The pressure to meet the needs and expectations of your friends, family, and coworkers, and in some people’s cases, clients and patients, can eventually become overbearing. And When it comes to clients, patients, and coworkers, that can lead to feelings of imposter syndrome.
Where Can The Pressure OF Expectations Come From
Pressure can come from anywhere. It could be the expectation to make your parents proud, that you should be a good representative of your school, or even to not be a stereotype of your ethnic group (Mental Health America).
According to the Manhattan Mental Health Counseling, from the day we’re born, our parents establish rules we need to follow. We are then given educational standards and goals to meet. When we get a job, our bosses expect certain things from us, and eventually, we’ll develop our own expectations of others, which continues the cycle.
Support for this comes from Russell (2003), who points out that all parents have expectations of their children. For example, expectations regarding education are based on their own experiences, the information provided by schools, the media, and their network of friends and family who are parents.
I’m fortunate in that when it comes to expectations from parents, that’s never been an issue for me. My mum was too self-absorbed in her own faith to have expectations about me. My partner, on the other hand, seems to feel the weight of not living up to what they think are their father’s expectations. Even though my partner has nothing to feel bad about. My partner has achieved a lot that they should be proud of.
Although I might not feel the pressure of expectations from my mum, I do feel the pressure to not be a stereotype because of my ethnicity. This is the result of the pressure placed on me by society that being Black is inherently wrong, and that all Black men are dangerous (McMahon and Roberts, 2011; Wilson, Hugenberg, and Rule, 2017; CNN; Wikipedia; and The Guardian).
Because of my health issues, I can also feel the pressure of letting my partner down. They often want to plan holidays, but I’m always reluctant in case I have a period of poor health, which seems to happen most years. This year I’ve been dealing with a chest infection that I can’t get rid of, which started in early December and still hasn’t gone away. This seems to happen most years, and if it’s not this, it’s usually something else. It doesn’t help that I still have some latent issues with going somewhere new.
Are Expectations Bad?
Expectations are unavoidable, and those expectations aren’t always bad, as we all have expectations (Manhattan Mental Health Counseling). It’s how those expectations are communicated to us that can make the difference between them being good or harmful.
For example, there isn’t anything wrong per se, to want your children to do well at school. But whether this desire of the parent is helpful or toxic depends on how that wish is conveyed. If the child knows that doing their best is good enough to make their parent’s happy, then they will internalise a healthier expectation.
However, if a child is led to believe that not doing well is the end of the world, that their whole life will be ruined, and that they’ve let down their parents, the child will internalise a toxic expectation. Because of this, children and young adults are at an increased risk of suicide as a result of poor grades (Karolinska Institutet, 2010). Another reason to teach children about mental health.
It’s also important to be aware of people’s abilities when setting expectations because unrealistic expectations can lead to relationship breakdowns (Russell, 2003). It can also cause anger and resentment to develop, as well as depression (Manhattan Mental Health Counseling).
For example, if someone is great at creative work, such as drawing and painting, but has difficulties with maths, then expecting them to finish top of the class in maths might be an unrealistic expectation. And who would you be helping if you tried to install that into such a child rather than just helping them to do their best in the subject and setting the expectation accordingly?
Releasing The Pressure Of Expectations
Figure out which expectations are beneficial to you and which ones are harmful. You can also adjust some of the expectations to suit your individual needs (Mental Health America). That way, you can free yourself from the unwanted expectations of others and focus on the ones that can help you grow as an individual.
You’re an individual
It’s useful to remember that someone else’s expectations of you won’t be based on who you are, but rather on that person’s experiences, opinions, values, etc (Russell, 2003; and Manhattan Mental Health Counseling). Although it’s often easier said than done, don’t let other people’s expectations dictate your life. You’re an individual, so live the life that only you can live, and live it the way you want to live it. Furthermore, don’t impose unrealistic expectations on yourself either. If you do that, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Another good way to release the pressure of expectations is to talk to someone. That could be a loved one unrelated to the expectations that are causing you harm or to the person whose expectation is causing you harm.
One of the best bits of advice I can give you when dealing with the expectations of others is to treat yourself with kindness. If you can do that, then the rest of the tips for handling other people’s expectations become a lot easier to do.
This is really a package deal with treating yourself with kindness. We can’t control what other people think or the expectations they have of us, but we can work on how we talk to ourselves (Psychology Today). So pay attention to your inner dialogue and make adjustments to it, so this inner talk is done from a point of kindness.
Check your own expectations of others
Because we all have expectations, we also need to make sure the expectations we have of others aren’t harmful as well. Having unrealistic expectations of others can and will affect the relationships we’re in. But adjusting them can do wonders for repairing a relationship.
Sometimes we may find ourselves in a situation where we can’t do much about the expectations placed upon us, such as the unrealistic expectations Amazon has on its warehouse workers and delivery drivers. Stress management methods can help, and so can breathing exercises and meditation. However, sometimes it might be better to remove yourself from such situations by finding employment elsewhere or setting up a union to address the issues.
Expectations on their own are neither bad nor good. It’s the content of those expectations that can cause harm, rather than the concept of them in and of themselves. Society would struggle to function without expectations. But your life is your own, so make the expectations work for you and ditch the ones that are harmful.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, please share your experiences with pressure to meet others’ expectations in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
Karolinska Institutet. (2010). Poor school grades linked to increased suicide risk, Swedish study reveals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101026090830.htm.
McMahon, W., & Roberts, R. (2011). Truth and lies about ‘race’and ‘crime’ Will McMahon and Rebecca Roberts consider ethnicity, harm and crime. Criminal Justice Matters, 83(1), 20-21. Retrieved from https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/sites/crimeandjustice.org.uk/files/09627251.2011.550153.pdf and https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/sites/crimeandjustice.org.uk/files/09627251.2011.550153_0.pdf.
Russell, F. (2003). The expectations of parents of disabled children. British Journal of Special Education, 30(3), 144-149. Retrieved from https://nasenjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1467-8527.00300.
Wilson, J. P., Hugenberg, K., & Rule, N. O. (2017). Racial bias in judgments of physical size and formidability: From size to threat. Journal of personality and social psychology, 113(1), 59. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-pspi0000092.pdf and https://psycnet.apa.org/manuscript/2017-11085-001.pdf.