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Managing Expectations

A deep dive into the balancing act that is expectation management, based heavily on my experiences, by Zoe Frenchman

By zoe frenchmanPublished 2 months ago 8 min read
Managing Expectations
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Managing Expectations Overview

Something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is managing my expectations about almost everything and every person, including myself. I’ve always had an issue with setting unrealistic expectations for myself, for others, and for various experiences. I admittedly tend to set my standards too high for a lot of things, and I usually wind up disappointed in the outcome because I set myself up to be. I’m especially hard on myself and I always have been. I find it difficult to relax or be unproductive for a day and not feel absolutely horrible about it. I set these expectations for myself to be constantly productive, and to always be doing something useful, and that most definitely stems from heaps of my intrinsic, habitual insecurity, as well as my often perfectionistic mentality.

Managing expectations can involve setting boundaries, and tangible or clear goals, building healthier relationships, improving communication, and getting a clearer picture of a relationship or situation. Managing expectations effectively can improve various aspects of life and provide you with significant improvement in mental clarity and ability to express yourself.

By Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

Expectations I Have For Myself

I’ve experienced many traumatizing, painful, horrifying situations in my life, and I spent a lot of my childhood struggling. I was in and out of hospitals and mental health programs throughout all four years of high school, and high school was generally the worst period of my life so far–literally every part of it was treacherous, and it was this everlasting cycle of one bad thing after another. Now, I’m 21, I’m an adult, I’ve moved out of my parents' house, and across the country for college, and I think it’s necessary for me to start to get into a mindset of managing my expectations now. I need to acknowledge that while I need to be responsible, mature, and productive regarding my overall transition into adulthood, and while I’m in college and everything, it’s going to be a lot. There are moments when I’m homesick, I’m having a panic attack, and I need to deal with it on my own, I’m bored or unmotivated and alone, I’m in a fight with Theo, and we need to resolve it ourselves, I’m stressed out about money, I’m overwhelmed with schoolwork, and all of those kinds of harsh, adult realities. Those moments are normal and I need to learn to handle them as an adult without beating myself up or making it worse for myself just for having these very normal moments happen.

My emotions have always been generally unstable, and it’s often because I set unrealistic expectations for many outcomes. I expected to have a seamless transition from living with my parents, brother, and dog in Pennsylvania, and working at Target a lot, to living with my boyfriend, in Florida, to start an accelerated college program, and still working at Target, but not nearly as much because of school. The reality is, that it’s all been a little overwhelming for me. I feel much more stable now than did initially, and that is in part because I truly realized that it’s beyond normal and acceptable to feel overwhelmed and emotional when going through a big life transition. You’re almost supposed to feel that way — it’s human.

During my first week working at Target in May 2023, I was honestly just so exhausted from work that I had no energy to do anything else. I had quit my job at Starbucks in January and hadn’t regularly worked since. The first few weeks were rough, and I was very tired and depressed. In the third week of working there, I started to feel more adjusted to the job, and I started to realize that part of the reason I became so depressed was because of the expectations I had set for myself. I expected to be able to seamlessly and perfectly adjust to working a physically taxing job–mind you I work in the fulfillment department, I am a tiny person, and I’m not a physically strong person, to begin with–after not working a regular job at all for a few months and still manage to maintain everything else. I expected to be able to just go to work, and when I was finished with my shift, I would go home and cook something for myself, write a new podcast script, and a new poem, clean, and plan videos, and do all this shit, and I expected to be able to maintain constant productivity because that’s what I thought I should be doing. But when I started working, I was drained after my shifts, and my appetite was already getting smaller so it was difficult to eat much, and I just didn’t have the emotional or physical energy to do much. And that caused me stress, it caused me to lose my appetite more, it caused me disappointment in myself, and it drained me of any motivation.

