Why Do We Expect from Others to Act Like Us?
By Ahmad Amirali
Today, I visited my old high school to attend a parent-teacher meeting with my niece, who is also studying there. I heard and met teachers; they were fascinated to see me as some still remember me as their naughtiest kid. They shared their observations and reviews about my niece’s academic performance. During that conversation, one teacher told me, ‘She is quite a remarkable student, but she does not participate actively in some activities. I am now expecting more from her.’ Different children have different abilities and levels of understanding, multiple intelligences, and the list of such theories goes on in my mind. However, the thing that puzzled me more than anything when she said, ‘I expect…’. I heard many parents giving valuable advice to their kids and reminding them how they should fulfil their parent’s expectations. The first question that exploded in my mind was, why do we expect others to act like us or think like us?
When we expect, we start assuming the future; it is as if we were betting that something will happen. We know that there is always a chance that whatever we desire will not happen in gambling. Hence, we disappoint ourselves believing falsely on certain assumptions which we gambled on. Similarly, merely expecting something to happen will not make it happen. Psychologist Jean Piaget highlights that children might have difficulty distinguishing between the subjective worlds in their heads and the outer, objective world. Therefore, children sometimes believe that their thoughts can directly cause things to happen; for example, thinking angry thoughts about your little brother can cause him to fall down the stairs. Piaget referred to such behaviour as magical thinking. He believes that we all have been through that phase once in our lifetime. The only thing that makes Piaget’s theory of magical thinking wrong is that even adults continue to engage in various sorts of magical thinking in their lives. For many of us, it isn’t easy to let go of the idea that expecting something to happen will make it happen.
There are two types of expectations that we lived and believe during our life span; realistic and unrealistic. A realistic expectation is the understandable ones, for example, parents who expect that their children will respect their feelings and advice or couples hoping that both of them will agree and understand each other’s feelings. These expectations are the pillars upon which healthy and positive relationships are based.
Unrealistic expectations are the ones that are way too high or even don’t have any basis. For example, parents who expect that their kids perform the same way as they performed in their school life. The time, space and trends of education are now different; one cannot impose an idea with anything to do with the present day and time. Minimising such unrealistic expectation from our loved ones, friends and colleagues will provide space to do and thinks differently and surprise the world with their own creativity. Moreover, it also allows people to be happier and avoid constant disappointments and frustrations in the long run.
How to Avoid Unrealistic Expectations?
Rather than expect too much from others, it would be wiser to expect more from ourselves. Following are some of the pointers that might help us to avoid false expectations from others.
- Accept that no one is perfect, not even you. It is not necessary to assume the role of a judge; no one is perfect and has the absolute truth. We accept that we are all people trying to do things as best as possible, and mistakes are part of learning.
- Respect individuality. Reducing expectations also means respecting other’s identity by giving them the freedom to act according to their values and desires. People should not behave as you do, and neither follow your rules. What is suitable for you must not be necessarily valid for others.
- Often, we act as creditors; we think that because we made them some favours, the others are in debt with us. However, if we want to behave well, we do it better because we like to do it and not because we expect to receive something in return.
- Sometimes, having expectations of others means holding them responsible for our happiness. We condition our happiness to their behaviour, so we become dependent on their reactions. It is essential to realise that we alone are responsible for our happiness, not others.
So, stop expecting others, either from your kids or from your friend, to fulfil your dreams, let them do their own struggle and start expecting from yourself. Only you have the power to fulfil your dreams 😊