Why it's (sometimes) a good idea to expect the worst
Having expectations can be dangerous.
Expecting the best all the time can lead to disappointment.
Expecting the worst all the time is bound to make you miserable and prevent you from taking action towards your goals.
But there are some situations where expecting the worst can actually be helpful. Let me explain...
When I'm out and about with my daughter, she's perfectly happy while we're out shopping, walking or playing at the park, but when the time comes for her to get back in the car to go home, most of the time she resists. She screams, squeals, kicks her legs or sits of the ground in protest (she's 2).
Somedays I find her resistance really frustrating and stressful, plus I'm not always happy with the way that I respond to her.
I realised that I was expecting her to be perfectly behaved all the time AND to want to go home.
My expectations were letting us both down.
I thought back to a conversation that I had with a psych friend years ago….
At the time I was struggling with being judged by seemingly everyone about being a vegetarian. Everywhere I turned, I was the butt of a joke or the easy target of torment. I felt like I was under attack and responded with tantrums, tears and aggression.
My friend said to me, "instead of expecting people to accept your situation, how about you expect them to not understand it?"
That sounded pessimistic to me.
He said, "this is not about expecting the worst so that you feel miserable. This is about expecting people to judge you about something that they don't understand, so that you can ready for it and so you can decide to be happy regardless of what happens."
I did admit that I was often taken by surprise at how severely I reacted to some of the taunts, and I often didn't know what to say to diffuse the conflict and restore the balance without being cranky.
So I followed his advice. Instead of blindly expecting to be accepted and understood by everyone, I decided to be honest with myself and expect some judgement about my choices, especially when they're in direct conflict with someone else's.
Doing this enabled me to deal with the (potential) judgement before it actually happened, and therefore, keep my cool if it did happen. I was able to decide how I wanted to be regardless of whether or not someone had a problem with my eating habits.
When I started expecting to be judged in some situations, everything changed. I felt happier, I treated people with more care and respect and most importantly I let go of another layer of my perfectionistic-ness.
Now if I face any judgement about my ethical choices then I come at people with compassion first.
I get that they don't understand and I let them process that in whatever way they need to. But these days I get the other end of the stick because I eat meat from time to time now and I've got the vegos on my back…. oh well.. At least I know how to manage it.
So I decided to do an experiment with my daughter.
Instead of expecting her to be happy to get into the car to go home, I expected her not to be… and here's what happened:
Some of the time she was perfectly happy to get in the car which became a pleasant surprise.
The rest of the time, I would give her some warning that we were going home before we arrived at the car so we had time to talk about it and I was able to remind her about what we could do together when we got home.
And… she stopped protesting.
Expecting the worst actually helped me to prepare for it and diffuse it before the situation got out of control.
In what areas of your life are you expecting things to be perfect?