Expect Less

Thailand has had a soothing effect on me. I have yet to fully process it all but it seems that it has helped me detach myself from some of the things that I probably should not really bother to care about. I sometimes tend to believe in too many “should” or “shouldn’t” and I too often end up in disbelief over people’s actions and behaviors. For years I have been working on finding a way not to hear myself say once again “I can’t believe it” or “unbelievable!”

It actually started with the following conversation that took place a few years ago:

Me: I cannot believe it!!!!
Lovely Mama (with gentle sarcasm): Really Magali, you REALLY cannot believe it…?
Me (giving in): Yeah…. I guess I do believe it…

But it is just hard… I am indeed often in disbelief:

Why do people take 2 parking spots when they only need one?
Why don’t they pick up after their dogs’? I mean, it is the law!
Why do they stand at a crosswalk with their baby carriage actually on the road?
And why I am getting a parking ticket when there was no sign wheresoever to let me know that I should not have parked there…

Well, I guess the truth is that some things just are what they are… There is no need to bring up what “should” or “should not” be, because fighting with what “is” simply is useless and totally unproductive. People take two parking spots because they do… And some dogs’ owners do not pick up after their dogs because they don’t… This is what is… And expecting more can only lead to disappointment.

So a couple of months ago, I wrote the following with lipstick on my bathroom mirror:

And little by little, I have been focusing on the steps… The “expect less” is helping me a lot… I am learning to just remind myself over and over of the exact things I like to teach in the classroom: that there is no right or wrong, just different ways to do things; that my perception of things simply is MY perception of things; and that expecting others to meet my needs is only going to leave me unsatisfied, frustrated, and possibly angry.

I am proven everyday that we all have very different ways to look at life. Our principles are determined by our environment but also by our past, our stories, our experiences, and our circumstances. We each set the bar here or there, and what could seem really high for someone could be somewhat low for another person. Once, at the end of a relationship, this guy told me that I should consider myself so lucky that he never cheated on me… As far as I am concerned, faithfulness is such a given that I could only be in a relationship where I could only take it for granted, no questions asked. So I try to surround myself with people who have somewhat similar expectations and principles.

At the same time, I am also learning that lowering my expectations is helping me be less frustrated with others’ behaviors. If I detach myself from thinking that this person should have spoken up about that, and this other should not have behaved that way, I am creating reasons to hurt my own feelings by giving others’ behaviors an interpretation they may not even have thought about in the first place.

We all do and say things without thinking of the different ways they can be interpreted… So I am learning to try to let go of my expectations in order to avoid disappointments. It is a hard thing to do… It is about finding the right balance between letting go and still caring… Could I really not expect my family to want to spend Christmas with me? Is it really something from which I should detach myself? I do not have the answers yet… But I am working on it, one day at a time, one thought after the other…

Expect Less

“Since your experiences won’t be similar to others’ and your behavior will be shaped by those experiences, you may never stop reacting strongly to the challenging situations you encounter. Even if you are able to do nothing more than acknowledge what you are feeling and that there is little you can do to affect your current circumstances, in time you’ll alter your reaction to such circumstances. You can learn gradually to let negative thoughts come into your mind, recognize them, and then let them go. You may never reach a place of perfect peace, but you’ll find serenity in having done your best.” Madisyn Taylor


2 thoughts on “Expect Less

  1. Magali – I’m with you that this is a healthier way to be. I try to do the same, in fact. I can’t help wondering, though, whether this approach leads to problems of its own – for example, I find that here in France too many people just shrug their shoulders when people do not clear up after their dogs. If there was less shrugging, in time the streets would surely get cleaner?


  2. I think it is about finding an healthy balance for your own sanity. I don’t think that French people respond well to criticism. If you were to call on someone for not picking up after their dog or dumping trash on the ground, they would probably just shrug their shoulders and maybe tell you to mind your own business. Worse case scenario would be them insulting you! I find that there is not much of a sense of community here… People tend to put themselves first and ignore whoever and whatever is around. And of course it would be great if that mentality could evolve into something more constructive but that would imply changing major cultural habits and I simply would not know where to start. So yes, sometimes I do have to tell myself to stop caring in order to find a way to lower my expectations and detach myself. But to make it up to myself, I also focus on quotes such as “actions speak louder than words” or “lead by example.” I had to walk my brother’s dog a couple of times in the past and I thought me picking up after the dog was probably the best way to work and act toward change. :)


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