Are you setting yourself up for disappointment by setting expectation dates?
Expectation dating is when we expect to have done something or accomplish something by a certain point in our lives. This is not the same as goal setting. Wanting to become a parent, own a home, see the world, or learn a language, are all great goals. However, when we start setting expectations about when we ought to have met these goals and subsequently tie our self-worth to the accomplishment of that goal, we enter dangerous territory. Suddenly, there’s something wrong with us for not having met the expectation and we are devastated.
Take college for example, many people expect to go directly to college after high school, finish in 4 perfect years with summers off, never switch majors or transfer schools, and expect to find a great job related to their course of study. There’s an expectation date 4 years from graduating high school that you have somehow accomplished all this and become a self-sufficient adult. I don’t have the statistics on this one, but I’d be willing to bet it’s not a high majority of people who have a college career that follows this path. If someone who didn’t follow this type of path to a T entwined their self-worth with such a rigid plan, they might start wondering what’s wrong with them that they weren’t able to accomplish their goal in the way they originally envisioned. It’s a set up to define yourself as a failure. A student is a student regardless of how they got there, the same goes for a graduate. Whether you go back to school later in life, take some time off after high school, or take some other “non-traditional” route, your name is still on that piece of paper.
It's ok to be upset when something doesn't go as planned.
It is normal to experience some crisis related to a change; we have to adjust our expectations. It’s also normal and understandable to grieve lost goals that may not be attainable for some reason. But how does it serve you to say “I thought I’d be married by now”, “I thought I’d have that promotion at this point”, “I thought I would have met (some other goal)” and couple that thought with message of failure or inadequacy? Not attaining some life event does not make you inadequate. It may make you insecure, especially if you have a tendency to compare yourself to the life timeline of others. This is a trap so many of us fall into, myself included. We start having thoughts that start with “everyone but me…” or “why don’t I have…”
Where did that expectation come from anyway?
Examine why you didn’t meet your expectation date. Were you busy tending to some other equally important or more important life event? Is fear getting in your way? Did you decide to eschew a traditionally female life path to pursue a career or other life goal? Why did you set that expectation date to begin with? Who says you should have done these things by now? Do we trust that source? Make sure the source of that expectation, even if it’s you, has your best interests in mind. Allow yourself to feel disappointed, sad, or upset if you need to. But also know you are enough, you did what you could, and consider that your worth as a person is made up of so much more than this one idea you had in mind.
Does this type of thinking serve you?