Our Expectations Matter

posted by Andrea | 02/12/2016
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Several years ago, Dave’s grandma took us out for dinner to a buffet. Towards the end of the meal, Dave went and grabbed a bowl of chocolate pudding (or what he THOUGHT was chocolate pudding!) He took one big bite and instantly realized that it was NOT chocolate pudding, but rather liver paté!

Definitely not was he was expecting — and so funny that we still talk about it 8 years later!

More recently, I ordered some “microfiber sponges” from Amazon. I needed to replace my worn out dish washing sponges and these seemed like the perfect option. However, when they arrived, they were full-size microfiber cloths — not sponges at all. I emailed the seller and got my money back, but apparently they didn’t actually have sponges so I’m still looking.

Although the cloths are nice, they weren’t what I was expecting… so I was bummed not to have sponges.

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Have you noticed how expectations play such a HUGE role in our happiness (or unhappiness)?

Sometimes it’s just a humorous misunderstanding or small disappointment — like the examples I shared above. Other times, having unrealistic expectations can cause major discontent, unhappiness, resentment, and more in our own lives.

 

I know we all function very differently, but more and more, I’ve noticed how unrealistic expectations cause so much unhappiness…

  • The house isn’t big enough, clean enough, or decorated nice enough
  • The cars aren’t new enough
  • The vacations aren’t exciting enough
  • The budgets aren’t big enough
  • The kids aren’t respectful enough
  • The spouse isn’t helpful enough
  • The friends aren’t spontaneous enough
  • The holidays aren’t special enough
  • The birthday parties aren’t extravagant enough
  • The body isn’t fit or slender enough
  • The job isn’t prestigious enough
  • The skin isn’t clear enough
  • The hair isn’t (straight, curly, wavy, long, short, dark, light) enough
  • The clothing isn’t cool enough

And on and on and on.

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Thanks to commercials, magazines, and the internet, we are constantly inundated with the best of the best in every area of life, which then causes us to have unrealistic expectations for how our own homes, lives, families, jobs, and vacations should be.

  • We see perfectly decorated homes on the covers of magazines and feel unhappy with our own, less-than-perfect homes.
  • We see amazing party planning on pinterest and feel unhappy about our cake and ice-cream affair.
  • We read about the stay-at-home-mom who fell into a million dollar at-home business, and we feel less-than-satisfied with our own very part-time at-home business.
  • We see fabulous minimalist wardrobes and ridiculously healthy meals on various blogs, and feel self-conscious about the fact that we eat some processed foods and have closets stuffed full of clothes.
  • We see all the latest hairstyles and fashion trends on TV and in movies and instantly, our hairstyles and wardrobes are no longer good enough.
  • We see the perfect spouse giving the perfect holiday gifts, and our brains immediately start listing all the ways our spouse doesn’t measure up.
  • We see our friends posting pictures of their luxury vacations on social media and we suddenly feel like our lives are very boring and mundane.

It’s very easy to quickly develop unrealistic expectations for our own homes, lives, bodies, spouses, children, and abilities… and in my experience, having unrealistic expectations is just another step towards an unhappy life. 

Of course, this is NOT to say that if you simply have more realistic expectations for your life, everything will magically be happy and good and perfect.

Rather, it’s to encourage you to be more mindful of your expectations and not let them be the cause of your unhappiness.

Let me explain a bit more…

1. My Productivity

I thrive on productivity, and as many of you know, “productivity” + “3 young children at home all day” is not a great combo. If I’m not careful about my expectations, it is VERY easy for me to feel totally defeated at the end of the day because I seemingly got nothing accomplished and “wasted” a whole day doing nothing.

However, if I keep my to-do list small and have more realistic expectations for what a stay-at-home-mom of 3 can accomplish during the day, I feel much less stressed and much more accomplished by the time Dave gets home from school — and this creates a happier mood throughout our entire family.

2. My Home

I realize that compared to many people, Dave and I put a ton of time, money, and effort into renovating our home… but as any old-home-owner knows, there is ALWAYS more that can be done.

