Everyone has expectations in life, whether it be what they expect from others or what they expect out of themselves. Expectations about others are generally bad to have because we cannot control others, and those expectations may never be met. Expectations about ourselves, however, are generally good, because they can keep us motivated, on the right track and accountable for our actions. Nevertheless, you need to be mindful of your personal expectations, and realize that meeting them is not always what is best for you. Personal expectations can push us forward as well as hold us back.
Take this real-life case for example. Beth had reasonable expectations for herself. She wanted to be a good person, get a college degree, land a great job and eventually get married and start a family. She met all of her expectations over the course of her life until her husband of 20 years divorced her for a younger woman and moved to Spain.
Beth felt as though her life was over. She was emotionally and financially devastated, as her expectations for where she wanted to be in life at this point were shattered. She became jealous and bitter. She felt worthless and thought she had to start all over to meet her expectations again. She was very depressed for a number of years. It wasn’t until her ex-Mother-in-law Sadie died that Beth realized that her expectations for herself were the very things keeping her miserable.
Before she passed, Sadie told Beth that since the divorce, Beth had been the brightest light in her life. The two women had stayed close and Beth and her two sons always joined Sadie on birthdays and holidays. With her son being overseas with his new wife, Beth was the only child Sadie had. She relied on her, loved her, and told her that she couldn’t be more proud of the strong woman Beth had become. Sadie told Beth that she had made her last years of life worth living.
When Beth took a look at her life through Sadie’s eyes, she realized that she had no reason to be depressed. She was still a good person underneath her pain. She was a strong, kind, successful, nurturing woman. The fact that she didn’t have a great job, or a husband anymore didn’t matter. Beth had lived with her expectations about what “should” be for so long, that she lost sight of what “is.”
In this case it is easy to see how personal expectations can blind us from our own reality. There are many examples of how life throws us curveballs and decimates our expectations. As we always say, life is not fair, and no one is immune. Therefore, our simple depression hack is to be mindful of your personal expectations. Don’t let any unmet expectations dictate your life. Always be mindful of who you are, not just where you are in life.