Stop Expecting Others to Be Who They Are Not

“Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I’m not perfect and I don’t live to be. But, before you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean.” – Bob Marley

It is reasonable to assume that we should stop expecting others to be who they are not. When you throw out expectations onto others, you immediately set yourself up for frustration or disappointment. The simple truth is that you will have much more peace and contentment in life if you stop expecting others to be something they are not or do something you think they should do. Even if you believe wholeheartedly that they ought to “be a certain way,” it’s best if you release the expectations altogether.

This is where all types of human relationships get into trouble. Whether it’s parents and children, friends, or intimate partners, expectations bring about all sorts of situations and emotions – especially unrealistic expectations. If you find yourself frustrated in any one of your relationships, it’s time to take a look at whether you live in a state of expectation of others or not.

Do away with expectation

We live in a society that lives and breathes expectations. We expect our kids to act in certain ways, our employers to treat us this way, our lovers to cater to us that way, and our parents to love us unconditionally. The problem is that no one can really be who we want them to be; they are uniquely themselves, they know who they are, and they are probably pretty good being themselves. They want to feel confident and comfortable being who they are and if they want to change, they want to change on their own terms- not yours.

It’s time to do away with expectations. This will help you to experience less anxiety, less stress, frustration, anger, depression, and other negative emotions. Of course you can expect things like respect from others, but if you base your mood on whether you get anything you expect you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Detach from outcomes

You are responsible for your mood and happiness level. Sure, it’s easier to live in bliss if everyone around you is behaving in ways that are pleasing to you, but the reality is that not everyone will act as you’d like. Your daughter might try smoking, your lover will say something to hurt your feelings, your mother might annoy you, and your boss might give the promotion to someone with less experience. Things don’t always go as you plan or as you would like; it’s just a fact of life.

If you can make a decision to detach from outcomes, you’ll be sure to live in bliss more often. I’m not implying that you stop caring about others. If your partner forgets to take the garbage out on garbage night AGAIN, you don’t need to allow his forgetfulness to ruin your mood for the evening. Yes, you expect him to remember and he should remember because it’s a fairly important task, but to allow his neglect of the task to disturb your emotional state or yell at him does no one any good. People sometimes forget and if you can ingrain into your thought life that “Whatever he or she does or doesn’t do is not my primary concern in life. I’m detached from outcomes and I take full responsibility for my own happiness,” you’ll be more content and peaceful.

It’s not easy

It was Maya Angelou that said, People know themselves much better than you do, That’s why it’s important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are.”

I have an acquaintance in a relationship with someone who tends to expect perfection from her. Her partner gets so upset with her when she forgets something, doesn’t get the dishes spotless, leaves a light on, etc. She is just going about her life doing the best she can on any given day and because her partner expects so much from her, she tends to walk on egg shells and has been struggling with depression. Her partner expects perfection from her and expects her to be someone she is not. They both need to work through this issue or there will be much frustration and disappointment in the relationship. If not addressed, it will most likely fail.

It’s not easy to let go of expectations. It’s not easy to let others be who they are in all of their imperfections and carnality. It might not be easy, but it is possible. It’s the Buddhist philosophy that emphasises detaching from desires and outcomes. Doing so relieves suffering. What if you went about your day determined to allow happiness to flow in and through you NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE ELSE DID OR DIDN’T DO?

Could you do it? Could you smile and send kind thoughts to the sales assistant that takes an ungodly amount of time to check people out at the supermarket? Could you smile and take the garbage out yourself when your partner forgot, AGAIN? Would you sit down and have a heartfelt, loving conversation with your daughter when you find cigarettes in her room instead of screaming your head off at her? Could you whistle Dixie even when your spouse comes home in a grumpy mood for the third time this week?

I’ve known men and women that have the ability to sing songs of joy despite just about anything. They have always been an inspiration to me and I make it my aim to live the same way. I make it a priority to allow others to be where they are on their journey. I try very hard not to make judgements and rant and rave about how people ought to think or behave. It’s not always easy, but it is possible and it does become easier with practice.

It’s not all about you

Sometimes we tend to think the world should revolve around us, but the truth is that it’s not all about us and our expectations. People are at all sorts of levels and to walk in unconditional love is to allow people to freely be who they are. Life is a journey and each person is on a different path with different thoughts, feelings, experiences, spirituality, etc. It’s not for anyone to judge another, but to accept them and gently encourage and love them as possible

Ask yourself if you’ve been expecting things from others or expecting them to be someone they are not. Can you detach from expectations? Will you be responsible for your own feelings and mood regardless of what others say or do? I put the challenge out there for you and it is my hope that you’ll take it and run blissfully on your path on your wonderful journey.

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7 Responses to Stop Expecting Others to Be Who They Are Not

  1. Lisa says:

    I’ve always been expecting perfection in relationships because my family wants me to marry a good person just like my cousins do. When I see a person, I always judge them as good and bad. The good ones are the ones to date, introduce to family and relatives, and marry and the bad ones aren’t the ones to date at all. I come from a family that doesn’t like getting to know people but rather label them as right or wrong. They want things readily made.

    • Hi Lisa, yes I understand. Some families have a strong cultural identity which means “to save face.” I believe the key is to not label people as good or bad, but rather see the wholeness of their being. I wrote an article which explains this in more detail, //

      We all have good and bad qualities, yet if we focus on a person’s bad qualities alone, we dismiss their positive characteristics. Ultimately, if we move through life labelling things, people and events as black and white, we miss out on penetrating deeper into the core of the experience.

      All the best,


      • Lisa says:

        It’s hard. But I am married to the perfect guy my family has chosen for me and he has no baggage at all. They adore him a lot but he’s rather boring, possessive, and arrogant. He thinks he is way better for me than anyone out there and wants me to stay with him. I can’t get out of this marriage because he is already a good person and my family won’t like it.

      • Lisa says:

        Well I am married to a person whom my family approves of. He’s perfectly good but boring, possessive, and arrogant. He thinks he’s the only one that is right for me while all the other people are nothing but wrong. I can’t get out of this marriage because he and my family are worried that I’ll leave him for someone wrong. It’s hard and I’m afraid.

        • Hi Lisa, Thanks for your comment. Let me say, not all the advice you read online will apply to your situation, for each of us are fighting our own battles. I’m sure you will make the right decision whatever you choose, when the time is right. Good luck

  2. Amutha says:

    Dear Tony,

    I have a father who is loving, at least through action- he has worked his whole life to support the family. However, he was not there as a spiritual or emotional support for anyone including my mother. My mother would have divorced him, but her culture is conservative. In fact, he was verbally abusive and may/may not realize how much he still makes others in the family feel ridiculed and belittled. Yes- we can ignore, and do in order to survive around him. However, is it wrong that I avoid his visiting me despite his wanting to come- because I like to be around positive people?

    • Firstly when you realise that the entire universe is perfect and that everything that happens to us is also perfection. An emotionally distant parent is also a teaching point for us if we allow it. I come from a similar upbringing with a father who was emotionally distant and thus caused much tension in our family. Yet my greatest gift from his presence in my life was the contrast that I should treat people with love, respect and kindness. He showed me how to “actually” be in the world. Rather than hold scorn for your father, come from a place of compassion and see the world through his eyes. Remember, we only see the world through our level of awareness and consciousness. Your father might not have had the same nurturing environment as you did and the opportunities to develop his emotional side in a culture which may have encouraged him to suppress it. Best wishes!

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