I can look at every room in my home and find flaws, things that still need to be done, things I don’t like, things I eventually want to fix, things I wish we would have done differently, etc. etc. After a while, I become completely discontent and unhappy with my home — to the point where I start thinking about how great it would be to move and just start fresh again (ridiculous, I know!)

However, I can also look at every single space in my home and reminisce back to 5 years ago and see just how far we’ve come.

By simply having more realistic expectations for my home, and reminding myself that we actually live in our home (so it shouldn’t be perfect), I instantly feel happier and more content… after all, this IS our “dream house”!

3. My Kids

For the most part, I think (hope) my children are relatively well behaved. Even still, we don’t often subject ourselves to going out into public with all 3 kids because Dave and I just don’t like the “pressure” of trying to make sure our kids behave in a public setting.

That said, if we DO go out to a casual restaurant or the grocery store or any number of other public destinations, I am very careful to set realistic expectations for our kids so I’m not horribly disappointed or overly demanding of my children.

Kids will be kids — and there is often nothing I can do to stop a little meltdown or temper tantrum… so I need to expect that they will happen and just keep going.

4. My Marriage

I am certainly no marriage expert, but with Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, I couldn’t help but tease Dave just a little bit for the fact that he has never gotten me anything for Valentine’s Day!

I could compare him to all the seemingly perfect husbands on the TV commercials (who apparently all buy their wives diamonds for Valentine’s Day) or I could set more realistic expectations for him… and remind myself that he’s just not a “gifts” person. Instead, he is much better at showing his love in smaller acts of service throughout the day.

5. Myself

In general, I am a very confident person. I rarely feel self-conscious and don’t often compare myself to others.

However, after having 3 babies relatively close together, my body definitely doesn’t look like it did 5 years ago! The most frustrating thing for me so far is that even though I can lose all the weight, it seems like my clothes still don’t fit the same way.

I have various favorite items of clothing that still fit, but no longer “flatter”. Can anyone relate!?!?!

It’s annoying to see celebrities who apparently have super flat abs 2 weeks after their babies are born. They always seem to look stylish, put-together (and wide awake) while I’m still wearing loose-fitting shirts to cover up the fact that my abs are no longer flat… and I certainly don’t look wide awake!

It’s easy to feel very unsatisfied with myself until I remind myself that I don’t have personal trainers, personal chefs, designer wardrobes, nannies, etc.

Once I’m more REALISTIC with my expectations, I immediately feel happier and more content with my post-baby body!

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I want to reiterate that I certainly don’t think that having a realistic approach to life will magically transform everything around us into a blissful oasis of happiness.

However, I DO think that if we have more realistic expectations for ourselves, our spouses, our children, our friends, our jobs, our homes, and our lives, we will be taking the first step to living happy, fulfilled lives.  

How do your expectations affect your life?

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37 comments

  1. Sharon

    03/15/2016

    I was scrolling through my unread emails today,(if I don’t have time to read them when they come in I keep the ones I want to read later and delete the junk). I always read yours. This was SO good! I wish that I read it 30 years ago when I was a newlywed. I have always been the person who wishes for more, better, newer. I was always disappointed. My mother is the same way, I didn’t even know there was a different way of life. Over the years I have slowly changed, yes I still want to look younger, have my old body back (yes, the one that thought I was too far when I was a size 0), etc. . Too bad home computers didn’t exist back then. I am thankful and so glad that I found your blog several years ago I have learned so much!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Sharon! I’m glad you finally got to read through this unread email 🙂

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  2. Self-Love – Week Twenty: Digital Art | Catherine's Creative Nest

    02/16/2016

    […] Andrea Dekker – ‘Our Expectations Matter’ by Andrea Dekker […]

  3. Karen Davis

    02/14/2016

    Andrea, Thank you for this post, I will ponder on it and must say there is a lot of wisdom in this. Thank you, Karen Davis

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  4. barrie

    02/14/2016

    I like this very honest and thoughtful post- and totally agree! I think happiness stems completely from expectations, and while I think low-expectations are not the goal, keeping your reality…real, is very important! By the way, The eCloth company has a scrubby sponge in their line- I have washed mine a few times- it is not microfiber cloth, but is a sponge that is washable, and it faired “okay” IMO.

