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Expectations can be good or bad depending on how reasonable they are. Good expectations foster motivation and good stress, to help the expectant to cope better later in life. However, bad expectations, or unreasonable expectations, pile on stress that could cause detrimental effects on the psyche of the person of interest. Problems with the family, friends and other issues can all stem from these high expectations. As such, through this book, I hope to introduce readers to an awareness of what are unreasonable and reasonable expectations as well as what they could do through their own expectations.
Through the use of original short stories, the book wishes to relate to situations that could happen and the consequences of such situations if the wrong type of expectation is placed on the characters. Remember, that expectations aren’t usually affected, though they do affect.
“But encourage one another, as long as it is called Today” – Hebrews 3:1
Most of the time, our expectations relate to the people around us, those we meet on the streets, those we know more personally, our family and friends for example. These people may be and most probably will be, subjected to the expectations that you and I as individuals have. We could easily ignore what impact this might have on them, but remember that what comes around goes around, and it would be better to take precaution then to subject yourself to getting bitten back.
These expectations can range in various forms, from personal treatment to obtaining rewards and such examples. Many a time we may subject others to expectations/pressure beyond their ability or things that we cannot ourselves accomplish, or do not deserve to have others accomplish for us. However, most people who place these expectations are unaware of their after-effects. This part of the book seeks to give the reader insight on possible scenarios under different forms of expectation.
“Because your love is better than life” – Psalms 63:3
Many different people in our lives are affected by our choices, decisions, and of course, our expectations but those that are most affected or at the very least, affected the most early in our lives, are those that are closest to us, and live under the same roof as us. Ties and bonds which are unlikely to be broken, even over the longest period of time, until the day of reckoning; which is why our families are the top in the list of those we affect with our expectations.
Since we grow up as a family, born into a certain set of rules and culture, as we grow up, we begin to form expectations towards them unconsciously. This comes from the fact that we spend most of our time around them, and have more trust in them and also slightly because we tend to take family members for granted.
It is first important to understand what causes us to have expectations and what kinds of expectations are considered to be bad expectations and/or unreasonable expectations. Firstly, expectations are formed as a test of trust and skill, and also finding the accomplishment of a mission. In simpler terms, it just means that the expecting party requires the other party to do something for them. Otherwise, it in some contemporary context, it can also mean that the person who is expecting is unconsciously doing so due to force of habit. For example, a child will expect the parent to care for them, even without needing it to be said.
However, there comes a point when the expectations become unreasonable or even harmful to the receiving party. Unreasonable expectations, as characterized by their name, refer to expectations that exceed the ability of the other party yet are still enforced or placed upon the receiving party. Such expectations can vary, and examples are: always expecting an agreement from a family member towards a certain opinion, pressing for better results even though children have already done their best (for parents). All these things might seem minor; however they have an adverse effect, if not at present, then in the future.
An additional note would be that oftentimes, parents expect their children to understand their demands while the same can be said in the opposite. Either way is non-beneficial as one party would assume that the other understands the expectations and will follow suit. Also, if either party does not want to understand the other yet wants the other to understand them, then a compromise will never be reached and conflict will arise. Here’s a story to clarify:
Michael was a talented and bright young boy. That was what all his teachers said. He was optimistic at most times and made lots of friends. His grades might not have been top notch, but that never got him down. Which was why everyone was so surprised when the news came out. At first, people couldn’t actually believe it was him. Maybe it was someone with the same name. There was certainly a chance. Then his picture came up and all hope sank to the bottom.
He was the talk of the school for days after that, especially among his friends. Perhaps if he was still alive, he would shy away from the spotlight. Then again, it was because he wasn’t that he was in it in the first place. No one really knew the cause of his death. Well, everyone knew he jumped, but no one knew why. No one besides his best friend; and probably his parents, but then again, if they had known, none of this would be happening in the first place.
In secret, the always cheerful and smiling Michael was just a façade that he hid under. The only person who really knew him well was his childhood friend, Samuel. And Sam saw the true Michael; depressed, living in fear, always wanting to end it sooner so that he no longer needed to suffer.
You see, the problem was that Michael’s parents were very conscious about grades. Michael’s parents always did well back in their days at school and so that had carried down as an expectation to their own child. Their idea was that since both of them did so well, their child should as well. Unfortunately, Michael’s gifts were not in studies. His piano skills and athletics were much better. His parents didn’t really appreciate those though. And his average-mediocre results never satisfied them, even after he tried his best.
