Take Responsibility for the Drama Caused by Your Own Expectations

Several years ago, I almost started dating a man who both intrigued and frustrated me. For all of our shared interests, including our perspective of the way the universe works, we struggled to communicate. Sure, you could blame it on his Leo-ness clashing with my Taurus-ness, and you wouldn’t be too far off. Something about the way he condescendingly spoke to me just annoyed me until I wanted to punch him in the face.

But, I was still drawn to him. I saw this clandestine connection as an opportunity for me to grow, as he was the first male I had met (and been attracted to) who could teach me from a metaphysical perspective.

One evening, I had been meditating and I caught a glimpse of myself in a block of ice. A wise woman (who often shows up to give me guidance) specifically instructed me that it was time to let the ice melt, and I understood that I had been protecting my heart, perhaps a bit too fiercely. I was unwilling to be vulnerable to a point that I could let this new friend of mine get very close to me.

I finally understood what he’d been less than eloquently saying to me. Aha! Light bulb moment!

I was so excited to call him and share this insight, and I was certain that he’d be impressed with my ability to find answers to my own issues, and not only receive guidance from my spiritual team, but also heed that guidance. I assumed this would lead to an excellent conversation and we would grow closer because of this experience.

But, I was wrong.

My Expectations Kicked My A$$

I was stunned when he dismissed me matter-of-factly.

My ego took a bit of a hit and I found myself wondering if maybe he just hadn’t heard me. So I repeated myself… this time with a bit more emphasis. When he dismissed me again, I blurted out, “Did you even hear what I said?”

“Yes, I heard you. It’s just not that interesting to me. What you’re going through is old school for me.”

Expectations QuoteMr. “Holier-than-thou-and-I’m-not-afraid-to-tell-you” hurt my feelings with his abrupt response. When I got up the courage to express that my feelings were hurt, he said, “I didn’t hurt your feelings, you did. You wanted a certain response from me, and when you didn’t get it, you got angry with me. But that’s your deal, not mine. Look at your own expectations.”

At the time, I was FURIOUS.

How dare he not take responsibility for his behavior toward me?

How did he not recognize the significance of my new insights?

How could he dismiss me so quickly?

How did he not care about my feelings? 

Lessons Learned

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that we didn’t end up spending much time together. We both wanted to, but there was just something about our particular combination of energies that did not work harmoniously together.

It took me awhile to figure out that he was right… as painful as it was for me to admit… He was right: I was upset because he hadn’t responded the way I expected him to. 

I didn’t realize this with clarity until I was working with a client and I found myself giving her the same lecture that this “almost boyfriend” had given me.

I heard these words come out of my mouth, “This emotional drama that you are feeling is directly related to how you perceive that he failed to meet your expectations.  Let’s be honest, what was your motivation and why wasn’t his genuine reaction enough for you?”

There’s an important lesson to be learned here - We must be mindful of our motivations and our expectations when we are dealing with others. Consider this: the majority of your emotional drama can be cleared up when you are willing to take responsibility for your own reactions.

  • Have you ever dealt with someone who was particularly difficult for you? What part of the difficulty was yours?
  • Have you been upset at someone for failing to meet your expectations? Or vice versa?

I look forward to a discussion on expectations. Leave a comment below!  

With mucho a latte of love and respect,

Janet Louise Stephenson



Your Transformation Tour Guide  expectations

p.s. I recently heard this song and it is relevant, so I have to share. My favorite line: Expectations, Go to Hell!

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27 Responses

  1. Sarah
    | Reply

    Janet, this is such a great topic! from my own experience I’ve learned that I love people for their potential and I expect WAY too much from them while expecting far too little from myself. I tend to put the weight of every decision, the motivation for any action and the spark of any creativity on their shoulders. I expect that they’ll change the world for me. and in my history, I’ve done this over and over. I expect them to be exactly what I want in no time flat. I expect them to grow into their fullest potential right now because I can see it so why can’t they? all the while I have dreams and aspirations for myself that I muse about but never take action because my comfort zone is just to comfortable. I expect them to make it happen for me.

    or in the case of my family: we’re all emotionally retarded in my family. no I’m not using that word in a condescending manner. its truth. we have no idea how to express emotion towards each other. but I still expect them to come to me. I expect them to reach out first. and when they don’t, I feel isolated and alienated and am overwhelmed with the desire to run away because “I have nothing in this place”

    this is why I make an awesome coach but a shitty girl/friend and why I currently don’t date or have many friends. I get frustrated because I see my own inadequacies reflected back at me and I expect the other person to fix them.

