“Stop expecting you from other people” – sounds simple, doesn’t it? However, the depths of this seemingly straightforward advice hold transformative potential. We often unconsciously expect others to think, act, or be more like us.
Expecting other people to be more like us is a common trap many of us fall into, leading to disillusionment and disappointment when reality doesn’t match our internal script. When we hold others to our own standards, we risk sabotaging not just our relationships but our emotional well-being too.
In this article, I will take you through the different ways that this mindset infiltrates our relationships, distorting our interactions and fostering codependence. I will also openly share my personal experiences on this matter and the realizations and the valuable lessons I’ve learned.
the trap we fall into
Firstly, let’s define the trap that we fall into. When we expect others to mirror our values, principles, and actions, we construct an internal script based on our standards. As we interact with others, we unconsciously anticipate that they will play along with this script.
However, people are unique, with individual thoughts, feelings, and actions. Consequently, when the script is not followed, disappointment and disillusionment set in. The reality check can be harsh, shaking not only the foundation of our relationships but also affecting our emotional well-being.
Let’s consider an example that many people may encounter in their personal relationships.
Let’s say you’re a person who places a high value on punctuality. You believe in respecting others’ time and consider it a mark of integrity and responsibility. Naturally, you expect the same from others in your circle, including your close friend Lola.
This expectation is part of your internal script – you expect Lola to arrive on time for your meetings, just as you do.
However, Lola has a different perspective on time. While she respects your meetings and doesn’t intentionally arrive late, she has a more relaxed view of punctuality. Sometimes, she gets caught up in other tasks and ends up running a bit late.
Each time Lola arrives late, you feel a jolt of disappointment and frustration. You perceive her tardiness as a disregard for your time and perhaps even for your friendship. This scenario doesn’t match your internal script – where all players value punctuality just as you do – and thus creates tension in your relationship with Lola.
This constant cycle of expectation and disappointment can strain your friendship and also affect your emotional well-being, possibly causing stress or resentment.
This example highlights how expecting others to mirror our values and principles can lead to dissatisfaction when reality does not meet our expectations.
A codependent dynamic
Having these expectations and internal scripts for other people often lead to a distortion in our interactions, subtly shaping a codependent dynamic.
Codependence is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have healthy, mutually satisfying relationships. It’s characterized by an over-reliance on others for emotional or psychological needs.
Expecting others to be more like us can lead us into this murky territory. We tie our emotional satisfaction to their behaviors, equating their conformity to our expectations with personal happiness and validation.
Through my own experiences, I’ve learned that codependence tends to creep in when we don’t acknowledge and respect the individuality of others. I’ve realized the importance of remembering that each person is an autonomous entity with their own experiences, thought processes, and personal growth journeys.
Mind you: this has been a chaaaallenging learning. I’m a recovering codependent, and I have dreamed, wished, and prayed for other people (*cough* my partner mostly *cough*) to be more like me.
At the end of the day, that doesn’t serve anyone. It’s not healthy behaviour, and it’s an impossible task.
Our relationships should be a symbiotic exchange of experiences and growth, not an expectation for others to fill gaps in our emotional needs.
how can you stop expecting you from other people?
The question then arises – how can you adjust your mindset to stop expecting YOU from other people? There are a couple of steps and practices that you can follow that can help you break these expectations and patterns.
1. Recognizing Our Expectations
The first step in this journey is recognizing our expectations. Start by observing your reactions and emotions during interactions with others.
If you find yourself consistently disappointed or upset when someone doesn’t act as you would, that’s a signal that you might be holding others to your standards.
If you’ve been a codependent for years, this step in itself is going to be difficult. Give yourself some time, read up on some resources (the book “Codependent no more” is fantastic) and take baby steps.
Understanding yourself better and focusing on personal growth can reduce the urge to expect others to be like you. The more secure you are in your identity and values, the less likely you are to impose them on others.
A veeeery interesting thing that I noticed is that when I feel down and my self-esteem about myself is low, I project it onto others way more. Meaning: I expect others to meet my expectations + get disappointed much more when I feel crappy about myself.
When I feel happy and fulfilled in my work, I feel great about myself and have my own thing going on; I focus very little on others. I tend not to be triggered or frustrated about how others might be doing things or behaving differently than me.
Note: this “breakthrough” has taken me 2 years of therapy and countless hours of self-reflection to realize. Keep asking yourself the deeper questions and investigate where these expectations and codependence may be coming from.
Be your own inner researcher!
Ultimately, it comes down to acceptance. Accepting people for who they are, with their strengths, weaknesses, and individual quirks, can create healthier relationships and reduce the scope for disappointment.
We have to understand that the way we live, the way we do things, the way we think, and the way we behave isn’t the universal standard. It isn’t the “correct” or “right way” of doing things. It’s simply a way of doing things. Other people can find other ways.
It’s also important to mention that if you are unable to accept another individual’s differences, such as perspectives, beliefs, or behaviours, it might be a sign that this runs deeper than simply ‘I want you to be more like me.’
In life, it happens that views, values, or beliefs don’t match, and this may be a sign that certain relationships, such as romantic ones, may end.
You’re the expert of YOU. Therefore, only you can know intuitively if it’s codependence and unrealistic expectations or if it’s a big difference in values and life goals that long-term cannot be accepted.
The journey towards releasing the expectation of finding ourselves in others can be challenging, but it’s a transformative and necessary path for healthier relationships and improved emotional well-being.
Recognizing the expectations you have from others is the first step to breaking this cycle. With self-reflection, we begin to understand ourselves better, reducing the urge to project our expectations onto others.
Codependency, a potential side-effect of these expectations, can be mitigated by acknowledging and respecting the individuality of others.
Be patient with yourself on this journey – it is challenging to change these patterns, but the rewards are invaluable. Remember, every person is unique, and that’s what makes our interactions with them so special and enriching.
Thanks for reading! I hope this article resonated with you. You might also enjoy this article about the 4 dark night of the soul stages.