How to Let Go of Expectations
Imagine your boss choosing another colleague over you for an exciting career opportunity you know you would’ve been perfect for. Or sharing exciting news with a friend and they don’t answer how you thought they should. Is your knee-jerk reaction to judge your peers, criticize yourself, and dwell on the experience forever or to let go?
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” – Alexander Pope
Setting yourself up to an unattainable standard of perfectionism makes it impossible for you to recover from rejection. With mindfulness and practicing positive reinforcement, letting go of expectations and investing in reality, is a mental and emotional pattern you can break.
Accept What You Can’t Control
Have you ever felt cheated about a situation outside of your control or guilty when you didn’t live up to someone else’s demands? According to Psychology Today, the pattern of building high expectations commonly lies in childhood where “when bad things happen, we get into the habit of driving all blame to ourselves, drowning in cycles of guilt and shame.”
Instead of growing up in an environment where accountable adults are responsible for their actions and choices, their offspring feel indirectly culpable. As they grow up, this mindset of earning validation and pleasing loved ones turns inwards on themselves and their lives.
To accept reality as it is, try to draw a mental and emotional boundary between you, other people, and the world around you. Understand that you are in charge of your emotions, thoughts, and actions. Any unfortunate event or someone else’s criticism is not a burden you have to carry.
Define A Definition of Success
It’s natural to visualize the steps and plans you need to achieve to make your dreams come true. However, recycling your emotions between anticipating an outcome and feeling disappointed with the results stall your ability to learn from missed opportunities.
It might be intimidating at first, but setting your own definition of success removes the pressure you feel from others to fit their aspirations. When you act in alignment with your beliefs and values, you can feel confident moving forward and not lose your sense of self.
Expectations are also a covert mental trick to holding grudges. If you feel like you can’t stop contemplating how an event didn’t work out, establish a strategy of forgiveness for yourself and what happened. If you can’t find reconciliation in a relationship, accept that the other person involved in your strife has moved on and it is not in your best interests to continue ruminating in the past.
Start new endeavors with the mindset that everyone involved is doing their best, and you are capable of handling opportunities that turn into challenges or setbacks.
Reconstruct Your Self-Talk
In the developmental stages of adolescence, our brains absorb messages from the world around us. When society and our close circle of family or friends measure us against their rules, those ideals settle into our unconscious thoughts. Similar to a popular song set on repeat, this criticism becomes the basis of how we view ourselves as adults.
You might not even realize what tone your self-criticism takes until you become mindful of it. Positive self-talk acts like a cheerleader helping you recover from setbacks and inspiring you to learn from your mistakes. In contrast, negative self-talk portrays a bully persona that makes you live in fear and always wondering “what if.”
Rewriting your brain and changing your self-criticism requires you to develop awareness for your behavior and thoughts:
- Keep a journal and track your thoughts. Challenge the limiting beliefs you rely on.
- Stop toxic thoughts in their tracks by using affirmations to build confidence.
- Remove harmful words from your vocabulary to create new thoughts of compassion and understanding.
Break Out Of Your Comfort Zone
When we are grasping onto certain assumptions, we are trying to attain a sense of safety and security by knowing what’s going to happen before it happens. We love to perceive the future, but inevitably feel broken when reality doesn’t meet our fantasy.
Breaking free from our comfort zone proves to increase productivity, help us deal with new challenges, and harness new levels of creativity.
No matter what your passions are, there is a world of possibilities to take a leap of faith with and participate. If you’re an animal lover or want to help those less fortunate, consider volunteering in your local community. If you love to draw or paint, express yourself on a blank canvas. Sign up for a class or find a group where you can attend a book club or exercise.
Pursuing hobbies, especially ones that we let go of after childhood, silences our inner critic and releases the pressure of being perfect. Find ways to embrace your curiosity and imagination where your only priority is to make yourself happy and to experience a good time.
Learn To Go With the Flow
Webster’s Dictionary defines expectation as “the act or state of expecting: ANTICIPATION.” Left to its own devices, expectation will trick us into growing excited about something or someone finally making us happy. And then once it arrives, our minds move the goal post away and we feel disappointed by the outcome we originally wanted.
Anticipating a reality that never makes us satisfied is like running a mental treadmill of excuses, grudges, and irregular perceptions.
If you want to learn how to embrace reality as it unfolds, start with mindfulness. Becoming conscious of your thoughts and environment builds the skill of witnessing and releasing your reactions to any given circumstance. In particular, meditation teaches you to let distractions come and go as your body and mind surrenders to the moment. The more you practice, the more you can grow alongside life’s challenges and not stand in your own way. Once you become aware of our thoughts, you will be able to go with the flow.
Every human being engages in hopeful daydreams from time to time. However, dwelling on assumptions creates a mental rabbit hole of disappointment. Let go. Let go of expectations that can hinder you. Instead of feeling perpetually dissatisfied, releasing your expectations liberates you to love yourself and finally enjoy the life you’re living.