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Are you jaded if you expect others to not behave as well they “should?” Or are you needlessly banging your head against a wall to expect them to be something they are not, just because you don’t like it? The following ideas and expectations stress us out more than they help us. They’re all taken from my own experience of being on one side or the other of each of these expectations, and I can say without hesitation that the less I subscribe to them, and the less I rail against those who hold them against me, the happier and less stressed I am. Here’s hoping that the same will happen for you.
Projecting Your Traits Onto Others Is A Bad Idea
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that others will think and behave like we do. It’s also difficult to understand how someone wouldn’t think or do what you would in any given situation.
Don’t let your inherent nature lure you into believing that:
People, in general, are as honest as you are. It bums me out to say this, but not everyone values honesty as a character trait in themselves.
Any given person will be as honest as you would be in the same situation. Some may value honesty in the abstract, but when push comes to shove they will lie to save face or to avoid consequences of telling the truth.
People, in general, are as dishonest as you are. Believe it or not, some people value honesty above all other traits. They would rather tell the truth and deal with the consequences of their own behavior than lie.
Any given person will be as dishonest (i.e. lie, cheat, steal) as you would in the same situation. Not everyone will lie (or delete/modify files, etc.) to cover their proverbial backside; some folks actually believe that honesty is always the best policy.
Others are as compassionate and good hearted as you are. Sorry, they’re not. But we need dispassionate people in the world as well.
Others are as indifferent to suffering as you are, especially when it’s far away and happening to people you don’t know. I know it’s hard to believe but some people really do feel deep sorrow when people they don’t know on another continent are suffering. And that’s not necessarily a silly or pointless thing.
Others will care about and support the same issues you do, in the same way that you do. There are lots of issues out there that deserve to be supported and many ways to support them. If everyone put all of their time and effort into helping abused and stray animals (a worthy cause, btw), there’d be no one working to help abused children (definitely worthy), to help save what’s left of the environment (also worthy), or to find cures for diseases (worthy).
You will be thanked for good works in much the same way that you thank others for theirs. Some people only thank others for good behavior that they deem out of character for that person; they simply expect it of those who are, on average, deemed good-hearted.
Your good works will be noticed by anyone, even the beneficiary of your good works. If you always do good, your good works won’t stand out to many people. Don’t worry if someone doesn’t notice; you should do good things because that’s who you are, not because it will garner recognition or appreciation.
People will appreciate any help you give them. This is especially true if they didn’t ask for your help.
Remember, as you are projecting your traits onto others, they are projecting their traits onto you. This results in a LOT of misunderstandings and stress. It’s not always easy, but it’s much better to accept people the way they are.
Let me give an example from my own life may help to make my point. For many years, I’ve had a chronic liar in my life and it used to drive me absolutely mad. When I finally stopped expecting, really stopped expecting, the liar to ever tell the truth, that person got much easier to deal with. They do, of course, tell the truth sometimes but I no longer expect everything they say to be true. Most of what they say goes in one ear and out the other. If it’s vital to know if it’s the truth, I double check with another source. During my journey with this person, I have found that there are very few times, as in almost none, where it is absolutely vital that I know whether what they say is the truth. My stress level has gone down exponentially since coming to grips with this one.
People Are More Self-Centered Than You Give Them Credit For:
We all have our moments of self-absorption, but life is lived at such a hectic pace these days that many people get stuck in a groove of looking out for number one.
Don’t let your compassion and sensitivity lull you into the false belief that:
People will appreciate your honesty.
People will notice your honesty.
People will appreciate your dedication to a task, project, etc.
People will notice your dedication.
People will appreciate your sacrifices.
People will notice the sacrifices that you’ve made.
People will notice that you’re suffering. This is especially true if you are being stoic and haven’t told anyone about your problems.
People will want to try to relieve your suffering. They probably have enough on their own plate to be dealing with. Unless your suffering is a rare event or you are particularly close to someone, it’s easy for others to feel as though it’s not their job to make you feel better. And, truth be told, it isn’t.
People will care that you’re suffering. They have their own problems to worry about, many of which you are probably unaware.
People will be polite and considerate. The truth is, they probably aren’t even thinking about the impact their actions will have on others.
Don’t Believe Everything You Feel
Although it may sometimes feel like it, I’m pretty sure the Universe does not have it in for you. Everyone has their ups and downs in life, and sometimes the downs seem to pile on top of each other;
but it’s a mistake to think:
You are being punished for something. Not true. Things break, and sometimes several things break within a short span of time. Everyone gets sick, and sometimes you get sick right before, or during, vacation. It sucks, to be sure. You can’t control when things break or when you get sick, but you can, with practice, control your response.
You can never have/get what you want. Never? Really? Not a single thing? Not getting some item or experience that you desire is not the end of the world. Even if you want it really, really, really badly. It’s disappointing. Sometimes it’s extremely disappointing. Sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise, but it can take years before you know that.
By all means go ahead and cry, scream, or have a pity party for a while. Feel your disappointment, don’t stuff it down and deny it. At some point, however, you have to move on; you can’t wallow in your disappointment forever. OK, so technically you can wallow forever, but it’s a really bad idea. Find a silver lining. It may not be what you expect, but if you look you’ll find one.
Another example from my own life to illustrate my point: I’m a big Harry Potter fan and I’ve been trying to get to Harry Potter World at Universal Islands of Adventure since it opened in 2010, but each year something has prevented me from being able go; it was often money related. One year it was a broken ankle, one year it was 6 (yes 6!) major repairs, this year was a major roof issue. Each year, I cried and screamed when I finally was forced to accept that I wouldn’t be going… Again! But then I heard that they are opening a NEW Harry Potter park, Diagon Alley, at Universal this month. Suddenly I’m happy that I haven’t gone yet; I’d have missed the new park! See what I mean about blessing in disguise but not knowing for several years? It’s time to start planning next year’s trip to Florida.
It’s Hard To Believe, But The World Doesn’t Revolve Around You
This section is a bit of a super condensed version of what I’ve already said, but yet it’s also very different.
When words and actions feel personal, remember:
The things people say to or about you have absolutely nothing, I repeat NOTHING, to do with you. The only person it says anything about is them.
The things people do to you have absolutely nothing to do with you. Nothing, whatsoever. Their actions reflect on their character, not yours.
The things people do that negatively affect you have nothing to do with you. Even if they are trying to “get you back” for some real or imagined wrong. Nice people, civilized people, don’t go around exacting revenge. They discuss things with the other party and if the situation can’t be resolved they simply have as little to do with the other person as possible. Their actions are all on them.
There are two great books that have helped me with this issue of expectations immensely. Loving What is, by Byron Katie, will really help with the first 22 things. The last three items are addressed in The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you identify with many of the items on this list, I highly recommend picking up a copy of these two books.
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