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    Andrea Reply:

    thanks. I haven’t heard of eCloth — but I’m going to check them out now!

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  5. Kris

    02/14/2016

    This concept of realistic expectations resonates with me a lot lately. I am in the midst of planning our wedding and oftentimes I become so disappointed because it won’t be Pinterest-perfect, causing me to believe that I and my guests will be let down that it’s not “good enough”. Then I remind myself that I’d rather enjoy planning a simple, reasonable yet still pretty wedding than feel stressed out to go above and beyond to create something more lavish like what I see online – not healthy for my mind or budget! You are spot on – realistic expectations contribute so much to having a positive attitude and happiness. Thank you for the much needed reminder!

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh wedding planning! I’m SO glad I planned our wedding before Pinterest even existed!
    Also, I will tell you that even just a few years from now, you most likely could care less about what the decorations at your wedding looked like 🙂

    You can do it. Good luck!

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    Kris Reply:

    Exactly – one of those things where I love and hate Pinterest at the same time! I keep reminding myself that while people will comment and care, they won’t *actually* care in the grand scheme of things. After all, my sanity is more important. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!

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    Andrea Reply:

    trust me — NO ONE will really care. Honestly, it’s actually a little weird if someone really cared about the decorations at YOUR wedding. Just make sure the food is good (and fast) and no one will care about the decor 🙂

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    Kris Reply:

    Very true! Thanks for the encouragement!

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  6. Becka Top

    02/13/2016

    Tell Dave he’s not the only one who thought it was chocolate mousse..the Grand Villa has also disapointed my taste buds. LOL

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — will do Becka! This was actually at a buffet in Wisconsin with his Grandma, but I’m making a mental note not to try the chocolate pudding at the Grand Villa either 🙂

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  7. Marsha

    02/13/2016

    I’ve unsubscribeed from most of my emails. To much overload. But, I’ve always kept getting yours. I love your down to earth ideas and expectations!! You hit it on the head with this one. Comparison is killing our happiness with our lives. We’re about to do a Bible study on this subject. Please keep blessing us with your insight. Love seeing and hearing about the kids. They are adorable. May God continue to bless you and your family.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Marsha!

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  8. Kristin

    02/12/2016

    Hi Andrea,
    Thanks for a very honest and genuine post. I think it resonates with many of us.
    Also, e-pantry carries microfiber sponges, if you’re still looking.
    Sincerely,
    Kristin (Long time reader, first time poster, fellow Michigander) 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Kristin,
    I have tried the sponges from ePantry, but they are very thick (like 1.5″ thick!) I’m looking for something super flat — like a regular cloth, but sponge-size. I used to get them from Unger.com — but they nolonger carry them. I’ve been on the lookout for a year already with no luck. Maybe I need to invent something!

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  9. Catherine

    02/12/2016

    Andrea, This is such a great post. Thank you! Not long ago I had this conversation with my Husband. About how we are constantly bombarded by the perfect life advertised to us on a daily basis and how it can start to feel like your life doesn’t measure up. And yes, it’s all about the expectations. It’s certainly been something I’ve experienced many times before. When my expectations do start to take on a negative effect I find listing what I’m grateful for helps me too.
    Thanks again 🙂

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  10. Diana

    02/12/2016

    So true, and it is cyclical too. Some days it’s just easier to have more realistic expectations than others! And it’s definitely good to challenge yourself with your expectations (so you don’t just end up in pjs all day!) but within reason. Great reminder.

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  11. Pascale

    02/12/2016

    I, too, love your blog and what I find amazing about you is that you don’t compare yourself to others. Although, we know that comparing ourselves is never a good thing. It’s something that is hard to abstain from especially with all the information readily available on the Internet.

    However when we do compare ourselves to others, we’ll either feel better than them which makes us feel prideful or we’ll feel less than others which might lead us to envy them or what they have. Either one isn’t God’s best for us. Yes, we should aim at improving ourselves, but with realistic expectations as you so wisely put it.

