May 24 / Rebecca Fleetwood Hession

Dealing with Unmet Expectations

For most of our life, we deal with uncertainty and expectation, our expectations, and the expectations of others at home and work. It’s all very personal, emotional, and very very social. And yet, we think our life is managing right and wrong answers and gathering the data we need to make decisions.

I had a shit show of unmet expectations and disappointments recently, personally and professionally. Some little, some big, all personal, all emotional, and all very social. And because our emotions are an intricate web of connections and feelings, one unmet expectation sets off a trigger of all the other disappointments and unmet expectations. Our brains search out and recall all the hurt from decades past that relates to the current disappointment. This week, I instantly remembered a comment some random troll made on a dating site about me in 2016. I couldn’t tell you his name or anything about him, but I can tell you precisely what he said and how it made me feel. The one and the only interaction I had with this person still impacting my life five years later. (Insert intense eye roll here)

And the ripple effect of uncertainty and disappointment triggers a domino effect on the other parts of our life. Our confidence is knocked off-kilter, we see our past accomplishments a little dimmer, and our dreams feel further away. We are human beings; personal, emotional, and social. Our level of satisfaction in life doesn’t come from glass sales awards, the size of our paycheck, or the granite in our countertops. Our happiness in life is impacted most through our emotions, relationships, and the tiny or life-changing expectations we set for ourselves and others.

So when disappointment comes, and it will come, do not dismiss the feelings and emotions associated with the disappointment. Not acknowledging our feelings just leaves them pushed down into some dark corner, ready to fester, rot and reappear another day. You know that Tupperware dish of leftovers you knew you weren’t going to eat, but you didn’t want to just throw it away, so you pushed it to the back of the fridge only to someday take the lid off and experience the decay while gagging and frustrated? Do yourself a favor, either throw it away before it gets to the fridge or pitch the whole thing, Tupperware and all. The moral of the story, you do not need to sit with the rotting decay of your past.

Deal with it in the present tense. I spent time this weekend staring at the ceiling and just feeling all the things. I had a couple of good shower sobs letting go of today’s disappointments and the asshole troll from 2016. Gawd, I hope he doesn’t show up again. I reminded myself that no one was coming to save me. If you search how to save someone who’s drowning, the first advice you’ll see,

Don’t expect a casualty to be shouting for help; they might be struggling to breathe. Drowning looks very different in the movies. If you’re not sure, shout, “Do you need help?” If they say yes, or don’t answer at all, it’s time to act.

I was drowning. I wouldn’t answer at all. It was up to me to reach out and connect with those that would honor my disappointment and help me gain perspective that would be the life raft I needed.

Phone a friend, yes, but phone the right friend. Don’t phone the friend that throws gas on the fire and helps you create an idol to your pain. Find the friends that hold space for your emotions and then gently hand you a floatation device that reminds you of your greatness and your ability to swim so you can start to move your way through the Sea of Uncertainty.

Having feelings and disappointment doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. There are many correct answers in life, right for you, right for me, right for them, right for us. There are only a few wrong answers in life, and they’re usually in pretty big buckets, like arson and laying your hand on a hot stove. I worked through some shame, embarrassment, and self-deprecation by really acknowledging my feelings and then sharing them with a trusted friend. Once you lay them out in the light to look at them together, they’re less likely to decay and rot in the back of your heart. Light is the best disinfectant.

So, if you’re dealing with the disappointment of unmet expectations,

Feel it

Talk about it

Then move forward

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