Home » Blog » The Expectation Game

The Expectation Game

Love On Playing Cards“I can’t believe you are choosing that career path,” your domineering father screams.

“You are too nice; you need to be meaner,” your well-meaning uncle prods.

“You are too sensitive,” your mother admonishes.

Monday morning quarterback? What happens when Monday morning is every morning? As you sift through the compliments and criticism, your identity becomes more malleable than Trump’s health care policies.

And borrowing Trump’s parlance, that is a yuuuge problem. You define yourself — not your parents, not your siblings, not your boss. For some of us, this is easier said (or, in my case, written) than done.

Many of us carry childhood expectations like excess baggage. Now into my 30s, I still cringe at my father’s bullying tirades. His obsession: law school. Striding across to collect my law school diploma, my plastered smile belied my simmering resentment. I was more peevish than prideful.

As grey wisps dot my hair, I recognize his fallacy — and mine as well. An admitted people pleaser, I invited others’ feedback — often to my detriment. Craving approval, I unintentionally sidetracked — or delayed — my professional ambitions.

When you devote your life to pleasing others, you sacrifice a part of you. For what? A hollow compliment? You — and I — are better than that.

Let others’ expectations fade into the background. You are your own person–and you dictate your happiness. Try this column. Plotting my next career move, I started submitting articles for Psych Central. Questioning my abilities, my apprehension nearly derailed me. “Who will read these articles? Is divulging my own story self-serving? What will people think of me?” I grimaced.

But in a moment of clarity, I shrugged off the shrieking doubts. I do enjoy writing and, ultimately, this is more about satisfying myself than others. And, yes, it has been empowering to share my successes, doubts, and (I hope) the occasional insight — not to mention writing is more affordable than weekly therapy. Through this unexpected detour into the world of writing, I have also discovered my professional interests: mental interest and leadership. Stepping off the well-worn, “expected” path has been more rewarding than, well, filing that all-consuming brief.

As the calendar year flips, your happiness is dependent on one person: you. Yes, family and friends are important; we need a support system for those hair-splitting days. But, ask yourself, whether you are staying true to yourself: your interests, your passions, and your happiness. Because in your people-pleasin’ quest, you may be discounting the most important person: you.

The Expectation Game

Matthew Loeb

Matthew Loeb, a Seattle-based attorney, is a mental health advocate. You can contact him at

One comment: View Comments / Leave a Comment
APA Reference
Loeb, M. (2018). The Expectation Game. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 18 Jan 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.