Sam knew. Michael had always come running to Sam when he was down about something, and over the years, Samuel learnt to just shut-up and listen, because advice didn’t really work. Michael didn’t hate his parents, but he didn’t love their “affection” either. And you see, Michael was a bit of an avoider-type. He didn’t have the guts to stand up for himself. Everything was just bottled up inside, waiting to explode.
Their family relationship obviously wasn’t that good either. No arguments, but Michael was never close to his parents. They knew practically nothing about him. In fact, his teachers were probably better at parenting then his real parents were. Sure, they fed him and gave him a place to stay, but that was all. No talks about how his life was, no time to understand him, just piling expectation after expectation for him to do well. And doing well was the only way that he could ‘earn’ their love.
Michael had just about given up everything that he could do for his school work. He had a bright future as a pianist; his mentor always said that he had great potential. Then he quit and that was that. As for athletics, he was offered to train in the nationals, but his parents refused because they thought it would take too much time out of his studying period. Heck, he couldn’t even hang out with friends because of the schedule they gave him. It was study, eat, study, study, sleep, wake up, school, come home, study… and etc. His social life, physical and mental health all dwindled. Soon enough, he was like a walking zombie.
Still, Michael tried his best. At every single subject, he worked his butt off. His teachers knew. All of them tried to tell his parents that he was the hardest worker in their class. That wasn’t enough. He had to get good grades. And that was final. So when he came back with his exam results, his heart sank in fear. He initially wondered whether or not he should even go back. God knows what his parents would do to him.
On his result slips were the mark of his efforts, probably the best he had ever gotten, but they were all Bs. He had narrowly missed a C here and there, but no ‘A’s. Michael didn’t even want to go home to find out what would happen, and so, without telling anyone, he climbed up to the rooftop of the school building and scaled the metal wiring. Soon enough, he was standing on the ledge, looking downwards. The air surrounded him and his hands were clutched against the metal.
Sam on the other hand, arrived just in time to see Michael struggling with his decision. He had noticed something odd with Mike and decided to follow him. Good idea. Though, it was too late. Sam couldn’t even get one step from the staircase door before he watched his friend plummet from the fifth floor to the ground. Sam tried to run and reach for him, but alas, he could only see Michael’s dead body lying there.
He was the first one to call the ambulance, the police and just about every responsible adult in the school. All the other students were either frightened by the sudden presence of a dead body or taking photos of it. Sam was so angry at himself, Michael and the rest of them that he almost punched one of them in the face. The teachers had to restrain him from doing so, but banned all phones and cameras.
And as the police arrived to announce the death time and to escort away the students, Sam glanced back at his friend’s dead body one more time. His parents were there, tears in their eyes. Not that it was any use any more. Turning back, Sam walked away. And that was that.
Questions to ponder:
When we expect something, do we take into account the ability of the other party?
What are some examples of unreasonable expectations that you can think of?
Do our expectations affect the ones around us?
Are our expectations reasonable or unreasonable? (Think more on this and perhaps ask for advice)
Do we expect to get a ‘yes’ every time we ask our family member for something?
Do you ever feel that you need to earn your family member’s love or vice versa?
“True friendship consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and value.” – Ben Jonson
Friends; besides our family, they are the ones we spend the most time with. And as we grow older, especially into our ten years, we spend more time with them then we do our family. However, that also means we have more expectations on them as time progresses. And although we age, it does not certainly mean we mature. And if even more mature elders can make unreasonable expectations, why not the less mature folk? As stated in the previous chapter, those close to us are often subjected to our expectations.
Expectations to friends are a little different from those that we place upon our flesh kin, our family that is. However, this does not mean that these expectations carry less potency than the ones that are placed on family. Rather, these expectations could be more direct and thus have a more obvious, or immediate effect on the other party, in this case being friends.
Such expectations often cause misunderstandings and problems between friends as well as breaking up friendships. If expectations on family cause stress, expectations on friends cause frustration.
What matters though, is that the expectations still have effects on those that they are placed on. Examples of such expectations can range from: expecting friends to back you up even though they are unable to, or expecting to be treated better even though you haven’t been treating others the same.
Let’s see how expectations cause problems between friends in this short story:
Hazel was a studious and sporty teen. She had it great; captain of the school’s netball team, excellent grades and a group of good friends to support her all the way. She was a perfect candidate for a scholarship to an Ivy League university. She had a bright future looking ahead. In retrospect, she would have been able to have a prosperous life. That is, if she hadn’t made friends with the wrong kind of person.
Her best friend’s name was Alice. Now Alice wasn’t exactly sporty and her grades were just about average. She wasn’t that popular either. However, her parents were aching for her to get into a good college and she would need a scholarship for that. So she decided to sit in a qualification exam for a scholarship, along with Hazel. Since they had known each other since they were born, Alice expected Hazel to help her study in the exam.
