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Jul 5, 2019 Guest Posts Susie Elelman 744 views

It’s easy to get swept up in a movie and to wish your life replicated what was happening on the screen but in reality that invariably just doesn’t happen.

Do you have unrealistic expectations of others and of yourself?

Movies are a great form of entertainment that can give us great insights but to model our actions or our relationships from them can give us false hope and improbable outlooks that can often lead to disappointment and the feeling of failure and inadequacy.

Despite all the planning we might put into our lives, the outcome doesn’t always follow our preferred script and in many cases we can’t guarantee we’ll get the happy ending we often see in movies.

For instance; even after putting in all the effort in the world, it still might not be enough to get you the job you’ve been after or the promotion at work you believe you deserve. That’s not to say you should give up trying, you have to keeping working at it but at the same time, accept that in life, unlike the movies, the good guy doesn’t always win in the end.

There are no stuntmen waiting in the wings to step in and buffer you from the injuries you may sustain from any dangerous daredevil encounters you might undertake in life, so you need to ensure you’re fully prepared for the undertaking and not have unrealistic expectations beyond your capabilities.

Unfortunately the mundane and repetitive parts of all our daily lives can’t simply be edited out and wind up on the cutting room floor to allow us to just enjoy all the good times and there are no endless retakes in life until we get it right. Nor can we travel back in time to change or undo less than perfect events or wish they’d never happened. Instead we have to face the consequences of our actions and that of others, even if they don’t necessarily meet our expectations.

A story is real life with the boring parts left out. 

– Elmore Leonard US author & screenwriter

Every choice we make can radically change the course of our life, sometimes without us even realising it and this is especially the case in relationships and friendships.

We won’t always win the heart and mind of the man or woman of our dreams and relationships will only stay strong and healthy with continuous work, regular commitment and good communication.

Two things can destroy any relationship; unrealistic expectations and poor communications


Professor Dawn Sinnott is a Certified Divorce Coach at the Community College of Philadelphia in the US and her research has found that without actually verbalizing expectations about give-and-take in a relationship, people construct stories in their heads about legitimate expectations of each other. She says, people in a relationship have a ‘deal’ in which the specifics are never really talked about. It is hard for someone to live up to your expectations when they don’t know what they are, but you still might see this failure as a violation of your social contract with them.

Therefore, unspoken expectations are almost guaranteed to go unfulfilled.

Talking openly about what you expect from other people might improve your chances of fulfilment. Professor Sinnott thinks that by learning to not expect people to know what you want and need, means you’ll learn to be much clearer in your communication. For instance, she says she doesn’t expect her husband to know why she might be pouting; instead she’ll try to tell him why she’s upset.

Studies have shown that movies have changed the way some of us view romance and love in general and they can make some believe that love will always find a way, no matter what barriers are in our path.

Renowned Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget says many of us at some point mistakenly believe that expecting others to behave the way we want them to will actually make them behave that way. He says one member of a couple might expect the other to act in a certain way, which is fine and good if the other person is happy to do so. But what happens if the other person has no interest in living up to that expectation? We can feel shocked, morally indignant, and resentful. I’m sure you can easily think of examples in your own life where you have felt annoyed and angry toward people who did not live up to your expectations.

The question is; what entitles us to get angry at other people when they fail to meet your expectations? After all, how do you feel when people expect you to do things that are inconsistent with your own goals and values?

Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.

– Anon

Expectations are Premeditated Resentments.

I understand the statement – Expectations Are Premeditated Resentments, originated in the 12-step program used in highly successful substance abuse programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous because people can, do and will let you down. It’s where you set yourself up to fail by assuming that those around you would and should reciprocate in the same way you would if they were ever in the same situation of need.

Professor Piaget goes on to say that just expecting something will happen doesn’t mean it will happen and refers to this as magical thinking. He says children sometimes believe that their thoughts can directly cause things to happen, like thinking angry thoughts about your little brother can cause him to fall down the stairs and the Professor says we generally grow out of this thinking by around the age of seven.

The problem of unrealistic expectation in adults occurs when we anticipate something to happen without good reasons for that expectation. Professor Piaget says, if we believe that our expectations alone will bring us what we want, then we are using magical thinking and setting ourselves up for disappointment and failure. Clearly many adults remain in this mindset and movies can contribute to perpetuating this belief.

Expecting others to do what is in your interest, but not their interest, is unrealistic. Expecting others to do what is in both of your interests can be realistic.

According to Miranda Morris, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist from Bethesda in Maryland USA, unrealistic expectations are unhealthy and can chip away at our relationships, shut down our goals and even steer our lives in an unhealthy direction. Dr. Morris says, the first step in relinquishing unrealistic expectations is being able to spot them but this isn’t always easy, especially if we’ve held these expectations for years.

Dr. Morris advises; if the expectation is working against you, see if you can release your grip a little. When you’re asking yourself to give something up or loosen your hold on unhealthy beliefs, it’s helpful to have a replacement. Dr. Morris suggests compassion, both with others and yourself and should include patience, openness and gentleness.

Expectations are like fine pottery. The harder you hold them, the more likely they are to crack

― Brandon Sanderson, award-winning US author

Movies are just the dreams of a director and in this imperfect and imbalanced real life we live in, you are the only director, who can make you the hero of your life’s story. You get one shot at life, to write your own script and to decide the characters and how often they will come in and out of your life.

There aren’t always going to be ‘light-bulb’ moments of clarity and much of your life will be left unanswered. The older we get the more we realise that nothing and no one in this world is perfect, even you, so it’s important not to set your expectations of others or yourself too high.

They say truth is stranger than fiction and in the end life has so much more to offer than movies, which is what makes life…life.

Remember movies are simply imagination and life is an exciting and ever changing reality.

My Mamma always said, Life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. 

Forrest Gump 1994 Academy Award winning Movie

Cheers susie

Susie Elelman AM

Author, TV & Radio Broadcaster

About The Author - Susie Elelman

Susie Elelman is an Australian television presenter, radio broadcaster, and author, most famous for her appearances on daytime television in Australia. She has been an ambassador of the Australian Menopause Centre since 2016 and it is a pleasure to have such an influential figure support our work.

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