Every so often a post pops up on social media about people’s expectations. In many cases, the point of the message is as follows: If your expectations are too high, and no one meets them, lower them but if they constantly exceed they may be too low. How can you decide which one is the truth? After all, everything’s relative. Aren’t you tired of having to guess what to expect, what to demand and what to ignore? It is a struggle to find a balance, a one size fits all solution to this predicament. As humans with bias, we will need to have a baseline from which to gauge failure versus success, love versus loss, and grief versus happiness. Is there an objective way to find common metrics?
In the past, etiquette rules and the unwritten social codes were that bar that measured expectations and level set the playing field. People knew when to hold doors, when to get out of the way, and even how to approach strangers with casual greetings and respectful titles. Regardless of where you were in the world, this rules held universally. At some point the new generation began to develop their own approaches to these situations and started to deviate from the protocol. This caused confusion between the different social and cultural groups because each genration had their own common rules and language. This is why past a certain age, usually 30, people start noticing that their rules may no longer apply in the mainstream. The angst and anxiety of not understanding the groups above and below you in age becomes a burden because every conversation can go awry. There is no common ground anymore.
To be fair, it is reasonable to blame the beholder of the expectations for their frustration with the non compliant world or peeps but, what other mechanisms do we have? Experience builds and solidify archetypes and stereotypes that, in essence, force you to expect something. You can’t go through life expecting, experiencing, thinking or feeling nothing. There is always information to process and establish a pattern. It is not your fault that your life has created a defined reaction to every day events.
This generation of predictable responses complicated by another element, one that is aided by nostalgia, that pushes expectations into a new realm: illusion. There is a need by our humam brains to embellish reality and make it a bit more fantastical and/or bearable. No longer is the expectation grounded in reality but mostly on hopes, wishes, imagination and dreams. Your brain wants to believe that you deserve more than what you are getting or that there must be more to what you are going through. It is this illusion that clouds your judgement and sets you up to fail. No experience or sentiment will ever match what you were expecting or desiring. At this moment you are left bereft and sad, disappointed even. That is why you have to be cautious when setting any bar, low or high, because there is a chance that what prompted your expectations are not based in reality.
The next time you find yourself mystified by what is happening and/or confronted by a meme that tells you to lower your expectations, check first if what wasn’t met was your illusion and not your expectation. I find it hard to believe that lowering your standards is a solution when you can rather adjust your attitude towards the experience or objectively take stock of what prompted your disenchantment. It makes more sense to think that you may be hanging with the wrong crowd or in the wrong circles when you can assert that what you expect is not only true to yourself but achievable by others. In some cases it is them, and not you, who is not meeting the bar and should be held accountable for your disappointment.
This is why I follow etiquette rules and continue to hold my priorities and expectations in high regard. I’m not going to lower my quality of life or the instruments through which I value people and friendship to conform. Those who truly love and support you will meet or should meet the minimum requirements to be in your life, even if they are higher standards than everyone else. Stay true to yourself. The right ones will find you. And, if you have to readjust, keep illusion out of it. Don’t set yourself up for unnecessary heartache.