My unintentional mantra in years past turned out to be “high hopes, low expectations.” I continued to hope for the best—and worked my ass off trying to make “the best” happen—but learned to expect unmet expectations. It was a heinous cycle in which I imagined an idealized past, present, and future, but lived a life of perpetual let down.
Bump the timeline up to now and you’ll now find that I have legitimate issues with managing expectations.
First, because I never learned how to manage them! How could I? My expectations, no matter if I communicated them or not, remained almost entirely unmet. They were either totally ignored or, very occasionally, they were blown out of proportion in grandiose displays of “affection” (read: control/love-bombing/overcompensating).
Second, because I couldn’t tell, and still struggle to tell, whether my expectations were/are reasonable or not. Spend well over a decade being told that you are irrational, hot-headed, dramatic, and “too sensitive” and you would be confused too!
So my expectations during adolescence and adulthood were sabotaged by wildly unpredictable responses to what I asked for or needed. And I learned to rely on other people to tell me what I wanted or needed instead of developing expectations or ideas on my own. The worst part was that even when I subconsciously resigned to being told what to need and desire, the people telling me those things remained unpredictable and would promise or hint at something and then completely undermine it by doing something different.
And now, despite the years of therapy, the hard work of self-development, and my efforts to become independent, I continue to second-guess myself when it comes to expectations or I remain unaware of what I actually want or need.
I still end up dreaming about having my expectations met. I have hopes and wishes, and not just the truly fantastical ones; ones about building a career, getting off my meds, finding a life partner, and feeling less insecure. My anxiety focuses a lot on my expectations—I want so badly to be affirmed in what I’m thinking and feeling. I require feedback and input and consistency in order to feel even close to secure. This drives me to believe that I’m needy and therefore annoying/undesirable/a nuisance which does wonders for my self-esteem, let me tell you!
I’m trying hard to change my mantra from “I’m needy” to “I have needs that deserve to be met” (Big thanks to my new counsellor for that gem.).
“I have needs that deserve to be met”
And isn’t that entirely reasonable? Doesn’t it make sense that someone should have their needs met? Isn’t it reasonable to think that anyone who doesn’t or can’t meet those needs is either unworthy or your time or has some legit personal work to do?
I suppose it might seem unfair to the people around me that I have this high hope of getting my “needy” expectations met, because what *I* need requires more feedback and takes more effort than what other people need. The truth is, that after all I’ve been through, and after all the expectations and hopes I’ve had go unmet, I really do need more validation and engagement than others do.
What expectations do you have for other people or for yourself? Do you see yourself as needy, or can you embrace your needs and communicate them without feeling selfish?
I am quite literally repeating the mantra “I have needs that deserve to be met” a few hundred times a day because I want to internalize it so much that it becomes a key part of who I am. Maybe adopting this new, core belief will make it harder for me to connect with other people…maybe they will think that I’m selfish or overly confident or needy? I’m starting to suspect that won’t be the case though. I think the kind of people I want in my life—those who can offer authentic and connected relationships—will be people who respond positively to me communicating what I want. And perhaps, my hopes won’t seem so high anymore and my expectations will come without guilt or shame.