How to Let Go of Expectations

Note from the Editor: Today I have a treat for you in the form of a guest article by the ever insightful Cathy Taughinbaugh! Yay! More about Cathy at the end of this article. Enjoy! 

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Do you have expectations for yourself and others?

You may have expected certain things to happen in your life.

You may have expectations that your spouse, your children and friends follow a certain path.

We cannot control others, but we can control our expectations of others. The behavior of others has influenced us, as our behavior has influenced others.

We all try to fit the norm to be accepted.

When we set expectations for others, realistic or not, we set ourselves up for disappointment.

Friends can have expectations that we share the same interests that they do. For example, they may want us to socialize as much as they do.

Some people have an active social life that may feel exhausting to others. Others prefer their alone time, reading a book or pursuing some artistic interest, and find too many social gatherings tiring.

Your parents may have had expectations for you. You may not feel that you had much of a choice regarding your career path.

You may have felt the pressure to conform to your family’s expectations. This may have caused problems for you as you progressed into adulthood.

When we look at our children, and watch them grow, we realize they can feel pressure to fit a mold that doesn’t suit them.

“If you spent your life concentrating on what everyone else thought of you, would you forget who you really were? What if the face you showed the world turned out to be a mask… with nothing beneath it?” ~ Jodi Picoult

We raise our children, having an idea about which direction they should go. Possibly a career in the family’s business. If the family has all been in the financial area, for example, we may expect our children to follow suit.

Athletic dads may expect their sons to love sports as much as they do. They can be disappointed when the son favors art or music.

As your children grow older and become adults, your expectations for them may no longer fit. Rather than resisting this change, let go of your expectations, and you may be pleasantly surprised at the result.

Eventually, I realized my expectations for my children no longer fit. I knew I needed to let go.

We can all do it. It does take effort, time and patience.  One way is to notice when and why you are judging others. Instead, look for their gifts.

Accept who you are, and help others let go of the pressures to conform to a particular job or a personality type. It frees all of us to be ourselves.

When you accept others, you bolster their self love and boost their self confidence.

“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.” ~ Sylvia Plath

When you let go of your expectations you:

  1. Allow Yourself and Others to Bloom. You feel confident in your strength and know that it is OK to be the person that you are. You accept other’s differences as well.  The real person is confirmed and validated. You then have the opportunity to become skilled in one or more of your interests which further strengthens your self esteem.
  2. Accept Others for Who They Really Are. Not only can children be pressured to conform, but adults can as well. Stop resisting the reality of who someone is, and let go of preconceived ideas. The burden is now lifted, and we are free to be ourselves. When we are accepted by others, it is easier to find happiness.
  3. Stop Passing Judgment. Often when we set expectations, we are judging what is good or bad, right or wrong. You can remove yourself from being the judge. Accept and embrace someone else’s differences. You can delight in what you have in common and learn and explore another person’s qualities.
  4. Accept Yourself. We have expectations for others, but we also have them for ourselves. We may be disappointed when we don’t live up to what we think others expect from us. When we dig deep, we may find that our expectations for ourselves come from others. Early in life, we may have felt the pressure to conform. Let go and be more accepting of yourself.
  5. Take the Time to Explore Your Interests. Put time in to really finding out what interests you and pursue it. Confidence and contentment come from having an expertise in a certain area. Find out what that one area is and put in time to improve your skills. You may find a new passion.
  6. Relish the Joy of Everyone’s Unique Qualities. Sit back and just enjoy. Take in what others have to offer and appreciate it for what it is. We need every kind in our world to make it work. Some of the most valuable gifts this world has been given, came from the most unusual people.
  7. Let Your Pride Show. Let your pride show through for your gifts and the gifts of others, especially those that don’t fit the norm. We all have something to offer. Those gifts cannot be opened if they are smothered in expectations that don’t fit. Let go of your expectations and let the true you shine through.  Never forget, it’s your life.
About the author:

Cathy Taughinbaugh writes on addiction, recovery and treatment at Treatment

You can also follow her on Facebook at Treatment Talk and twitter @treatmenttalk.