Hazel on the other hand, was preoccupied with activities and her own studies so she had no time. Alice didn’t even try to make an effort or ask Hazel for help because she took Hazel for granted. All those other times Hazel had helped her understand everything and so she had no need to try so hard. Now Hazel had left her on her own and the day of the examination was closing in. There was one last resort.
Alice went to Hazel’s house, expecting her to agree. For the past few weeks, Hazel hadn’t helped her at all, so this was retribution for that. But when Hazel heard Alice’s plan, she was shocked. “You want me to help you cheat in a national examination?” Hazel exclaimed, making sure no one else could hear her.
“It’s only fair since you haven’t helped me at all for the past few weeks,” replied Alice indignantly.
“It’s your own fault that you didn’t make the effort to study. I told you that I would be busy for these few weeks. You don’t listen. You never do! I’m not having a part in this and that’s final!” said Hazel, almost loud enough for the neighbors to hear.
She almost regretted it, but it was for Alice’s own good. Cheating would do her no good if she couldn’t cope with the hectic schedule of the university. If Alice had just asked Hazel to help her persuade her parents to go to an average university, perhaps none of this would have started in the first place; but Alice was the kind of person who would rather do something by relying on someone else than trying to achieve at something that she could do by herself. She was already reliant on others helping her. And her dependency would cost her.
Being stubborn, Alice didn’t take the rebuking so well. So, together with Hazel’s rival, Jessica, who just wanted Hazel to flunk her exams and make her as miserable as possible, the two started to plan how to sabotage Hazel in the exam.
For the next few days after that, whenever Hazel tried to talk to Alice, Alice would steer away from her and hang out with Jessica instead, plotting for the right time to get at Hazel. And as the day of the examination drew near, the distance between the two former friends grew further.
Soon enough, the day of the examinations came. And while the candidates entered the hall nervous about the exam, Alice had a strange nasty smug on her face, as if she were looking forward to something. Though, the examination proceeded rather smoothly, at least until Hazel had to use the washroom. Alice took that little time to place little slips of paper into Hazel’s pencil case, scribbling something on them. She smiled to herself as she savored the feel of getting sweet revenge.
And as Hazel re-entered the examination hall and sat down, she would get the shock of her life. “Someone’s cheating!” shouted a voice behind Hazel.
When she looked back, she found the source of the voice: Alice. And a finger of accusation raised in the air was pointing at her. The examiner briskly walked towards her table to confirm the statement and raised her stationery case, from which the slips of paper fell out. Immediately, Hazel was disqualified from the examination for cheating.
Alice smiled wickedly as Hazel was escorted out of the room. That might have been the end to the story, except having her once best friend betray her was too much for Hazel. And she just snapped. In one swift move, Hazel slammed Alice’s head into the table, hard enough to draw blood. With that, she left the girl to bleed, unconscious. Some people went to help Alice while others restrained Hazel from doing any more damage. The police was there in ten minutes and Hazel was taken away for questioning.
Meanwhile, Alice was brought to the hospital, where she had fallen into a coma. The intensity of the attack had been enough to knock her into having a concussion, resulting in her comatose state. Luckily, her life was saved by the amazing skills of the doctors, however the trauma that she had suffered from the impact was enough to cause a problem in the nervous system, rendering her unable to move or talk. Hazel on the other hand, had been convicted of assault as well as attempted murder and sent to prison, although she had no intention on reflecting about anything. The two girls now suffered different fates, caused by one incident. Neither came out better than the other. One had a criminal record and the other would never be able to have a normal life ever again. Only time would tell what would happen next.
Given, this is an exaggeration of sorts, but therein lies the story of the chains of friendship breaking apart. Why did all this happen though? Mostly, it was because Alice thought that Hazel’s world should revolve around her. She was entitled, and thought that Hazel should do everything for her. Obviously, this wasn’t so. Also, if she could have put more effort into doing things on her own, perhaps she would not have had to rely on others to such a large extent.
Let’s take a moment to think shall we? If Alice had examined herself and expected less of Hazel, might this problem have been averted? If she had relied on her own skill and was less dependent on others, would it have been any different? Think about it.
Questions to ponder:
What makes you feel frustrated? Did you ever consider it when you expected something from a friend?
Do you take your friends for granted sometimes?
Do you expect things from others even if you lack the ability yourself?
Are you overly dependent on others for help?
Do you expect others to handle everything that comes your way?
Life; it’s a process that we all go through. Sometimes though, there are expectations that may arise from what we seek as an ideal for the life that we live, our lifestyles and such all determine this. However, it might not always be good to put expectations on life.
