On Our Expectations of Others

I’ve recently come to know myself as someone who is not the best at getting along with some specific types of people (this sounds bad — please keep reading!). I know that I get along really well with some types of people (ex. those who like to talk a lot like me), but there are some others that I have trouble with. I imagine this is a common predicament, the idea of compatibility exists for a reason. Of course there’s never any disrespect between us (I hope), but there are times when I struggle to talk to them because we lead very different lives, or they might not appear as friendly and that always throws me.

As human beings, we’re constantly judging each other. Whether it’s good or bad, it happens. Sometimes it’s involuntary, but it can become a habit that drains you and affects your relationships. Whenever I meet someone, on the surface I tend to give them a chance, and I’m usually nice to them. But deep down, I find it difficult to maintain a positive attitude. Let me give you an example. With a client of mine, I had some scheduling issues and I had the impression that she did not like me at all. I began to fear our sessions together because being around someone who doesn’t like you becomes quite…painful. It wasn’t dread, it was just honest fear that I was going to fail at my job.

I did my best, but it was always the hardest part of my day because I struggled to connect with her — and to me, that feels like a failure because I always thought I could connect well with most people. But we’ve only had a few sessions together. Now, I think she’s more comfortable with me and I even got her to smile a few times, and we had a really nice conversation about her family and a good book to read. I realized that I spent a long time living in this fear because I judged someone and expected things to go poorly because of that. And that led to a lot of discomfort, anxiety, and irritation.

I wrote about this last summer, but I remember meeting up with a friend then and we talked about college and we got into a discussion about Greek life. I instantly said something about “all frat boys” being awful, but my friend asked me to think about that again. Was that really true? It wasn’t, because I knew some great guys in my program and classes in fraternities. I was definitely affected because of my negative experience with them, but I realized that it wasn’t helpful to think of things like this in such absolutes.

I then came to the conclusion that I had things to change about myself in regards to judging others and being open to different things. I suppose people should all be given chances to show who they are, as I’d like a chance for that myself whenever I meet anyone new. And that’s precisely why first impressions matter. I’m sure there are times you’ll be given more chances, but the idea is that you shouldn’t make assumptions about anyone…you should just let them show you who they are.

I’m still working through this. I realized recently that there are a few reasons why I was “bad at being friends with girls” — this was something I always said. The main thing is that I didn’t really try most of the time. I had expectations that they just wouldn’t like me because of what happened to me in the past (I wasn’t “cool” or “girly” enough at this one church camp and I got bullied a little), so I wouldn’t even try. I just resigned myself to the fact that I was this way, and I couldn’t change. In fact, I even thought to myself — well, why don’t they try harder? Why don’t they want to be friends with me?

The whole time, I didn’t realize that I wrote them off immediately. It’s not that I didn’t like their personalities (well, that’s a bit debatable but anyway), but I actually just had a fear of the friendship failing anyway. So I figured I just wouldn’t try, so whatever came of it — I wouldn’t be disappointed. I already had expectations that I’d fail, that way — if I did fail, it wouldn’t be a big deal. I hated the idea of setting expectations and then not meeting them, because that always sucks.

I know that I’m not going to be friends with everyone, and that’s okay (an expectation I need to set for myself — it’s okay to “fail” at this). I know that I’m better at getting along with specific types of people, but I think that’s how we all are. It’s just how well you treat the people you might not get along perfectly with (another expectation I need to set for myself). And again, people have good friends that they don’t even get along perfectly with. And you don’t have to be best friends with everyone you meet. All these things are ok as long as you are happy with them. But there are some situations where basic respect is the minimum.

And by that I mean — sometimes you’re forced to work with people you don’t get along with or even necessarily like. Or you’re forced to spend a whole week with your sisters in a hotel room on vacation…and even though you all love each other, it’s a LOT (3 girls is definitely a handful, sorry mom…). So even though you don’t have to be friends with everyone, there will be situations where you might have to bite your tongue or push yourself a little harder to make conversation. There will be times when you’ll have to push those expectations to the back of your head.

Who knows, maybe by forcing yourself to give people chances, you’ll actually realize you were right to give them a chance. Maybe you’ll realize that the two of you are actually quite similar. Maybe you’ll end up actually being friends with them, instead of being jealous, bitter and angry, or something negative of that sort. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

As a self-proclaimed perfectionist (but with plenty of affirmation on this from my parents…), I have this innate urge to control people — how they respond to me, how they respond to situations, how they process and do things in general. Naturally, this can cause a bit of unhappiness when I don’t get that “control”. Also, thankfully none of these feelings manifest any actual issues with others (for the very most part), the only person it affects is myself. I’d say this is a good thing, but I want to make my own life a lot easier if I can. For example, instead of getting irritated at other gym-goers, I shouldn’t worry about it unless it directly affects me. Instead of getting mad that my friends aren’t learning lessons from their mistakes, I just need to be there for them — as long as I’ve tried to help them, I’ve done all that I can.

I’m going to challenge myself on this. I will probably be meeting new clients soon, and in 2 months I will be meeting a lot of new people in grad school. I’m going to challenge myself to give people more chances and just relax…the times I’ve done this, I feel happier and more at peace in general. I will also be farther from my friends than I’ve ever been. Not having any high school friends is really difficult. I have very few people I feel like I can call my real friends, which is ok, but still difficult because we all lead our own busy lives. I can’t have these expectations that I’m the only friend they have. So you see, I have a lot to let go of. Judgments of others, expectations for them, and demands from my current friends.

I’m going to do my best on this, because this is really going to help me grow up. It’s about doing your best even if you don’t know what to expect. It’s about responding to difficult situations and people as they come. It’s about giving people chances, and it’s about treating others exactly how I want to be treated. It’s very easy to say all these things, but I hope to really put it into practice…updates on this to come. The cool thing about life is that you can learn something new everyday, and most of the time, it’s something about myself. What a strange thing. So here’s to doing better and treating people better every day!

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Athletic trainer, coffee lover, looking for a hobby I don’t have time for. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.

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Jen Xu

Jen Xu

Athletic trainer, coffee lover, looking for a hobby I don’t have time for. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.

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