How to Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations and Embrace Happiness
We all have expectations of everything and everyone in our lives. We expect people around us to act a certain way, our car to take us from point A to point B every day, the weather to be warm and sunny for our vacation… the list is endless. Even while opening this article, you have some expectations of your own.
We usually feel disappointed, frustrated, and unhappy when our expectations are unmet. Often times unspoken expectations lead to resentment. Some psychologists argue that expectations are not always helpful since they prevent us from feeling happy.
While we cannot avoid having expectations altogether, recognizing and letting go of these unrealistic expectations can help you feel more optimistic and embrace happiness.
So, let’s look at what expectations are and how to break away from unrealistic ones.
What are Expectations and How Do They Serve Us?
Expectations involve our desires, wants, and beliefs focused on the future. An expectation is our realistic or unrealistic belief that something will happen a certain way. But unfortunately, even our reasonable expectations are not always met because things do not always go as planned. So, disappointment, resentment, and displeasure are inevitable.
However, unrealistic expectations set us up to fail and can be destructive to our health, behavior, and relationships.
For example, if you begin a relationship with unreasonable expectations, your partner will almost certainly fall short of meeting them. As a result, you may feel disappointed, draw false conclusions, struggle to maintain a positive connection, or even decide to end the relationship.
Unrealistic expectations give us the illusion of control over our future or other things over which we have no control. Just because you believe something will happen doesn’t mean it will. So, most of the time, our expectations don’t serve us well.
Unrealistic Expectations Begin to Weigh Us Down
Unrealistic expectations can lead to false beliefs, communication problems, anxiety, self-judgment, and depression, among other things. This is because they are rigid, not allowing us to be compassionate and flexible toward ourselves and others or pursue life opportunities. Also, unrealistic expectations are often linked with distorted thinking, such as polarized thinking or “should” statements, causing difficulties in your self-perception and relationships with others.
For example, if you think, “My spouse should know when I’m stressed,” you will feel unhappy or offended when they fail to meet this expectation.
Examples of Unrealistic Expectations
Recognizing unrealistic expectations is the first step in letting them go. So, here are a few examples of the frequently unrealistic expectations we have of ourselves and others:
- I must always be happy.
- My kids should listen to me.
- My husband and I should never argue if our marriage is strong.
- At work, I must constantly strive for the best results possible.
- Everyone must like me.
- My partner knows what I think without me telling them.
- My partner will always be romantic.
- I should never fail.
- My life should be filled with joy.
How to Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations and Embrace Happiness?
Unrealistic expectations may trap you in fantasizing about what you think your life should be like, leaving you with shattered hopes and a broken heart.
So, here are five tips on how to let go of unrealistic expectations and embrace happiness.
Be Aware of Your Expectations (and Try to Keep Them in Perspective)
Consider where you are in life and what you want to accomplish. Do some self-reflection to see if your goals are attainable and reasonable. Maintaining your expectations can help avoid disappointment, resentment, and emotional distress.
Manage Your Expectations of Others
Unrealistic expectations, according to relationship experts, are one of the elements that contribute to marriage failure. This applies to every other type of relationship, not just romantic ones.
If you expect too much from the people around you, you won’t be able to make healthy, long-lasting connections with them because you’ll always feel let down.
Reminding yourself that no one is perfect can help you adjust your expectations of others, let go of grudges, and forgive.
Practicing thankfulness regularly might help you feel more appreciative of what you have rather than striving for perfection. So, take time to appreciate the people in your life, your progress, and the things you have accomplished. Gratitude can help you keep expectations in perspective and stay positive.
Don’t Be Afraid to Have a Backup Plan
Having a backup plan when making plans and setting goals provides a sense of control. So, don’t be afraid to have a plan B. For instance, suppose you intend to spend a leisurely Sunday with your family outside, and one of your children wakes up feeling ill. A movie marathon at home might be an excellent backup plan in this case.
Don’t Let Unrealistic Expectations Stand Between You and Your Happiness
It is natural to have expectations. Many of our expectations are realistic and reasonable. For example, you expect to get paid biweekly because this is specified in your contract with the employer. However, unrealistic expectations can be detrimental to your happiness.
While letting go of expectations is not easy, being mindful of what you think, want, or believe can help keep your expectations in check, not allowing disappointment and negative thoughts to flood you.
So, acknowledge your displeasure and let go. Move on, and don’t allow your unrealistic expectations to stand between you and your happiness.
Consider obtaining professional assistance if you are having difficulty letting go of unreasonable expectations and grudges. We all need guidance at some point in our lives. A professional life coach or counselor may be able to help you keep your expectations in check, set realistic goals, make better decisions, or break bad habits so that you can embrace happiness.