    I tried for a while to live by the “expect nothing and you’ll never be disappointed because you’ll never get less that what you expected and if you get more then you’ll be pleasantly surprised.” but when I started doing that I ended up being friends with some really trashy people with no self respect (or respect for anyone else) and dated an emotionally abusive person who did to me exactly what I’ve done to all my exes.

    so my solution right now is to pull back, deal with myself and reaching my potential. turning all my “fixit” talents onto myself and my clients and learning to be gentle with myself and those around me. in learning that unreasonable expectations are just amount excuse to stay mired in the victim mindset.

  2. Sarah
    | Reply

    OK so the last sentence was supposed to say: I’m learning that unreasonable expectations are just another excuse for staying mired in the victim mindset.

  3. Thanks for your honest and raw comment, Sarah! I appreciate you sharing so freely and openly with the rest of us.

    So, question for you – if you logically understand your family’s behavior, why do you choose to be upset when their responses don’t meet your expectations? Is this what you mean when you say, “unreasonable expectations are just another excuse for staying mired in the victim mindset.”?

  4. Sarah
    | Reply

    yes Janet, that’s exactly what I meant. and it doesn’t just go for my family. it goes for any time I feel hurt because my expectations aren’t met. its part of the learning to be gentle with the people around me thing. they don’t know what my expectations are. and really, my expectations are so high that I doubt anybody could really ever fulfill them! haha… and recognizing that these expectations keep me in the victim mindset because they’re just more ways for me to feel hurt, is part of my goal to straighten myself out and cause my own life to happen.

  5. Shana
    | Reply

    Janet and Sarah, this is definitely a great topic. I read it with my mouth wide open because I have done this expect this amazing response and when the opposite happened I was shocked and confused. It makes so much sense and I now will be able to approach things differently.

    • “It makes so much sense and I now will be able to approach things differently.”

      THAT’s what I like to hear, Shana! Thanks for popping in to leave a comment… helps keep my motor running to know others are reading and enjoying what I’m putting out there. :)

  6. CC
    | Reply

    Great article! Thank you for sparking such a great discussion with such an insightful post.

  7. Jeff
    | Reply

    Sometimes people don’t meet our expectations, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect the best (at least not until proven otherwise). This guy sounds like an ass and a mis-match.

    • Ohhh, believe me, Jeff – I often thought he was an ass! Still do… but this post is about me taking responsibility for my own part of the emotional dysfunction.

  8. rachel allen
    | Reply

    Great topic Janet.
    Sarah that response is great. … in a way that that is exactly how I am also. I couldn’t have put it any better. My only difference is, I want to and know I can help other people and would love to, however I withdraw from doing so because I feel like a hypocrit and ask/tell myself, “what makes you think you have any right to guide anyone else when you live the exact way you’re directing them against. You have to get your own shit together before you have any business coaching other people. ” my expectations are high and I am continuously disappointed. I too attempted the expect nothing from anyone approach. I currently and have for a long time kept myself at a distance from people, I have walls built, and rarely let anyone in.

    • Sarah
      | Reply

      @Rachel Allen you are not alone in withdrawing from people and for feeling like you have no business trying to help them. i do the exact same thing. we’re hard on ourselves because we expect the most from ourselves and we’re always falling short which makes us feel unworthy. we forget that we’re only human and we will ALWAYS be a work in progress. and we forget to take a step back and look at the progress we HAVE mad and just how amazing we are. even by just existing, we’ve beaten the odds in our huge universe! i’m constantly reminding myself that the best way to learn something is to teach it. one of my teachers told me once that if you’re helping a “client” and not growing yourself, then you’re not a very good coach. i thought that was brilliant! we should be learning as much from our “peers” as they do from us.

  9. nikkifrankhamilton
    | Reply

    Once again…you make me think…and feel….wow! Light bulb moment!

  10. Genene
    | Reply

    What a great article. SO insightful & honest. I’m working at learning to be aware of my own expectations. It’s not always an easy thing for me to see, especially in the moment.

