Expectations are resentment under construction – Anne Lamott
I wish I had thought of that. But alas, one of my favorite writers of all time came up with that line and I must say she NAILED IT.
I used to be one of those people that would approach a new situation or event with sky-high expectations. And while it’s often still my “default” mode, I’ve learned over the years to keep my expectations in check. Why? Because setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves, for others, or on external events, sets us up for disappointment. It’s OK to have wishes, dreams and goals. But those are different. Those are positive and forward-focused. They don’t have that “other shoe dropping” quality about them that expectations do. Do you know what I mean?
To me, a set expectation has an inherent thread of disappointment woven among good intentions. If we expect perfection – which is often the level at which we set our expectations – we will be let down.
Case in point: Christmas or any holiday, really. Who among us hasn’t labored over the most perfect gifts, the best wrapping paper, the prettiest ornaments, the tastiest menu, the Martha Stewart table setting, the sweetest cookies for Santa, the Norman Rockwell moments…only to be let down by the reality of crying kids, passive aggressive relatives, burnt food, and a dinnertime conversation that took a nasty turn down the road of politics, global warming, liberalism, and the merits of – let’s say – Fox News?
What I’ve learned (and am still learning) is:
> When I expect that everyone will be looking at me, I dress plainly so I won’t stand out. (Spoiler alert: no one is paying as much attention to me or you or anyone else as we think they are)
> When I expect to be criticized or critiqued, I perfect my work/presentation/small talk, etc. to exhausting detail so no one can find any fault. Perfectionism is a bitch.
> When I set unrealistic expectations for an event (i.e. this is going to be the BEST vacation / visit / party / date night / reunion / sporting event, etc.), I am *always* let down.
> When I expect people to have specific reactions to certain things, I am disappointed when they don’t.
> When I expect people to judge me, I shrivel and make myself smaller. I make excuses. I become “nice Kim”, who is insincere, placating and inauthentic.
And omg it’s not that I’m not nice, but lawd how I hate that word. Clearly a post for another day. But for real? I hate the word nice. I prefer the word KIND. Nice sounds fake and Stepford-wife-ish. Kind is more human, more real, more sincere.
Expectations in and of themselves aren’t bad. I expect my girls to try their best at school, sports, life. But I don’t set unrealistic expectations of perfection for them. It’s a fine line, but an important one.
If there’s only one piece of wisdom I can impart to my girls, it is this:
“Expect nothing and appreciate everything.”
This particular piece of wisdom was gleaned from observing a very good friend of mine whom I’ve known for almost 27 years. She’s chock full of this kind of wisdom. But what’s especially awesome is that she isn’t one of those people at the top of every mountain preaching it.
She lives it.
And I love that.