But after realizing how bitchy, irritable, depressed, and stressed out I’d become, I realized that part of the problem was that I wasn’t acknowledging that I needed that adjustment period. I needed to adjust to working again, and when I did, I was ready to get back into the routine of going to work, relaxing after my shifts, writing, making videos, and making podcasts when I felt inspired and on a more regular basis without burning myself out, and just generally maintaining more of a healthy life balance and realistic set of expectations for myself.

Setting reasonable expectations for myself has boosted my confidence and sense of self-belief. I feel much more in control of my capabilities, limits, goals, and tasks I need to accomplish. It’s improved my communication with myself and others. It’s allowed me to hold myself accountable for what I can do, what I should do, what I will do, what I won’t do, and what I can’t do. When my expectations were all out of whack, everything was foggy and gloomy, and now, getting a grip on that has made my abilities and limits much more clear to me.

By Headway on Unsplash

Expectations of Others

I’ve tended to expect more out of people sometimes beyond what they’re even capable of. Despite being disappointed by other people countless times, there’s this part of me that finds it so difficult to lower my expectations. As aware as I am that many people are inherently selfish or often oblivious, I’ve always expected the best in people. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that you’ve kind of have to assume the worst in people. If you assume the worst and the outcome turns out great, then you’ll be even more pleased. If you assume the worst, and the outcome isn’t great, you won’t be as disappointed, you know? I’m not saying to be cynical about everything in life or assume that everyone is malicious or abusive or a terrible person. I’m just saying, that until you REALLY know a person, inside and out, there are definitely many things about them that you don’t know. These things could be insignificant or they could change your whole opinion about this person.

For celebrities and public figures, that’s different because there’s a LOT that you don’t know about their personal lives, and I honestly tend to keep a neutral opinion on most celebrities, other than a select few people that I’m a big fan of because I don’t know them, I’ve never met them, and I don’t think it’s fair to assume things about celebrities in most contexts. And I say assume specifically because if a celebrity has explicitly stated something or done something fucked up, then that’s justification to call that person out in a respectful but stern manner. But if there’s an ambiguous situation involving a celebrity that hasn’t been directly confirmed by that celebrity, then there are so many possible scenarios that could be the truth, and it’s not fair to assume anything until something is directly confirmed by the celebrity. But as for people you’re meeting personally, it’s important to maintain an open mind, while managing your expectations in general. At least that’s what I’ve learned from my experiences.

People have all kinds of stories, strengths, weaknesses, and backgrounds, so it’s important not to make assumptions or set expectations about people that we don’t know all that well. Furthermore, if you know a specific person has a track record of disappointing, hurting, or insulting you or others, it’s important to take that into account when setting your expectations about them.

With that being said, there is plenty of good in the world. Balance is the most crucial component of expectation management — and life in general. It’s essential to maintain an open mind about others while balancing it with a sense of caution. Don’t assume anything — positive or negative. There is a plethora of good-intentioned, positive, successful, compassionate people in the world, and although sometimes that can seem hard to find, they are out there. And oftentimes, the best people come to you naturally — you don’t have to search for them.

Last Words

All in all, I truly want to get myself in a healthier mentality in terms of my management of expectations as I get older. I’ve always struggled with this issue, and I know that I need to continue to manage it now that I’m on my own. I need to balance work and life, I need to allow myself to relax, I need to take my meds, I need to eat more and healthier, I need to drink more water, I need to deal with more on my own, and I need to resolve conflicts with my boyfriend in a more mature way than I have in the past, and he does too. I need to expect to be overwhelmed sometimes and still keep myself relatively calm, I need to focus on school most importantly while I’m attending school, I need to expect to feel all kinds of emotions, especially at first, and I need to acknowledge that I am a human being, and I’m allowed to have my moments of weakness or intense emotion or stress or doubt or depression or instability or impulsivity, but I am an adult, and I need to behave and think like an adult now.

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About the Creator

zoe frenchman

I’m Zoe, I’m 21, and I’m an aspiring writer, filmmaker, musician, & mental health advocate. I’m a poet and content writer currently enrolled in the Creative Writing BFA program at Full Sail U!

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