    Our life is constantly changing and our expectations must change to reflect what is going on right now. Too often, we live in the past or in the future, but not in the moment. I’ve been sick for over 10 years now and although I would love to do the things I used to do, I have to accept my current reality and make the best of each day that God gives me.

    I hope this helps and blesses someone.

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  12. Mare

    02/12/2016

    I love your blog and don’t have the time to comment often, but I must applaud you for this amazing post. I have been thinking about what a curse and a blessing “being connected’ is. Compared to when I was growing up, there is so much info at our fingertips! This also gives us more to compare to and create expectations for. It’s taken me awhile, but especially with a teen daughter watching and learning from me, I have decided to let go and be happy. Life is more beautiful that way. 🙂

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  13. Avia

    02/12/2016

    Such a good reminder! My to do lists now days are almost laughable compared to what they were before children. I have even been know to put things like “take a shower” and “take kids outside” on my to do list. That way I have something to mark off!!

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    Karen Reply:

    I can’t tell you how relieved I am to know I am not the only one who has to put that on the list sometimes. If I go now, I might be able to check it off yesterday’s list…

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — when I’m having a really rough day, I sometimes put “play with kids” on my list! Then, at least I know I’ll always be able to cross SOMETHING off my list!

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  14. Alicia

    02/12/2016

    This is so true. I can relate to every single one. I tend to go through periods of discontent with different aspects of my life. I definitely feel the pressure with my body after three kids. most of the time I try not to let it bother me, but sometimes it still does. I do find my downfall is comparing myself and my family to other people. And while I’ve definitely gotten better about this and become more content with myself and my situation, at times it can still get the better of me. We are all a work in progress. 🙂

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    Alicia Reply:

    Also I wanted to add that I absolutely love your writing style! You have an awesome gift of illustrating a concept in such a way that’s also completely relatable. Thank you for always being real. 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    Wow, thanks Alicia! That means a lot!

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  15. Erin

    02/12/2016

    I have been reflecting on this recently, Thank you for you perspective. It is just like when people build up a movie, so you have high expectations and while it can be good, it didn’t meet your expectations.

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  16. Jennifer

    02/12/2016

    I can totally relate to fitting into the pre-baby clothes but no longer being flattered by them! I was surprised and pleased by how fast I could fit into my old clothes after having my baby, but also surprised that I didn’t even like most of them anymore because they no longer looked good on me!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I know — I was so disappointed this winter when I didn’t love my “normal clothes” anymore. I was pregnant the last 2 winters so I didn’t get to wear much of my normal stuff — and now this year I don’t even feel like it look good in it.

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  17. Leanne

    02/12/2016

    great post… and something I have really been working on since the New Year!

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  18. Debbie

    02/12/2016

    I have been a faithful reader from the beginning of your blog. I think you only get better and better! You are so encouraging! Keep up the good work! Thanks for your daily post!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Awwww, thanks so much Debbie. And yes, I appreciate your very faithful readership!

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  19. Anna

    02/12/2016

    So true!!! It’s so hard to be in the world and avoid feeling not good enough about something. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

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  20. Emily C.

    02/12/2016

    Wow, I really needed to hear this today. I had my to do list all planned out but the weather is bad and my husband is home sick. I’m realizing my day will probably go nothing the way I planned. Normally I would feel frustrated and disappointed in myself for not getting everything done, but today I am going to reset my expectations of myself and focus on giving my husband and toddler what they need. Thanks Andrea!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    boo for sickness and bad weather! we’re experiencing both of those in our house today too 🙁 Thankfully, I only put 2 things on my to-do list for today — vacuum, and make dinner 🙂 Hopefully I can do both of them at some point!

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  21. Christine @ The (mostly) Simple Life

    02/12/2016

    Thanks Andrea, I’ve been feeling a little discontented lately and so much of it comes from comparing myself to others. And it’s so easy to look at an area of someone else’s life that looks perfect and not realize the mess they might have in a different area. I’m trying to look less at others and see all of the things I have to be grateful for in my life. Plus, acknowledge all of the progress I’ve made in areas I’m not happy with.

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