… thank you for sharing
Yes I couldn’t agree more. Today, I totally realized when you always do what others are expecting you to do, but they act just how you expect they will act when you unexpectedly don’t do what they expect. I am 35 years old and now realize that I still have the same feelings and emotions going in cycles and keep reoccurring over and over. They may be little different events that occur in each cycle but every time my feelings, pain, hurt, are the same. So that’s how I end up on here and thanks . You have put in to word and I think I understand and was what I need to here. So now I going to change my life by not living up to others expectations but living up to my on expectations and see if them reoccurring events stop happening and I happier because I done what I expected instead of what they expected me to do.
The best reason I can think of to give up trying to live up to other people’s expectations is this…
That one day, perhaps many years from now, you may wake up and realize that you no longer know who you are; that you are living a life which is not your own.
Surely, the point of life is to live OUR lives. We are OURSELVES – we are UNIQUE and INDIVIDUAL. Let other people live other people’s lives!