Unrealistic Expectations?

Long held beliefs can create unrealistic expectations about life. And never more so than when you’re looking at creating a new “ideal for me” retirement lifestyle.

Let’s consider ideal versus reality. We get our unrealistic ideals — ideal beauty, ideal friendship, ideal romance, ideal family — from unrealistic sources – sit-com plotlines, fairy tales, Hallmark movies, and Norman Rockwell images. Expectations are supported with social media highlight reels that showcase these ideals about friendship, family, and success.

Sitcom friends are always there for each other to hang out or do things together. They are sisters on speed dial, through thick or thin, in an unshakable tribe that has your back, is by your side. Social media highlights girl-friend dates … as I am sitting on the couch alone once again! And I worry, why don’t I have a group of friends, like on “Friends”?

In Hallmark rom-coms, things always work out at the end of the day. Do I believe that life is always fair? Not really and yet, I’ve had much more positive than negative in my life. And I often feel guilty about that! But I do believe that hard work equals success. Try again; don’t quit. If you don’t believe you’ll succeed, you won’t. But is it really just that? No, there is some luck of the draw. I was born into white privilege. But, I strongly believe success is about the choices you make, working hard, sticking with things when it’s tough, and delaying gratification.

Do I believe that good deeds should be rewarded? Yes. And bad deeds punished.   And then I see liars and cheaters and rule breakers making money and being successful. And wonder about karma.

Do I believe in Prince Charming and happily ever after? Yeah, a bit. Not the save-me PC, but the soul-mate kind. The one who might not be perfect, but is in-fact perfect for me.   Our marriage is certainly not “ideal”, and we continue to work at it. Years ago a friend of mine M wrote a poem and I still recall this line: “I don’t want perfection, I just want a friend. To walk beside me and to hold my hand.” We continue to hold hands.

Do I have the perfect Normal Rockwell family? Hah! Does anyone really?

Unrealistic expectations can create negative feelings. I can despair I don’t have the sitcom friendships, the Normal Rockwell family, or the ideal marriage. I can feel frustration when I see bad people getting rewards or good people working hard and not making ends meet. I can feel guilty for my privilege.

But, recognizing many of these as unrealistic ideals can help me re-define what “ideal for me” truly is.

What unrealistic expectations do you have for life?


Picture Credit: Pixabay

39 thoughts on “Unrealistic Expectations?

  1. Pat, you got me thinking and shouting out yes, yes, yes! As someone living with chronic pain and illness it is very easy to have very unrealistic expectations of myself at times! I think that I can still do all the things I used to be able to and then become upset when I can’t. New Year can be a time for people having completely unrealistic expectations as resolutions are made to completely transform lives. I love the idea that “recognizing many of these as unrealistic ideals can help me re-define what “ideal for me” truly is.”
    Hope you don’t mind but i have shared your post on my regular PainPalsBlog feature “Monday Magic – (this week) New Year Inspiring Blogs for You!” Happy New Year, Claire x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Claire, I do not mind at all a sharing – I’m happy that you found it helpful. When someone says “yes, yes, yes” on a blog, I always get a slight happy chill. It means firstly, I’m not alone with my crazy thinking. And also that I connected with someone.

      I am fortunate not to live with chronic pain, but am starting to experience the pain of aging (arthritic knees and hands) and am realizing that things I used to take for granted (hiking long days) will just not be part of my future life. I’m trying to look at it as simple another shift in what an “ideal for me” life will be.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So very true. In my mind there’s perfection in imperfection – it’s those textures that give life its colour. Besides, I’d be bored stupid with the so-called perfect partner. I do, however, sometimes wonder why I don’t have the girl dates & girl tribe that you see in the movies & on TV – almost as if there’s something missing because I’ve never been that woman. Having said that, I miss the friends we left behind in Sydney & sometimes lament that we haven’t yet made new ones where we now live, but there’s so much else to love that I get over that pretty quickly. Wishing you a happy holiday season – with all its irritations & imperfections.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jo, I like the thought of perfection in the imperfection! I don’t think I’ll ever have the girl tribe like on TV, but I have worked pretty hard at making connections and creating a social support network. It takes time. Hoary holiday’s to you as well.


