“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”
— Bruce Lee
The biggest disappointments in our lives are often the result of misplaced expectations. This is especially true when it comes to our relationships and interactions with others. So don’t lower your standards, but do remember that removing your expectations of others is the best way to avoid being regretfully disappointed by them.
Which means it’s time to…
1. Stop expecting them to agree with you.
You deserve to be happy in your own way. You deserve to live a life you are in flow with. Don’t let the opinions of others make you forget that. You are not in this world to live up to the expectations of others, nor should you feel that others are here to live up to yours. In fact, the more you approve of your own decisions in life, the less constant approval you need from everyone else.
You have to dare to be yourself and follow your own intuition, however frightening or strange that may feel or prove to be. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t get discouraged by their progress or success. Follow your own path and stay true to your own purpose. Success is ultimately about spending your life happily and productively in your own way.
2. Stop expecting them to respect you more than you respect yourself.
True strength is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles. It’s about having faith and trust in who you are, and a willingness to act upon it consistently. Decide this minute to never again beg anyone for the love, respect, and attention that you should be showing yourself on a daily basis.
Today, look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I respect you, and from now on I’m going to act like it.” It’s important to be nice to others, but it’s even more important to be nice to yourself. When you practice self-respect, you give yourself the opportunity to grow. When you are growing, you become a better friend, a better family member, and a better YOU. (Note: Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the Self-Love chapter of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently”.)
3. Stop expecting (and needing) them to like you.
You might feel unwanted and unworthy to one person, but you are priceless to another. So never forget your worth. No matter how good you are to people, there will always be one negative person who criticizes you. Smile, ignore their rudeness, and carry on. Spend time with those who value you instead.
In this crazy world that’s trying to make you like everyone else, the toughest battle you’ll have to fight on the average day is the battle to be yourself. And as you’re fighting back, not everyone will like you. Sometimes people will call you names because you’re “different,” but that’s perfectly OK. The things that make you different are the things that make YOU, and the right people will love you for it in the long run.
4. Stop expecting them to fit your idea of who they are.
Loving and respecting others means allowing them to be themselves. And when you stop expecting people to be a certain way, you can begin to appreciate them for who they truly are. So pay close attention, and respect people for their uniqueness and not for who you want them to be.
Truth be told, we don’t know most people half as well as we believe we do, and truly knowing someone is a big part of what makes them wonderful. Every human being is remarkable and beautiful in some way; it just takes a patient set of eyes to see it. The more you get to know someone, the more you will be able to look beyond their appearance and see the beauty of who they truly are. (Read The Mastery of Love.)
5. Stop expecting them to know what you’re thinking.
People can’t read minds. They will never know how you feel unless you tell them. Your boss? Yeah, he doesn’t know you’re hoping for a promotion because you haven’t told him yet. That cute guy you haven’t talked to because you’re shy? Yeah, you guessed it, he hasn’t given you the time of day simply because you haven’t given him the time of day either.
In life, you have to communicate with others regularly and effectively. And oftentimes you have to open your vocal cords and speak the first words. You have to tell people what you’re thinking if you want a meaningful engagement.
6. Stop expecting them to be perfectly “OK.”
Everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle, just like you. Every smile or sign of strength hides an inner struggle every bit as complex and extraordinary as your own. So be a part of someone’s growth without having that “you owe me” attitude. What goes around comes around. You can always be kinder than necessary.
Also, remember that embracing your light doesn’t mean ignoring your dark. We are often measured by our ability to overcome adversities and insecurities, not avoid them. Thus, leveraging honesty and transparency as it relates to your struggles, to support, share, and make contributions to other people is one of life’s greatest rewards. This happens naturally if we allow it, because we all share very similar doubts, needs, and struggles. And once we accept this, the world then is a place where we can look someone else in the eye and say, “I’m lost and struggling at the moment,” and they can nod back and say, “I know exactly what you mean. Me too. You aren’t alone.”
7. Stop expecting them to suddenly change.
If there’s a specific behavior someone you care about has that you’re hoping disappears over time, it probably won’t. If you really need them to change something, be honest and put all the cards on the table (gracefully) so this person knows how you feel and what you need them to do.
For the most part though, you can’t change people and you shouldn’t try. Either you accept who they are or you choose to give yourself more time away from them. It’s might sound kinda harsh, but it’s not. When you try to change people, they often remain the same, but when you don’t try to change them — when you support them and allow them the freedom to be as they are — they gradually change in the most beautiful way. Because what really changes is the way you see them.
Honor your boundaries as you ease your expectations.
As you’re diligently working on keeping your expectations in check, it’s also important to maintain healthy and reasonable boundaries. Because inevitably you’re going to run into someone who discredits you, disrespects you, or treats you poorly for no apparent reason at all. The key is to not consume yourself with trying to change them or win their approval (no expectations), and to not leave any space in your heart to hate them. Simply give yourself some healthy space…
Remember that distancing yourself from people who give you negative vibes or unhealthy energy is self-care. Stepping back from situations where you feel unappreciated or disrespected is self-care. Choose to honor your boundaries, respectfully.
Also, practice becoming more aware of your needs, especially as it relates to your expectations. Note the times and circumstances when you’re resentful of fulfilling someone else’s needs. Gradually build healthy boundaries by saying no to gratuitous requests that cause resentfulness in you. Of course, this may be hard at first because it may feel a bit selfish. But if you’ve ever flown on a plane, you know that flight attendants instruct passengers to put on their own oxygen masks before tending to others, even their own children. Why? Because you can’t help others if you’re incapacitated.
In the long run, proactively establishing and enforcing healthy and reasonable boundaries will be one of the most charitable things you can do for yourself and those you care about. These boundaries will foster and preserve the best of you — the most grounded and capable version of you — so you can share the best of yourself with the people who matter most to you.
Now, it’s your turn…
Yes, it’s your turn to hope for the best, but expect less. And before you go, please leave Marc and me a comment below and let us know what you think of this essay. Your feedback is important to us. 🙂
Which one of the points above resonated the most today?
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