Why Expectations You Have For Yourself, You Should Stop Putting On Other People

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February 4, 2013 ‐ By Clarke Gail Baines

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From family members to co-workers, lovers and friends, I think we’ve all found ourselves in a position or situation where we were disappointed by something they’ve done–or didn’t do.

I’ve had friends who didn’t go above and beyond to make time for me, though I would make myself tired trying to be a “good” friend, running around to keep up with them. I’ve had co-workers (and fellow interns) who wouldn’t pull their weight and would have me thinking I had to work like crazy so that everything that needed to be done, would be done. I’ve had boyfriends who I would find myself at the store buying little small gifts and things for, because I have a habit of spoiling people I love (“Oh, he likes colorful socks, I’ll get him a pair”; “I’m going to buy him this shirt just because it’s on sale”; “One more Christmas gift won’t hurt…”), but then feel disappointed when they would hardly do the same for me. The more and more I would find myself on the other side of these occurrences feeling salty, hurt or just straight up pissed off, the more stress I would put on myself at the end of the day. Trying to do everybody’s work was having a negative impact on me physically; Overspending just to look like the Girlfriend of the Year was hurting my wallet; And expecting my friends to make themselves available in the same way that I would for them was causing unnecessary animosity in my relationships with them. My expectations were too high for everyone because of the fact that expectations for myself were way too high for myself.

I got a wake-up call about all this from a friend of a friend who I was catching up with. When I explained to her one of the aforementioned issues and the anger and stress it was causing me, she gave me the real.

“You can’t get mad at that person for the fact that they’re not doing what you do. Nobody asked you to go out of your way when you didn’t feel like it. That’s YOU, not them. You can’t get mad at other people and expect them to do everything the way you do it, because that’s not going to happen. And in the end, you’re the one over here stressing, and they’re over here not even realizing you have a problem.”

Initially expecting her to agree with me, I was surprised at her opinion, but it was what I needed to hear, and it was plain and simple: You do you, stop worrying about everybody else. I’ve found not only in my own situations, but in those of friends and colleagues, we get upset at people for not living up to these overwhelming expectations that they didn’t even know we had for them. We expect our men to be uber-romantic and know when to give us flowers because we go out of our way for them by cooking and baking and buying things and making ourselves available to them out of the kindness of our own hearts. We expect family members to lend us a hand because we’ve gone out of our way to do everything for them. But as my pastor would say, if you want to do good for people, do it because you want to and you enjoy it, not because you’re looking for applause or adoration.

As for myself, I realized that while I do like to do nice things for people, I often do THE most. So I’ve made a better effort not to wear myself thin, not to overdo things as to spoil the people I care about, and in the end, learned that I can only worry about myself and not what the people in my life do and don’t do. I can only make it clear in the beginning what standards I have for my friends, my family, my partner, and the like, but I can’t put all my overly high expectations for myself on them, and I can’t fault them for not being more like me. Because as homegirl said, worrying about all that keeps me stressing when they’re somewhere not even batting an eye.

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  • Kat!

    I agree with the previous comment…I think that you should accept people for who they are if you are going to be in a friendship or relationship with them. However, If you find that you do the most and the people around you don’t maybe that’s a sign you need to get out and open your circle a bit. I find that it is very hard to find people who are not selfish and self-centered these days, even if it is not intentional. But that just means I value the good friends I do have all the more and direct my goodness towards them. Everybody ain’t able!

  • mac

    My mom always said, if you’re the giving type, you have got to make sure you enter into triendships or relationships with people who have as big a heart as you. Or else you’ll always feel taken advantage of or short changed.

    I feel like a caveat should be added for this article. Yes, you shouldn’t impose expectations on other people, but that doesn’t mean you should accept a one sided friendship and exempt them from reciprocity. If a person doesn’t do for you what you do for them, it could be a sign they don’t value the friendship as much as you do.

    Rather than holding back on generosity, I think a better thing to do is find people who appreciate it, and are similar natured.

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