We all need friends in this world full of surprises, but having friends and being able to maintain friendships are two different things, the later comes with expectations and what happens when life happens?
All of us have expectations about different things in our lives. You develop them as you grow up. Many of the expectations you have you don't even know about. They are typically modelled after parents, authority figures, and different life experiences.
When adulting kicks in and your friend becomes more busier, they have more responsibilities, more demands on time. The factor life is at some point we might move to chase a career or a spouse and then things change in your friendship causing grief, sadness and loss.
Take a read as we explore the effects of expectations of friendship on your mental health.
I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine. -Friedrich Salomon Perls
We all have expectations of ourselves and others. Some are prominent, while others may not be so obvious. Having healthy expectations can be motivating and provide us something to work towards, but the problem comes when our expectations become too rigid. When this happens, we turn these expectations into rules that may govern our lives and what we want from others. We think that we must, should or ought to act a certain way and others must, should or ought to act a certain way towards us. When these rules aren’t upheld, we become angry, upset or anxious. We draw false conclusions that in turn become evidence to our negative beliefs about ourselves.
Negative Effects of Expectations
A lot of times we aren’t aware that we engage in these thought patterns and that they can have a negative impact on our relationships, self-image and emotions. We are constantly assessing the world and those around us. When others don’t follow through with our expected rules, we may feel disappointed in them. Our self-image can suffer as rigid thinking makes us feel like we’re constantly messing up because we’re not conforming to the ideas in our mind. We label ourselves as failures or try to overcompensate. Furthermore, holding onto rigid expectations can have an undesirable impact on our emotions. Our perception becomes our reality. When our perception is too rigid it can’t possibly match up with reality, therefore resulting in emotional disturbance.
How to Counter Negative Thoughts
The answer here is to become more flexible; to be less attached to specific ideas. To allow room for error. This reduces the influences of cognitive biases and allows us to be more realistic in our assessment of ourselves and the intake of information. Negative thinking causes emotional discomfort and unhelpful behaviours.
To overcome these negative thoughts, you have to tackle any unhelpful patterns by identifying irrational thought patterns, it challenges your rationality then replaces them with more realistic, flexible ones. When your expectations aren’t being met, typically you are aware of an uncomfortable emotion first. At this point, you can ask yourself a series of questions to try to identify if we are being too harsh. If the answers point that way, we can form new alternative, flexible expectations. Try to give a more compassionate, rational and flexible ideology as to why your expectations have not been met.
Having some expectations can be good and encourage you to overcome situations and chase your dreams. However, when your expectations are unrealistic, it can create friction, misunderstandings, frustration, and more.
If you think you suffer from burst of negative thoughts and they cause you distress in your life, working with a therapist can guide you in this process. Reach out and speak to a therapist or send us an email and we will direct you to someone who can help you.
Listen To Podcast S2 E2: Expectations of Friendships