I ordered a burger recently from this new place that looked amazing online. The picture of a thick, juicy patty in a bun had hyped me so much that I awaited the delivery with impatient excitement. You cannot imagine how disappointed I was when the courier handed me a tiny brown box with an even tinier burger inside it. Of course, I was upset about this measly mouthful of a joke.
We raise our expectations every day, both towards trivialities like the food we buy, as well as in regard to bigger matters such as work, people, or ourselves. By doing so, our expectations are either met, exceeded, or we are disappointed. Out of all three possibilities, it is especially disappointment that often conjures feelings of anxiety, discomfort, and pressure. Have you ever felt like expectations circled above you like an intimidating vulture that incessantly preys upon your every step?
I have definitely felt this way before – many times, to be honest.
What if we simply erased all expectation? Could this free us from this burdensome fear of failing, of not meeting our expectations?
Without expectations, we would enjoy a carefree life – or so we might think. However, the truth is that without them, we would end up floating in a mind-wrecking void of uncertainty. The human mind is designed to hold expectations because they help us navigate our environment. By default, our brain forecasts what will happen in any given situation based on all the information available to us. Take me as an example. I saw the enticing advertisement for luscious burgers. So, I anticipated the actual burger would fill me up to the brim. My assumption turned out to be utterly wrong.
What happens when reality does not match our forecast?
In this case, our brain takes in the feedback from reality to automatically adjust our expectations for the next time. We inherently strive to predict reality as accurately as possible, and disappointment therefore serves to correct any unrealistic images we have crafted in our head. Now, this insight immediately changes the whole tone of disappointment, does it not? Expectations, including unmet expectations, constitute one of the most basic, natural processes. Understanding this may help you dissolve the hot fear of them.
The belief that we must always satisfy expectations can suffocate us until we entirely succumb to its pressure. However, we can lift this weight from our mind by remembering that failing to meet expectations is not only inevitable but also integral. Instead of dreading disappointment, we should build a culture that welcomes failure as a learning opportunity. After all, unmet expectations reconnect us with reality.
You see, in my head, I had flirted with the sight of a sumptuous burger on my plate. I was fully prepared to be stuffed, but reality grounded my overambitious expectations. I guess I just have to order two of those burgers next time.
[Illustration by: Ricarda Senger]