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  • Are Your Expectations Causing You Stress?

    Not bothered by rain

    Do you have reasonable expectations? If you don’t, you could be causing yourself some unnecessary stress. I’m not talking about the type of unrealistic expectation that causes you to spend all your money on lottery tickets; no one will argue about that one being bad for you.

    I’m talking about the small everyday expectations that send us into fits of daily rage or melancholy when they’re not met. When we’re in the middle of it, we can’t see how crazy some of our expectations are or how crazy they make us.

    To help you determine your expectations’ level of reasonableness, here’s a short, but by no means exhaustive, list of some of the most common unrealistic expectations that people have:

    • The weather should always be nice, or at least not horrible, when I have plans. So anyone who has plans when you don’t gets stuck with bad weather? It has to rain sometime, you know. We all gotta take our turn dealing with bad or inconvenient weather, and learn that changing our plans isn’t the worst thing that can happen. We seriously need more practice accepting things that are beyond our control.
    • It should never get hotter/colder than I’m comfortable with in the summer/winter. Really? Too hot/cold to you is perfect for someone else. Why should you be the only one to have weather that’s perfect for them. Remember that thing I said about accepting things you can’t control?
    • It shouldn’t snow too much/too little in the winter. I’m not saying you have to exalt in shoveling your driveway 5 times in the same day or only having in 2 days of good skiing weather all winter, but really… what can do about it? You can’t control the weather, so you may as well learn to roll with its punches.
    • The pathological liar that I know should not lie to me. Sorry. Liars are gonna lie. They’ll tell the truth sometimes, too. You don’t have to like the lies, but expecting complete honesty is gonna give you an ulcer.
    • The micromanaging, control freak, hypercritical boss should lighten up. I’m not saying you have to like it. Who would? But ask yourself, has this person ever NOT been a micromanaging control freak? No? Then why do you ever expect them NOT to be this way?
    • The D-bag at the office shouldn’t be so rude, mysogynistic, or just all around a**holish. Aaaahhh… wouldn’t life be grand without A-holes and D-bags? Sadly, I have a feeling that they’ve been around since caveman days. You wouldn’t expect an apex predator to behave like prey, so why would you expect a D-bag to be kind and thoughtful? Expecting them to be different than they are is an invitation to a grade A headache.
    • People should believe what I believe.  And someone who believes just the opposite thinks the same thing about you. Talk about a no-win situation. The only people who win are the ones who agree to disagree.
    • People will always be nice to you if you’re nice to them. See the D-bag, liar, and control freak sections.
    • Expecting things to stay the same. The only constant in life is change. Besides, life would actually be pretty boring if nothing ever changed.
    • Expecting your life or body to go back to the way it was before a major life event or chronic illness diagnosis. Your life and/or body might go back to its pre-trauma self, but it might not. The folks I know who’ve gone through those changes and not become bitter are the ones who dealt with their life and body in its current state. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t work to get as much improvement as they could. It does mean that they didn’t have a fixed outcome in mind. In some cases the outcome was eventually way better than anything they could have imagined. In other cases, the outcome wasn’t necessarily better (i.e. their chronic condition didn’t heal itself and go away), but by always dealing with what they had vs grousing over not getting what they wanted, they grew in ways they couldn’t have otherwise.

    By no means am I saying, or even implying, that changing the expectations that aren’t serving you is going to be easy. It’s beyond the scope of this article, and outside of my scope of practice, to tell you how. All I’m saying is that your stress level will go down with each unrealistic expectation you let go of. I know. I had every single one of these at one time in my life. All of them at once. That was my “stressed out mess” phase. I’m glad it’s behind me.

    PS It helps to remember that nothing’s personal. Nothing anyone says or does has anything to do with you. Liars lie to everyone, not just you, and micromanaging control freaks micromanage everyone. You get the point.