Expectations Are Fancy (and usually wrong) Guesses

Thank you to Erica Noll for this great idea, from my Blog Idea Contest.

Topic:  Dealing with the expectations of everyone (including yourself)

plural noun: expectations
  • a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
    “reality had not lived up to expectations”
  • a belief that someone will or should achieve something.
    “students had high expectations for their future”

I’m not going to lie– I wrote my first draft of this blog yesterday*, and it was complete crap. Okay, maybe a little harsh, but it certainly wasn’t good. My personal editor (aka my boyfriend…) always reads over my posts before I post them to check for clarity, grammar, spelling, repeated words, made up words, etc. I had him read this last night because I felt that it was just “meh.” He agreed. It was just “meh.” Not like it was bad, but, well let me just quote him (sorta because not like I actually wrote down what he said):

“Amanda in writing is usually funny. She’s usually sassy and funny and real. This post didn’t have any of that Amanda in it. It just, was a normal post. Unless I knew you wrote it, it didn’t even sound like your writing, because it was just, meh.”  – Boyfriend

Okay, you get the point. I was meh.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t have coffee. Maybe it’s because I didn’t feel great yesterday.

Or maybe, I was writing what I expected to write, so the more I tried the more disheartened I became.

Did ya catch it? Expected, get it? Because this post is about expectations?!

*Giggles at self while writing* Well, normal Amanda writing is back!

Here’s the thing about expectations: none of us are That’s So Raven, so no one really knows what to expect (and even she was usually wrong, seeing something out of context!) We have expectations to try to prepare us for something, or pump us up, or excite us, or calm us down, but really, I think we usually use expectations more as a crutch than to admit that we don’t know something.

When I was first brainstorming for this blog, I thought it was going to be so cool to share my expectations and the reality of each situation. But maybe the reason my blog was so “meh” was because, well, I basically just kept saying “expectation was wrong, expectation was wrong, expectation was wrong….” and, well, that’s not very exciting to read about. And that really got me reflecting on expectations, and then I realized that I actually share them all the time.

Look at my past posts: I talked about my expectations for TPE and NASPA and then the reality of the situation. I talked about my expectations of post-undergraduate life, and then the reality of going to graduate school when I swore I never would. I even talked about the reality when life started kicking my butt in my second year of graduate school, when I thought that my hard work would keep everything else in my life in place (spoiler alert: A LOT OF IT ISN’T IN MY CONTROL). Are you seeing a pattern yet?

So what’s the point of expectations anyway?

That’s where the real debate comes in.

In a way, expectations are fancy (and usually wrong) guesses. We can’t predict the future. While I’m all for preparation (especially for things like job interviews, meeting the parents, studying for a test, etc), a lot of times I have expectations for things that 1) really don’t matter, or 2) are going to change anyway.  It is interesting, however, to see how much expectations and reality match up, or how far off they are!

Let me give you some examples, shall I?


I’ll never go to grad school

Grad school will be like undergrad

I’m going to save money and meal prep

Long distance is going to be so hard and straining

I am going to pay attention and work hard

I will not be “friends” with my students

I am going to graduate with a job

I’m not moving in with my boyfriend

I will not get Chipotle. I will not get Chipotle.

I am going to finally start getting into a workout routine

I’m going to stay BFFs with all my sisters

I’m going to work 20 hours a week in my assistantship


I got my Masters in April

Just 80 pages of reading and three papers!

Chipotle… again…

When you care about something, putting in work isn’t difficult

Hard work doesn’t always prevent mistakes

Sends snapchats because I miss them

Summer is actually kind of nice!

Hey babe, when is rent due?

*dips chip in guacamole*

Does dipping my pizza in ranch count as burning calories?

Barely talks to more than family

32 hours later…

Okay, so what IS the point?

I know for me, it provides a sense of comfort. It allows us to begin thinking proactively about what we might encounter– like benefits, challenges, happiness, etc. It gives us a sense of security and ability to prepare for a situation. The problem with expectations is when a result differs, and we are unable to be flexible with the outcome. This is disappointing when it’s something like your food at a restaurant not tasting as good as you hoped, but it’s problematic when you end up hating a job or experience when you were really excited about it. Although it could be positive, if you take a chance and end up being thrilled with the result. But once we have several confirmed or denied expectations, we begin assuming that each scenario will be like the previous, and it begins to shape the way we think.

Think about food. If you keep going out to restaurants (or one particular restaurant) and expect the food to taste great and then, well, it doesn’t, you start to really dislike the restaurant. After a while, you probably won’t go back because, well why pay for a “eh” meal when you can get Chipotle? But the reverse is true. I LOVE Chipotle, and almost always have a great experience. So even if a few times it doesn’t meet my expectations, overall they are met, and I hold on to that knowledge for the future.

This is where we bring in self-fulfilling prophecy.

“A selffulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.” – Thanks Wikipedia

Ex 1– If you expect food at a restaurant to be good, and it isn’t then you’ll start to predict it won’t taste as good. Then, even if it does, you’ll probably think it doesn’t.

Ex 2– If you start a job that you expect will be amazing, then it isn’t, so you quit and find something new. Then that one, which you expected to be better, isn’t, so you quit and find something new again. Then you start to predict the job won’t be as good either, because you have bad luck with jobs, so even if it is pretty good, you think it’s not great.

Ex 3– If you have a strong friend that you talk to a lot, you expect to stay close. You call, text, FaceTime, and snapchat often. Since you expect to stay close, even when you don’t talk to them for brief periods, you know it’s about to change. So while you may not actually talk that often, you predict that you’ll stay close, which urges you to text them and check in.

See, expectations don’t have to always be bad. Even self-fulfilling prophecies aren’t bad– they can convince you of good things, even if that’s not the case.

The problem with expectations is when they are negative, and we turn those expectations into a self-fulfilling prophecy. We eventually just see the pattern, and stop giving each individual circumstance a chance.

But contradictory statement– negative expectations can be a good thing, like when you’re in a lot of bad relationships. You start to expect he’ll be a “jerk” boy, so you already have your guard up. Bad example, but you get the point.

So yeah.


They’re weird.

Maybe you expected this post to be shorter, or to make sense. Well, sorry if I let your expectations down.

Point being: I never thought I would get into such a deep, personal reflection on expectations. But they’re definitely weird, and I will definitely be more cognizant of it now. I guess what I’ve really learned from it, is that you can expect whatever you want, but only some things are in your control.

Like for work, and grad school, and everything, I am going to expect more out of myself than everyone else does from me. My supervisor’s expectations of me were to work hard, and grow. She didn’t expect me to be perfect. She didn’t expect me to never make mistakes. She did expect me to own up to my mistakes. I realized that we often set the highest expectations for things we cannot control, or for ourselves. Which is silly, because then we will just be disappointed if they aren’t met.

But you know what? Don’t expect perfection. Expect your best. And strive to work for that every day.

And that’s how I deal with expectations.


XOXOXO, amandarae

quote of the day: “Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.” – Marilu Henner

*Yesterday — I wrote this blog Monday, then again on Tuesday. Meant to revise it and post it Wednesday, until I noticed it was the one-year anniversary of my blog to which I wanted to post in honor of that. So by “yesterday” I mean Monday, but it really was the yesterday of when I wrote it!

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