  3. Unrealistic expectations in books and movies and on TV make me go through bad comparisons in my head, and comparisons are the thief of joy. Whose Christmas could ever live up to those Hallmark movie holidays? And yet I am very content with my life. I have to remind myself that everything I see isn’t real life- or it is just the highlights of someone’s life. I think you are right, recognizing those unrealistic things makes you think about what you do have and what you do want in your life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Michele, I’ve been focusing on awareness these days. Being aware when I’m doing a Compare & Despair (they are doing it better) or creating unrealistic expectations. It does help mitigate some of the joy-thief feelings. Practicing gratitude helps too. As does reading fellow bloggers who help me keep it real!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I truly believe our unrealistic expectations bring us much of our unhappiness in life. I wrote a post about this topic over a year ago. It was about giving without expectations. Sometimes we give a gift or advice with the expectation that someone will love it or take it and it doesn’t usually work out the way we think. And it’s something we have control over unlike the actions of others. Tweeting to share. #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great insight into giving gifts or advice as well. Yeah, I often do have expectations associated with those things. Even an expectation of being thanked for a gift! Hard to then not feel disappointed when it doesn’t happen.


  5. Hi Pat, I always love your posts because they make me think. My unrealistic expectation is that I always feel I need to solve other people’s problems and make life better for them. Unfortunately, I can’t always do that so I need to learn that I have to accept that I can’t always make things better. Thank you for being a wonderful supporter and contributor to #MLSTL. I wish you and your family a very Happy Christmas and I look forward to you linking up with us on 9th January for our first #MLSTL for 2019. Take care. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sue,
      Thanks – I’m happy when I can make people think! I have a high sense of responsibility as well, and often think no-one can do things as good as me, so I will dive in and solve other people’s problems (or try to). Not always a good thing to do!
      And thanks for continuing #MLSTL…. I really enjoy this link up! Happy holidays to you & your family as well! Pat


  6. I used to have a piece of cross-stitch hanging in my office that read, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” Ha ha. It was tongue in cheek, but always reminded me to keep my expectations in check.

    I still have them though, especially when it comes to DIY jobs. I jokingly say that I should take my original time estimate, double it and move to the next time unit and then I would be closer. For example, if I think a job would take one day, two weeks is probably a better estimate. 😂

    With regard to social media, please realize that you are seeing an unending highlight reel, not a record of ordinary things that fill most days for most people. Then, when you then read the highlights of ten people in a short, concentrated burst, it seems like your life is dull by comparison. With rare exceptions, that’s not true.

    I think one of my unrealistic expectations is similar to yours: I expect bad behavior to be punished and good behavior to be rewarded and yet we both know dozens of examples of just the opposite occurring. At this point in my life, I have begun to temper that one because I realize that the world doesn’t always work that way, though it trends in that direction thankfully.

    With regard to my own life, I honestly don’t have a lot of expectations other than wanting me and my wife to enjoy good health until our last days and wanting happiness and fulfillment for our children. Everything beyond that is gravy.

    Would I like to get back to my high school senior weight of 215? Yes, but let’s be realistic…………😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim is the same way with DIY projects…. he laughs when someone says it’s a “five minute job”! He talks about them now in trips to the hardware store. Our dining chandelier transfer was a 3-trip DIY. 🙂

      I know highlight reels are nor real. (Pun intended!). But when you’re looking at them you think….wow, that would be nice….why is it not happening for me? Ah well, I try and limit FB and not do the “compare and despair”. And yes, Tim continues to tell me to lower my expectations about things. It’s so hard when you plan & things don’t go as intended.


      1. Ah yes, the “hardware store trip” job estimator. Fortunately, I have a lot of odds and ends in my shop, so the number of trips is usually fewer, but there are some occasions where the people at Menards and I are on a first-name basis.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Janet, I still have high expectations fro so many things and am therefore often disappointed. It’s hard to let go of them….Hubby say’s I’d be happier with lower expectations!