What are your thoughts on this topic? How do you let go of expectations? Do you feel like we all expect a bit too much…from ourselves and from the world around us? Do share your thoughts in the comments below. Cathy and I would love to get to know you 🙂

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With Immense Love & Gratitude,
Counseling Psychologist/ Spiritual Counselor
Motivational Speaker/Naturopath
Holistic Healer/Writer

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25 thoughts on “How to Let Go of Expectations

  1. Nice post Cathy, I’ve been working on this theme of releasing expectations of others (& myself) lately! It feels good when I can do it, allowing space to be or let in new ideas.

    thanks, Brad

  2. Expectations are simply a definition of how one person will judge another. Many times, especially in our society, expectations change so the person trying to meet them can never do or be enough to meet them. And the person creating the expectations is basing their happiness on what another person does. They are always a recipe for all kinds of unhappiness.

    Cathy, you’ve offered some very effective steps for releasing the expectations and judgment. Pure acceptance of ourselves and others exactly the way we all are is the quantum leap that we can all take toward our own peace and happiness.

    Great post!

  3. Priyanka

    Hi Cathy!

    Indeed a very cogent post! You know, it always happens with me (and I’m sure with others too) that whenever I expect less, I receive more and vice versa. Its simply because when we don’t set any expectations on others and don’t judge them, we can see the gifts being showered by them. But when we start expecting and judging them, we tend to overlook their gifts simply coz the expectations don’t seem to fit, this way we hurt ourselves as well as others. Moreover, expectations are always more from the closer and nearer ones…..I don’t know, but it seems like a ritual, the more somebody is close, the more you expect.

    Seems real tough to let go of expectations, but will really have to work on it. Thanks a ton for the wonder words Cathy.

    1. Hi Priyanka,

      I so agree. We do receive so much more when we are open to whatever someone has to offer. It is an ongoing process and one that continues throughout our lifetime. Being open can allow for all possibilities and experiences. It is important to be gentle with others as well as ourselves. Take care.

  4. Cathy….your words ring true. It took me more than several years to understand that all of the unrealistic expectations I had for my children, friends, spouse, etc…were all about me. I was judgmental of them because I was so critical of myself. Sounds simple once you’ve done enough work so that you can catch yourself in the moment when the judgmental you begins to rear its head. But for me, it took several years of very hard work to live differently.

    This is a magnificent post…so rich in good, solid advice…from a woman who is walking the walk! 🙂 Fran

    1. Hi Fran,

      I completely understand your feelings and have most likely progressed in a very similar way. I have been critical of myself at times and may have reflected that upon others. With time, patience and attention, a change can happen and we can allow those we love to be their true selves. Take care.

  5. Hi Cathy,
    I used to be a fear-filled and controlling perfectionist, who judged myself and others harshly. Perfectionisn is based on high expectations an even on unreslistically inflated expectations. Gradually facing my fears, learning how to just be and breathe and allow “unfolding” helped me make the shift I needed to make. What resonates for me today is 6. Relish the Joy of Everyone’s Unique Qualities. Reading your post and taking the content to heart was a bright spot in my day. Thank you.

  6. Hi Cathy, I think I’ve lived almost all my life trying to live up to unconscious expectation. I’ve had to look within, discover the patterns, and face my fears to move beyond these limitations. I especially appreciate what you’ve said about “judgment”. It’s really a key clue to when we’ve moved outside of love and acceptance.

    1. Hi Sandra,

      Judgement can get in our way. We’ve all been raised with preconceived notions and it is a challenge to let go of those, and as you say, face our fears. That really is what it is all about – fear of the unknown. I feel happier when I am open and accepting of others, but I also know it will be an ongoing journey to let go of those unconscious expectations. Take care.

    1. I love your energy Cathy! Thank you for sharing your wisdom here. I can see from the responses that the readers love it 🙂
      So Much Love to you~

  7. Cathy,
    What a great post! I really think that letting go of expectations is the way to go in all our relationships. I especially like what you wrote about not passing judgment. That is so important. Love all the outcomes, though. Very nicely written!

  8. Great post Cathy! Letting go of expectations can be so wonderfully liberating. I didn’t think of it’s additional benefits such as how it truly helps the other …”When you accept others, you bolster their self love and boost their self confidence.”

  9. synchronicitybridge

    …well third time is the charm.

    So happens my comment is regards ‘expectations’ and digital technology. How the stakes are raised with each new day.

    Transmission failed twice.

    Perhaps *Devine* intervention

    I like #4 and #5

    Like I said twice before “I can’t control the direction of the wind”

    This is the last try because I don’t want to get into the expectation loop.

    Gone fishing…


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