The Toxicity of Expectation
I have come to realize in the past 21 years that expectations don’t always meet the reality. They are easily created without the slightest comprehension of the factors involved.
I determine how my day is going to pan out depending on the weather, or how many hours I slept, or if I actually finished my assignments before class. But that overlooks the fact that there are things I cannot control.
Creating an expectation in your mind is like planting a seed of disappointment. It acts as a drug, giving you a false sense of control and self worth.
The ending of my seven-year relationship led me to this realization.
The relationship began my freshman year of high school when I was 15 years old and continued until my senior year of college.
Just like most couples, I assumed that I would spend the rest of my life with him. I imagined that we would follow the stereotypical steps of any long-term relationship: marriage, kids and growing old together until death do us part.
But it didn’t pan out that way.
There’s this phenomenon called the seven-year itch that implies that relationships will start to get rocky when they reach the seven-year mark. In most cases, one partner will get an itch that will make them question the status of their relationship.
The 1955 movie, “The Seven Year Itch” introduced this phenomenon.
The movie centers on a married man, Tom Ewell, who is tempted by the woman, Marilyn Monroe, who lives in the apartment above his. One night he consults a book that claims that men have extra-marital affairs in the seventh year of marriage.
The man spends more time with the woman until he realizes that his attempt to resist temptation is only fueling the fear that he is succumbing to the seven-year itch.
Though I had no prior knowledge of the phrase, I subconsciously started experiencing that itch around year six. I started reevaluating the overall state of our relationship and how I felt.
I had always thought that, “if we’ve been together this long, then it’s everlasting.”
I was wrong.
Instead of feeling happy, I was disappointed at myself for settling into a relationship that I was no longer growing in. The relationship that started off as such an integral appendage to my life caused me to lose sense of myself.
Through a lot of self-reflection and evaluation, I have come to understand that the majority of my issues and stresses were a direct cause of too many expectations.
I had expectations to be treated a certain way by other people. If they treated me in any way other than what I expected, I would be disappointed and make false assumptions about myself.
That’s not to say that you should allow people to treat you in a way that is different than what you deserve, but you can’t let your expectations rule you.
The irony is that I believe that this loss is one of the healthiest things that could have happened to me.
I needed to learn how to find happiness on my own. I found this to be a real challenge for two months. I was not relying on another person to fulfill myself. As scary as it was, it was more freeing and liberating to lose that sense of reliance and security.
Awareness of how we think is a difficult concept to grasp, just as letting go of a supplemental drug or an all-encompassing relationship.
But the sooner you are aware that expectations are not promises, the better off you will be. You have to suffer some pain and conquer some challenges to really reap the benefits of change.
A good place to start is by letting go of all your expectations and taking each day, moment, interaction and loss as it comes.
Restrict your expectations. Not your opportunities.
When you concentrate on yourself and create your own reality, you’ll find yourself not rendered by life’s disappointments.