How to stress less about expectations.

What a difference a word makes … In case you’ve been reading for a while you might now I’m quite the word and grammar fiend. Lucky you if you’re not living with me in real life because my family and colleagues get the full dose of my nit-pickyness every day. But hey, in 80 % of the cases they’re actively asking for it. But you didn’t come to hear me talk about that. Or at least I didn’t plan on delving into this further [at least not today]. Only to explain how this post came about. It was when I noticed how I could use the difference a slight change of wording makes to feel a little less stressed – and the hope you might benefit from it, too.

Expectations. They are everywhere. In school. At work.  For young people. Old people. The world is filled with a million and one of them for every gender, age, kind of exercise, time of our lives, … You name a group you belong to: there are expectations associated with it. And it’s understandable: clichés help us arrange the world and the people we meet to make life easier. However, they have a big downside: nobody can ever live up to all of them – and with that come self doubt, feeling like the odd one out and sighing “why can’t I be like everybody else??”.

Just a few examples of outside expectations I’ve happened upon.

In university we’re expected to hit a certain GPA when we graduate. Anything worse than that and our future seems to be at risk.

Reality: I was neither the best nor worst in my degree program and when it came to applying for my current job my final grade didn’t matter. But you better believe I stressed about this like crazy, regretting the times I felt I could have studied harder.

If we suffered from an ED we’re expected to be recovered and “back to normal” after a certain time.

Reality: Recovery takes time. For some more, for some less. Putting huge expecations on somebody in recovery and showing disappointment doesn’t help. At all.

We’re expected to have figured out where we want to go with our lives at a certain age.

Reality: So what if – and I think it’s the case for many people in this day and age – we haven’t?  What if it’s an ongoing journey?

What would happen if we turned this view on things around and stopped blaming ourselves? If we exchanged ‘expectations‘ with ‘assumptions’?

Expectations can get overwhelming, provoke anxiety and not living up to them feel like admitting defeat. Assumptions,  on the other hand? They’re just that and if others are wrong in theirs about you: so what? It’s not your purpose to fulfill anybody’s assumptions. It’s okay to fit in with your peers at times and not at others. We’re not less valuable as individuals if we’re not breaking PRs at the gym, haven’t found our perfect match by age 25 or visited a certain number of countries by 30. We’re not less important as bloggers if we can’t post five days a week or publish the most exciting recipes.

Just like Pink already knew: I’m not here for your entertainment expectations.

When people assume a certain image to be true it’s not our fault if it’s not true. That way others assumptions about a certain part of society simply aren’t applicable for us. Everybody’s different. Stereotypical assumptions don’t necessarily match. That’s cool. Be you, be awesome, be happy.


And that was me thinking out loud with Amanda again. Thanks for opening up Thursdays for random rants, rambles or anything on our minds.


Tell me whatever comes to your mind on the topic. Possible ideas:

What are some expectations you feel others are having about you? What are some expectations you’re holding up to yourself?

Can you lessen the burden they are by thinking of them as assumptions instead?


Happiness-inducing today: A girl I talked to at the gym at random calling me disclosed as I chatted her up which is a huge compliment to me as an introvert.


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23 thoughts on “How to stress less about expectations.

  1. Ms.J says:

    Hahaa (not to be mistaken – this laugh is not directed at your gorgouesly thought-provoking post) I actually ended my last post with a similar urge to “be you”. The more inspiration to be authenticly us, the better 🙂 . While I’m not sure if attempting to switch the wording would have been a suitable way for me, I can absolutely admit to holding myself accountable to ALL the expectations not too long ago. Until I exploded under the suffocating pressure and I just couldn’t go on that way any longer. I swear, I must have cried myself dehydrated in those breakdowns. Right now I’m aware that I am majorly venturing into the other extreme of “I don’t care what anyone expects at.all”. Time will tell how much good that’ll actually do for me I suppose 😉 .

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      Great minds think alike and we can’t get the reminder to be simply us often enough. (:
      It’s awesome you were able to free yourself from the overload of expectations and at that are enjoying life more. The pressure can truly get overwhelming so keep up with your easy-going attitude and see where it takes you.
      By the way: Mail coming soon!