    This post brings up questions for me on the subject of how to talk to or deal with people who I have a relationship with (family) that is ongoing & I find them extremely difficult to talk to & communicate with because this sister seems to live in her own reality. I am challenged with whether or not to speak candidly & perhaps brutally honest or just let sleeping dogs lie. It’s a challenge because my ego is pricked & my “truth” hasn’t been allowed to be out there & this sister just KEEPS on running roughshod over the entire family. Your honesty in the post helps me look closer at my own stuff.

  11. Genene
    | Reply

    I’m loving the comments & conversation up there. Sarah, you definitely said some things that are hitting home for me as well. One of the things I’ve noticed for myself is that I always expect a new awareness to transform me instantly & when it doesn’t I get frustrated which often causes me to give up. I’m noticing that I need repeated reminders. The seed is planted in the first awakening awareness & then it takes time for the seed to germinate & grow to the point that I see much real change in myself. Oh, how I’d love it if it only took one time for me to transform. Not so. I’m still working on it.

    • One thing for you to give a lot of attention to, Genene, is to quit being so hard on yourself! You hold yourself to an extremely high standard, and feel disheartened when you can’t sustain that level…. we all work on repetition. It’s the biggest reason why I share stories when I’m speaking/teaching. It might be the same lesson repeated, but every time you encounter the lesson/material, you see it from a different angle. Every once in awhile, you catch it in such a way that you really do get an aha! moment out of the deal. Give you some credit for all the work you’ve done… and continue to do… xo

    • Sarah
      | Reply

      @Genene, it might help you to adopt the image of a spiral. you come around to an epiphany and it does what it needs to in your life at that time. you’ll move away from it but eventually you’ll come back around but you’ll see it from a different perspective because you’ve grown. i use that to remind myself when i fall off whatever wagon i happen to be riding on :)

      in the process of transition into new habits we go through different phases. i always get stuck in the phase where you realize “hey, this is harder than i thought it would be.” and i keep trying for a bit but become disillusioned when i don’t see the results i expected right away. but i suppose change is like a muscle. if we truly want it, we gotta keep flexing it!

  12. Maru
    | Reply

    Oh your article makes a lot of sense! I keep getting mired in family problems because they basically put me down all the time. I finally told them enough is enough and have limited my contact with them. But just as you pointed out, I need to examine the premise that they are required to treat me in a certain way. They really aren’t when you think about it. They have their own path and lessons to learn. It really isn’t my place to try and make them change for me. That does not mean that their actions were acceptable, though. so I will continue to limit contact.

    You are sooo right that it comes down to non-attachment. I have been obsessing about this situation because I feel they owe me something. I am trying to let go simply because since all of us have been wrong at one time or another then they really have the right to be wrong, if that makes any sense.They are caught up in the same misperceptions and illusions that all of us are caught in. So maybe I judge them too harshly.

    • Janet Louise Stephenson
      | Reply

      Hi Maru,

      It sounds like you are working through some complicated dynamics with your family! Kudos to you for being willing to look at your part in the dysfunction. But also, remember that you need to have healthy boundaries set up so that you are taking care of YOU. In that way, you can be an active participant in your happiness. Continue to look at why you feel they owe you, and staying in your own power. You’ve got this!


  13. Dianna Bonny
    | Reply

    Janet – what a thought provoking post. I can see that some of my biggest disappointments are when I have expectations attached to the outcome. Usually these are unconscious but when I look back I can see that there was an inordinate amount of hope on my part for a certain behavior. It is happening a lot with my aging father right now who continually lets me down because I really, really want him to respond in a certain way. And the truth is he can’t. He doesn’t have the emotional range. And I can accept that or keep banging my head against the wall. Thank you for helping me see this perspective. xx

    • Janet Louise Stephenson
      | Reply

      Dianna, I’m certain you aren’t alone in hoping… praying… that a loved one will respond in a certain way. I know I’ve been guilty of beating my head against the wall on countless occasions. Being able to see someone in their weaknesses and glories and still loving them is the epitome of unconditional love. Maybe it will be easier for you to ‘let him be’ right where he is, if you can find solace that you are able to love him without conditions attached.

      Thank you for sharing – hope to see you back again soon!

