The Influence of Other People's Expectations

Trying to live up to other people’s expectations can be difficult. But why do we make expectations? What purpose do they serve? In this article, learn about the role that expectations play in our lives and how to manage them in a healthy way.
The Influence of Other People's Expectations

Last update: 08 April, 2019

Trying to live up to other people’s expectations can mean compromising who you really are and what you want to do with your life. Other people’s expectations affect you in different ways, depending on what stage of your life you’re in. Let’s delve deeper into this idea.

Expectations are preconceived ideas that help you better manage all the information you’re exposed to every day. In other words, they help you understand your environment and make decisions in spite of uncertainty.

Expectations also lead to emotional stability because they help you be prepared for things that might happen. Thus, expectations are really useful as long as you understand that they don’t represent reality, as the things you expect to happen sometimes don’t happen.

Trying to live up to other people’s expectations means compromising who you really are.

Why do people create expectations?

Expectations help you understand the world around you. After all, you’ve been shaped by your surroundings since you were born. Your parents, teachers, caregivers, and friends have all had a hand in shaping who you are over the course of your life.

A girl trying to live up to other people's expectations.

To some extent, you’re what other people want you to be because adapting to your environment is what ensures survival. Humans are social creatures, which means we need to live in harmony with other people. Changing our behavior based on our surroundings helps ensure that harmony.

Accepting reality

Everyone has a more-or-less defined personality. Your unique personality affects every aspect of your life. So, as aware as you might be about how expectations work, the changes that other people want you to make won’t always be welcome.

The reality is that you can’t adapt to everyone because different people expect different things from you. Consequently, you have to get used to the idea that you can’t please everyone and aren’t obligated to fulfill everyone else’s expectations.

The effects of expectations

One complicating factor of expectations is that the ones we don’t think we’ll live up to come from people that we depend on for stability. If, for example, the Pygmalion effect causes a supervisor to form a bad opinion of an employee, they’ll act accordingly even if the employee is completely blameless.

Also, if you start a relationship with high expectations, it probably won’t be healthy or positive.

A guy looking out at a wintry lake.

Studies show that, in an educational setting, students who are favored by their teachers have certain advantages. They get more attention, receive more frequent feedback, and have more opportunities to try again if they make mistakes.

Is it possible to change other people’s expectations?

Although it’s complicated, it is possible to influence the image other people have of you. If their opinion of you is negative, you can change the way they think with the way you act.

Of course, it isn’t always possible to do this, which is why you should focus your energy on the people who matter, such as your family, friends, and coworkers.

Unfortunately, human beings are better at making mistakes than getting things right. That’s why it’s so easy to think negatively of other people. It’s important to try to change that tendency because your behavior tends to conform to the image you’ve created. For example, if you believe that someone is unfriendly, you’re more likely to be unfriendly towards them, which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Although being aware of the influence that other people’s expectations have on you is important, you should also try to let go of the unfounded negative expectations you have of other people.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.