Standards vs Expectations

I’m sure you’ve felt it, too: That pang of disappointment when a friend cancels on you again, when your family isn’t as excited about your promotion as you are, or when your significant other forgets to book the date night you talked about. “If only they had more integrity,” you think. “If only they actually cared about me. If only they would follow through on their word.”

You start to consider distancing yourself from these people. You tell yourself that they don’t meet your standards of integrity, compassion, intelligence, and the like. You want to surround yourself with the best of the best, right? After a while you start to feel isolated.

Sound familiar?

I’ve heard this story all too many times (I’ve experienced something similar as well), the latest was in my car with a friend last night. It got me thinking; why is it that many of my high-achieving friends feel this isolation while others seem to constantly be in the company of wonderful people and have good social health? The answer, dear readers, is, in my opinion, a result of expectations.

Expectations are standards of behaviours and actions we impose on other people without first communicating nor seeking the buy-in of those people.

You cannot, for example, expect your wife to take you to the basketball game just because you love the Raptors. She cannot be everything for you, this is why you have to have other friends in your life that do enjoy pursuing your various interests. She never agreed to watch live sports with you, and just because you like doing these things, doesn’t mean she should, too! This doesn’t mean she loves you less or doesn’t care. This just means that she doesn’t think about going to the game. I’m sure if you specifically asked her to go to the next game with you, she’d at least consider it.

Nor can you, for example, expect your husband to bring you flowers. I’ve only ever received flowers from a romantic partner three times in my life, and this has been over the course of a handful of years and change. The movies make it seem like it should be a standard that women (and I guess men, too… no discrimination here) have for their significant others. But it’s completely ridiculous to have this expectation! If your hubby does bring you flowers on a regular basis, that’s amazing! But that’s the exception, not the rule. You see, this expectation is rarely communicated with lovers and leaves women disappointed. Want flowers? Ask for them! He probably just hasn’t thought about it, and it bears no reflection on how much he cares for you.

Ladies, gents, and everyone in between: Stop taking things so personally! Stop making things about you! Why do we insist that everything revolves around us? This belief only leads to stories and dramatizations about what’s really happening, rather than facing the facts. It is what it is, and if something is not communicated clearly, then the best way to solve the issue is not to get upset, but rather to talk about what is happening and understand the other person’s point of view. We’re all so caught up in our own worlds that we forget that our loved ones are experiencing the same thing. That friend with whom you’re upset for constantly being late or cancelling is probably disappointed that you aren’t more flexible (real-life example of feedback I’ve received) and might be wondering if you value the things he/she is doing instead.

Let go of these expectations, friend, and you’ll be a freer person. It’s tough, don’t get me wrong, but when you approach these situations with compassion rather than anger, sadness, and disappointment, your soul will feel lighter. Remember, the expectation was something you imposed on the other person. They didn’t agree to this! They never agreed to be yourdefinition of perfect. Heck! They are probably struggling to fit their own mould of their ideal selves, never mind yours, too!

By now, you’re probably wondering where you draw the line? When do you decide that someone should or should not be a major part of your life? Here’s where standards come into play.

Standards are measurements of minimum quality or attainment based on one’s own values.

Standards are a filtering mechanism used for letting or keeping people in your life. It is not imposed externally, but rather enforced internally. There is no judgement associated with your standards, nor are there any hard feelings. Just like a weight that is too heavy to carry, you drop it without being resentful at the weight. You can always pick it up again when and if you’re ready, of course, but there is no need to place blame. Letting go of relationships that don’t serve you is the same, and it’s imperative.

While you can’t expect those around you to behave a certain way that is in accordance with your values but perhaps not theirs, you must be stringent about the company you hold. There is a fine line between encouraging those around you to be the best versions of themselves and asking too much from them. It’s a line I and many others before me have crossed, and while it’s hard to detect beforehand, it results in pain and foot-in-mouth syndrome after the fact.

That being said, your values don’t have to align 100% with the company you keep. Again, no one can be everything to anyone. But each person in your trusted circle must represent a high level of at least one of your values (and not to the detriment of your other values). That is essentially them meeting your standards.

Standards are value-based. You’ve chosen your friends based on certain characteristics you value, and as long as they hold that same value, you can feel free to compassionately enforce those standards in an open and communicative way. What you cannot (or rather should not) do — if you want to stay sane and keep people around you — is enforce your notions of what they should do and should behave. Because this is what you think is right, but may be completely against their values, so don’t “should”on people.

Friend, no one is perfect, and as a person who holds herself and others to a [self-determined] high standard, I slip on imposing my expectations frequently. I consider myself to be a punctual and organized person and it irks me to no end when others are not. At the same time I realize that some of my ever-tardy loved ones value freedom over being on time. And others value work on their passions over tidying up. These are just two examples from my closest circle of people, and though tensions do arise because of this delta in our operating systems, these relationships are overflowing in love, compassion, understanding, and respect.

I don’t pretend to be a master or a guru of any kind, I am merely trying to share with you a realization I’ve recently had in hopes to improve your mental and emotional well-being as well as your relationship.

Moral of the story:

Lower your expectations, and keep your standards sky-high.

1 thought on “Standards vs Expectations

  1. Very well done. Agree with you. It all comes down to values – what is important to one person is not exactly the same for another. Also, yes on asking for things. It is crazy how everyone expects others to know what is on their mind. I suppose we can all learn better communication. Always helps.


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