  14. Cyndee Paulson-Heer
    | Reply

    Great conversation! I consider myself a conscious person, aware of the “drama of my own expectations.” Yet, I can still get caught up in them, unconsciously and consciously. That said, it is my reality that our expectations are communications from us, to us, regarding our needs—some trite, some profound. Personally, I expect people in my inner-most circle to care about mine. I also take responsibility for knowing them, and asking that they be met. And finally, I do what I can to meet the expectations/needs of others, as well.

    The, following is an example of an unmet expectation that was a need trying to get met, in me. My husband tries to “fix things.” So, when I go to him with an issue he usually goes straight to “fix mode.” This shuts me down, and puts me on the defense as I hear his fixes as him telling me that I’m wrong.
    Early on I expected him to validate my experience/emotions as it simply seemed courteous and right. As time went on I discovered that the expectation was actually a representation of a need that was trying to get met in me.

    As I came to realize this, I would tell him “I expect/need you to stop and validate my emotions before you try to fix a situation . . . .” But still, for years, this expectation went unmet.

    Then one day, I was on the phone with my bestie, unpacking an experience. The phone was on speaker and my husband was apparently listening because after I “dumped all my emotions,” and shared the situation with my bestie she paused and said, “That’s F***ed!” Validation! My husband saw, felt, and heard the change in me with this two word validation, and said, “That’s all you need? I can do that!” . . . Long story short, we still crack up every time he validates me in this way. It takes a lot of the heat, hurt, anxiety, etc out of my emotions, fuses a connection, and opens me up to hear him . . . Now, when he tries to fix things, I can receive his suggestions without getting defensive.

    The moral of my story: There is a really good chance that your expectations are trying to communicate something. Take some time to “unpack them.” Look for the gold. Then take responsibility to communicate the worthwhile ones, and ask for what you need. Likewise, be accountable for letting go of the ones that don’t serve anyone. Chances are, you will not only improve your connection with others, but you will improve your relationship with yourself as well.

    • Janet Louise Stephenson
      | Reply

      Hi Cyndee!

      I appreciate you bringing to light that there positive expectations DO exist! Within the dynamics of a relationship, if both parties communicate and understand what to “expect” from each other, they can create a healthy relationship.

      Your advice to look at the expectation is definitely a golden nugget and I can hardly wait to apply it to my own life next time I recognize an expectation of mine.

      I’m still giggling at your bestie’s response – sometimes that IS all we need!

      Thanks for dropping in to share your wisdom, Cyndee. You’ve given me food for thought.

  15. Chavonne H
    | Reply

    Awesome awesome article! Love the way you word things and I love this topic. I am struggling with this everyday. What I still can’t figure out is if I realize that it’s my reaction to the situation that is causing me the stress how do I deal with that knowledge. Like okay I am upset that my long distance boyfriend doesn’t write more often, so I have to realize that it’s not him I should be upset with, it’s my reaction to it that is causing the hurt and sadness ok so then what do I do? After knowing this, the pain is still there. That’s where I keep getting stuck.

    • Janet Louise Stephenson
      | Reply

      Excellent questions, Chavonne!

      When you recognize that you are having an egoic response and you are upset based on your own reactions to your expectations of the situation, you have a choice: You can snap out of it or you can wallow in it. Sounds overly simplistic, I know… but it’s the truth.

      We are all dealing with choices like this every single day – and we have to overcome outdated conditioning that tells us we are justified in being upset. Ok, fine, you’re justified… but do you feel any better now? Did the situation resolve itself? Did the boyfriend behave any differently? Probably not.

      Each one of us is responsible for our own emotions – for our own reactions. So… you have to force yourself to rise above the emotional response and think through the process logically. I don’t always recommend logic, but in this case, you have to make a commitment to feeling better in every situation by looking for the lesson and making a choice. You might be able to appreciate what he does write when he does… or being able to have a connective conversation… or you might be able to focus more of your time and energy into projects and pursuits that you love and spend less time worrying about him.

      The second thing I want to mention to you is that your intuition is an accurate radar. If you find yourself upset because you suspect there’s a reason he’s not writing, or something seems amiss, you owe it to yourself to approach that logically, as well. Trust the gut, but react with the logic (again, not always my advice… this is situational). Your upset might not be that he doesn’t write more often, it might be that you suspect he’s not being faithful to you… or any number of other suspicions that are at the root of your upset and you are simplifying your hurt by labeling it as “he doesn’t write as often as I would like.”

      Hope this helps you some… let me know, there’s so much to say. <3

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