Expectations tend to exceed reality and at times, they can prove to be rather unreasonable, especially in the view of others around. After all, not every single expectation is to be fulfilled. At any rate, everyone has the yearning for a better life, a perfect life. But could anyone truly envision what a perfect life would look like?
In fact, it can be said that in this world, there is no such thing as a perfect life, for many reasons, two of them being that everyone has their own opinion of a perfect life, no one can actually define what a perfect life truly means and thus something undefined cannot exist in the natural order of life (which could mean that perfection is out of the ordinary) and that no matter how good a life might be, there are bound to be imperfections, further bolded by individual viewpoints and other variables.
This part of the book will seek to find out what expectations are made in life as well as how expectations in life may affect our decisions, as well as how our lives could be made even worse by the expectations we impose upon them.
“What is the meaning of life? To be happy and useful.” - Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
Firstly, let’s talk about stress. Expectations obviously give stress. It is so for every single situation, whether applied to oneself or to another individual, the one who is at the receiving end will most definitely have a burden imposed on them.
However, if the expectations are on life, it is difficult to say that the one who is expecting will not become disadvantaged because of this. In fact, it could easily be said that expecting too much out of life will only create stress for the person who is doing the expecting.
Since it seems to getting rather confusing, let’s elaborate this point with a story shall we?
Rhea was a perfectionist. Everything in her life had to be picture perfect; otherwise it was not good enough. This of course, included her life. It wasn’t that she had obsessive-compulsive disorder or any mental disorders of that sort. No, that would have been much easier to cure. The problem came from her dissatisfaction with everything around her, yearning for all to become her ideal, which meant flawless.
And yet, not everything could be flawless; especially not life. One could dream and wish all about a perfect life but that would come to nothing in the end. After all, as long as one interacted with imperfect beings, there was no way that a perfect or ideal life could be achieved. And those imperfect beings were humans.
With her perfectionist attitude, Rhea found this to be unacceptable, although there wasn’t much she could do about it. Still a student, her grades were one of the best in school, mostly because she studied so much that the knowledge overflowed from her brains. If she couldn’t perfect something, she wouldn’t do it. That was her motto. But that was also a serious issue. There were many times when she would refuse to do anything unless she could get it to perfection. And only then would she relent. Her determination, and arrogance, was astounding.
However, it is not always beneficial to push yourself beyond your limits, as Rhea would soon figure out.
There came a day when Rhea realized that although everything seemed perfect, life wasn’t. There were troubles all around her and with that, she resolved to perfect life. Doing everything until it was perfect, Rhea made sure that nothing was left out, that if there was anything that could cause problems, it would be ignored. Rhea then realized that ignoring the problems caused more problems, which in turn caused even more problems.
At some point then, Rhea somewhat snapped. She tried to push herself beyond her limits, making sure that everything around her was just the way she wanted it. Her friends had to be perfect, so she made sure that whatever they did, they were perfect; and all her former friends left her. Her work had to be perfect, so she spent hours trying to fix every single piece of work; and as time passed, her work continued to pile until she was fired for her inefficiency. Her appearance had to be perfect, so she wasted thousands on plastic surgery; and she was constantly in debt. Day and night without sleep finally caused Rhea’s body to collapse under the intense fatigue. She was quickly admitted into the hospital by her family, who had been there when she dropped to the ground.
Unfortunately for Rhea, her body couldn’t take the intensity of the stress and burned itself out on the way there; and the irony for Rhea was that, because she sought perfection, she lost it all.
You see, when we yearn for something in life too much, we often neglect the fact that we are not only harming ourselves but also the ones around us. Great deals of stress overcome us when we search for something that often cannot be fulfilled.
If Rhea had given up on her conquest of perfection and seen the good in all around her, perhaps it would have been easier on her mentality and her body. She didn’t of course, but would you think that if we follow the same path, that we can pluck ourselves out easily? Think about it.
Questions to ponder:
Does everything have to be perfect for you?
Do you expect life to go your way?
Can you make compromises to your plans if they seem unreachable?
Granted, these stories are somewhat larger than life, and obviously fictitious. Still, they bring out how major these effects can be. Under the same circumstances, would you be able to say you wouldn't do the same thing? It is mostly about control, but it has a lot to with the expectations themselves as well. Just because someone seems to be able to handle it, doesn't mean that it is fine to go on hounding them.
Everyone has a breaking point, and it is just a matter of time before everything bottled up explodes or implodes. The problem here is not whether or not the person can handle it. It is whether or not you are able to put yourself in the other person's shoes. If you can't do it, who are you to be expecting someone else to?
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