My Problem Is Setting Expectations for Other People

Although it may seem unfair, we can only expect 100% from ourselves. Other peoples' interests and values don't always line up with our own.
My Problem Is Setting Expectations for Other People
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

There’s no greater source of suffering than setting expectations for other people to do exactly what you would. This is a common mistake. In the end, it will always end up affecting your emotional balance.

It’s fair to say that we all set expectations for the people we love. We do so because it gives us a sense of security.

“I know that my partner will support me because I would do the same for them.”

Expecting, anticipating, and hoping the other person will do what you would is a way of trying to “control” your world to help you feel secure about certain things.

However, things don’t always happen the way you want them to. Obviously, we all need some amount of security in our lives. Without any at all, we wouldn’t know what to rely on, and we’d suffer as a result.

But sometimes we take this thinking to the extreme: it’s not right to think that the rest of the world should act based on your values.

Today we’d like you to reflect on that a little.

The power of setting expectations for other people

Parents expect their children to behave like they would. Friends will usually wait for you to back them up in every situation and for every problem they face. A husband wants his wife to always meet his expectations.

We’re sure that you’ve encountered similar situations in your life. These kinds of expectations are really dangerous and can deeply damage a relationship, and your self-esteem. It’s just not right.

Let’s take a closer look.


If you don’t act according to my expectations, I’ll be disappointed

If you don’t immediately offer our support, you get labeled as “fake or a traitor.” It’s quite likely that their goals don’t line up with your values, or that you just can’t offer your support at that time due to personal problems.

  • Some people are unable to empathize with other people, to understand their unique perspectives and right to think differently. They simply don’t get how positive relationships (based on reciprocity and respect) work.

Nobody is obligated to act according to other people’s expectations. If you do that, you’re turning away from your true self, leaving your self-esteem vulnerable.

The need to control all aspects of your life

There are some people that just can’t accept uncertainty. They feel uncomfortable not knowing what’s going to happen, or with outside actions and reactions they have no control over.

How can I accept that one of our children just told us that they don’t plan to go to college like we’d always dreamed?
How am I supposed to take it when a friend tells me that they would prefer to go on vacation with their friends from work instead of me?

  • People who are unable to tolerate it when other people don’t act according to their expectations suffer from a high level of frustration and disappointment that really damages their self-esteem.
  • In reality, it’s enough to just be empathetic, and above all, to stop expecting other people to act according to your expectations.

Set expectations for yourself, not others


Rights and obligations

When you stop setting expectations on other peoples’ behavior, you can live more freely and with more energy to focus on what’s really important: expecting the most from yourself.

  • Firstly, you have the right to expect others to respect you.
  • You have the right to be loved, but not to control the lives of your loved ones or let others control you.
  • You have the right to expect reciprocity, but not to expect others to agree with all your ideas, choices or values.
  • Plus, you have the right to fight for your dreams and to allow others to pursue their own, even though they may be very different from the ones you have for yourself.

Read more:

What Must Be, Will Be, In Its Own Time and Moment

  • You have the obligation to care for yourself, nurture your self-esteem, and avoid disappointing yourself when the world doesn’t react like you would.
  • You have the obligation to be “proactive” in creating your own happiness. Avoid depending on others 100%. Accept the negatives and assume that you’ll occasionally be disappointed.
  • Remember that you might also disappoint other people. That doesn’t make you a worse person. We’re all just trying to find own version of happiness, but we need to respect the rights of our fellow humans to find theirs.

Wrapping up, it’s not just the world that’s chaotic, it’s also the people in it. Expecting other people to always act 100% in accordance with your own expectations is nothing but a source of stress and suffering.

It’s not worth it.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.