  7. Thanks for the important reminder, Pat. Bemoaning the fact that we don’t have the ideal [fill in the blank] can cause us to under-appreciate (or miss altogether) the less-than-ideal, but oh so wonderful things we do have. We get caught in the woulda, coulda, shoulda trap. I’m consciously resetting my gratitude meter as I type this. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Christie, I always like seeing other people’s gratitude lists for this very reason. It helps me recall all the wonderful things I do have. One of the things I’m going to try in the new year is a bullet journal with a gratitude list in it. I’m hoping it will help on days I’m in the under-appreciative mood.


    2. I love the phrase “consciously reset my gratitude meter”. I think it’s one reason I love seeing folks gratitude lists…it makes me realize how much of my “less that ideal” life is in fact quite amazing!


  8. Oh man this one triggers so much in me – especially with Christmas around the corner. My family background is a bit dysfunctional and I did everything I could to do things differently when I had a family of my own. From there my expectations just continued to grow – the expectations that my adult children would have the same priorities as me and that they would be as eager to celebrate special occasions as I am. Boy did I ever get a wake up call on that one!

    Both of them live a couple of hours from home, both have in-laws to keep happy – both have lives of their own. I am way down their list of priorities (as is to be expected from independent adults – as my husband regularly points out) BUT I still want the “Brady Bunch” ideal – glowing family moments around the Christmas table, smiling faces who have been hanging out to spend Christmas with the folks – it sounds cheesy writing it and my head knows it’s unrealistic – but my heart is a whole other matter! I’m improving as time goes on and the compromises are pretty good – but those darn expectations still raise their needy heads when I least expect it! Great post Pat 🙂

    Thanks so much for being a part of MLSTL this year – I’ve shared your post on my SM – Happy Christmas! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Leanne – Yes, I too have similar visions at Christmas time. My hubby’s family is all local and for 26+ years, I keep expecting the smiling faces hanging out at Christmas. How many times do I need to be disappointed to banish those visions? Apparently more than 26. This year, I’m almost to the non-celebratory mood…no decorations at all. Not sure if that helps or not!


  9. A long time ago, when I was young and full of myself, I went on a long rant to a friend about some alleged setback I was then experiencing. My friend let me go until I finally finished and then simply said, “Stop thinking about what you don’t have.” It fortunately stopped me cold and made me think. This post of yours takes me back to that moment, Pat. NICE. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marty, a wonderful way to think about the glass half full (versus half empty). we have so much and yet we worry about what we don’t have….because we think we are supposed to have it. The ego wants more! I’ll need to remember that phrase. It does make you think!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Donna, I don’t know why I recall that poem she wrote when we were 16…. but I always have. The whole thing:

      If I could write poetry, I’d write some for you.
      To capture your senses and touch your soul.
      If the song in my heart could be put into words,
      I’d sing it for you in a joyful voice.
      Sure I’m not perfect, and nobody is.
      I don’t want perfection. I just want a friend
      To walk beside me and hold my hand.
      Then my song is complete. And my poetry right.

      May your song be complete. And your poetry right.
      Merry Christmas.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Yes, I have unrealistic expectations, Pat. But I suppose as long as I don’t go too far out of line with reality, they help me strive for something better and keep me from being a total cynic. I love Hallmark movies but I also get a chuckle over the snow flakes falling while the sun is out, and beautiful blonds (who all look alike) spending time outside wearing light stylish jackets instead of thick, lumpy parkas – without shivering. Haha! Retirement is definitely a set up for the ‘ideal you’ and pressure to have ‘nonstop fun.’ But what I’ve found in the first 6 weeks is that it’s real life with less stress and a looser structure. That’s about all I know about it so far but I’m going to stay open to other lessons I hope to learn.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh dear, I missed the memo about nonstop fun. I am trying however to live the less stress life, although my physical body has not figured out that message too well yet. I’m working on getting more frequent massages to help!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Ding, ding, ding. Yes on all counts … not to mention unrealistic expectations about how we should look. Intellectually we know all these things – in the real world it’s a lot harder to swim against this bombardment of unrealistic and unreasonable expectations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like how you’ve added unreasonable to the unrealistic! I’m am trying very hard to not worry about the expectations and just do what’s right for me and you are right in pointing our how hard that can be at times.


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