  2. Charlotte @ Commitness to Fitness says:

    I LOVE love love this post!! I try so hard not to feel the weight of expectations, but I do– especially being 31 and not married– people judge, or worse- pity. Personally I’m very happy about my current marital status, but other people seem to have issues with it. Those people need to calm down about their cliches. I love your assumptions idea- I’m going to think like that (I can already feel the anxiety lowering 🙂 )

    I heard a song lyric the other day- “If everyone else is doing it then why should I?” 😀

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      The line from that songs is great. Really, why should we?!
      And I actually mentioned those very expecations towards marital status in the first post draft but deleted them in the editing process because I felt that as a single I couldn’t add much about it. Then again, that makes me target of society’s expectations for getting a boyfriend again soon, too. Clichés … don’t you just love them? Not. As long as you feel good about where you are others ideas of the ideal path of [love] life shouldn’t matter.

  3. Cat says:

    Ahh so true. Such a great reminder too – I have so many expectations I hold myself (and others) to, and need to shake them. One that I’ve recently come up against is the expectancies of society (and friends and fam) for me (and others) to settle down, get married, have kids, buy a house etc.

    My life just might not pan out like that, and I’m ok with it! Just wish everyone else was 😉

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      I know, it’s so weird, right? In a way I feel a lot of people are still holding others up to the expectations – when to get married/if at all, buying a house by a certain age, … – from ages ago. Times are changing, friends. Get okay with people having all kinds of individual lives not fitting any molds.

  4. Juli says:

    I really like that. And something else to think about: you can NEVER meet those expectation put on you. When you’re a single, you are expected to have a partner, when you have a partner you are expected to get married, when you’re married you are expected to have a child, when you have one you are expected to have another, when you are a mother you are expected to have a career…. this never ends! Expectations are everywhere but the good thing is we get to chose what we expect from ourselves!

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      As a single right now I felt I couldn’t say much though you’re right in that there are always expectations and I actually had a few lines on that in my original post draft. When you’re single for [what society considers] ‘too long’ you’re expected to go and find yourself a guy sooner than soon. When you’re married the child issue comes up … It really never ever ends.
      “Expectations are everywhere but the good thing is we get to chose what we expect from ourselves” <- true. Unfortunately, I fall into the camp of people expecting a lot – sometimes too much – from themselves. I'm working on it.

  5. brokencookiesdontcount says:

    Everyone stresses about your GPA. I was never the best student but I graduated. When I went looking for work (not in the area of by degree) no one ever cared what the degree was in, just that I had one. Sigh…Have a great day!

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      Right! I know some people who were top students, had impressive reports every year – but often a hard time anywhere social skills or those not asked for in class were required. Who we are outside of our degrees matters more than some might think.

  6. Amanda @ .running with spoons. says:

    Ohhh expectations. I feel like they get in the way of letting us appreciate things for what they are. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been disappointed with a situation, only to look back at it after the fact and wonder what the heck my problem was. Well, that problem was me expecting something else and not getting it. I want to say that I’ve gotten better with age, and maybe I have, but there’s definitely still some of that lingering around like a bad stink…

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      That’s interesting. I wonder if there are any people who – likely at a riper age – have found peace with not being able to achieve it all. Like you I assume it gets easier as we age and notice we can’t possibly live up to all of our – and others’ – expecations. But maybe there’s a set point and a little ‘stink’ will stick around forever??

  7. Irina says:

    The best thing I ever did for myself was to live for myself. People’s expectations for me mean absolutely nothing because that’s simply how they view the world…not me. Of course the hardest expectations are the ones we set for ourselves, but those can be overcome by learning how to forgive yourself and move on. It takes time (I’m still learning) but it’s a wonderfully freeing feeling!

    PS thanks so much for the email! I’ll get back to you this weekend 🙂

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      That’s what I really like about your attitude and your last posts have expressed it again: we need to first and foremost set and live up to our own expectations. “those can be overcome by learning how to forgive yourself and move on” – yes, I’m still learning here, too. I guess I’m really the one stressing myself most.
      Looking forward to the reply! (:

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      Trying to do it all – work, social life, exercise, enough sleep – is next to impossible. Or impossible, really.
      Thanks for the Halloween wishes – I’m a little embarrassed to say that day just passed me by. It’s not a big deal at all over here. I hope you had a great time celebrating if you did.

  8. seidentofu says:

    this article went straight to my heart! I find myself constantly thinking that I have to explain my life choices and living situation. Why am I married but don’t plan on a baby? Where is the job expected (there’s that word again) with my level of university degree. I continuousy work on living my life according to my values. This german proverb comes to mind often: “Wer A sagt muss auch B sagen” (he who sais A must say B) …more like “Wer A sagt muss GARNICHTS!” (he who sais A must – NOTHING!)

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      Ah, I really like what you did there. It’s so true: he who says A can say B. Or C, D, E, … There’s no rule to follow any life path preset by society. Some people – especially the older generation but it seems to seep through to younger ones as well – need to understand there’s no one way that works for everyone.

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