Is it Good to Have High Expectations?

It’s a question that people have asked throughout history: Is It Good To Have High Expectations? The answer, of course, depends on the situation. In some cases, high expectations can lead to disappointment and frustration. However, in other cases, high expectations can be a motivator and help you achieve great things. As someone who has once struggled with expectations, let me share a few words of wisdom about high expectations.

What Mental Health Expert says about expectations

Childhood psychologist high expectations
Childhood psychologist expectations

First, to understand, expectations are a set of beliefs that we have about what will happen in the future. They can be based on our past experiences or on what others have told us. We may have high expectations for someone we admire or low expectations for a situation we think is likely to fail. Either way, high expectations can affect your mood and make you feel frustrated. It’s important to remember that high expectations are not always a bad thing. Having high expectations without being overly critical or judgmental of yourself is possible.

Healthy perfectionists work really hard towards ambitious goals and have the resilience to continue to strive towards those goals even when things get in the way. Dr. Jessica Pryor, a psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University

Why do we have high expectations?

We have expectations because we want to believe that things will turn out well. We want to be optimistic and have hope for the future. This is especially true when it comes to our relationships with others. We may have high expectations for our friends or romantic partners because we want them to be the best they can be. We hope that they will make us happy and fulfill our needs.

However, sometimes our high expectations can backfire. If our friends or partners don’t meet our expectations, we may feel disappointed or even betrayed. This can lead to tension and conflict in the relationship. It’s important to remember that no one is perfect and that we should lower our expectations and understand that things may not always go the way we want them to.

The Good and Bad of High Expectations

The good

Consider this thought experiment. A soldier is going into battle. His sergeant tells him, “Do your best to hide behind the tallest man in your unit.” That’s one way to motivate. It generates high expectations. The soldier must live up to those expectations in order to survive.

Now imagine an artist who paints a painting for an art contest. He puts his soul in that painting and he knows that if he wins, his painting will be hung in a museum for all to see. He also knows that if he doesn’t win, his painting will be lost in the basement of the museum, never to be seen again. This is also a motivator, but perhaps not as much as the soldier example. The stakes aren’t so high for failure — sometimes you lose, and you still get credit for just trying and doing your best — but the rewards are potentially tremendous (the fame of being an artist in the making).

High expectations are good when you expect greatness from yourself. They motivate you to try harder and achieve more. When someone has high expectations of you, you feel inspired to do your best because you don’t want to let that person down. You believe in what you are doing and this belief drives you forward.

The bad

There’s something to be said about high expectations. They can motivate you to do great things, push you to be your best self. But there’s also a dark side to high expectations. When they’re not met, it can be incredibly demoralizing when you fall short of what’s expected of you. You feel like a failure like you’re not good enough.

This is the danger of high expectations. They set us up for disappointment, for feeling like we’ve let ourselves and others down. We put so much pressure on ourselves to succeed, and when we don’t meet those goals, we feel crushed.

If your employer expects that you will complete a project on time but does not give you the resources or support needed to do so, it is unreasonable. If your parents expect that you will get straight A’s in school, but do not provide the tutoring or time needed for homework, it is too much for a student to handle alone.

How to set healthy expectations for yourself

Setting healthy expectations
Setting healthy expectations – Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

You must be able to recognize when high expectations have become unrealistic so that you don’t set yourself up for failure.

Here are some tips:

– Don’t expect anything from anyone else except yourself. It is not healthy to expect someone else to make you happy or fulfill your needs. You are responsible for the way you feel.

– Don’t compare yourself with others because everyone is different and has their own strengths and weaknesses.

– Focus on what matters most in life, such as relationships with family members or friends, instead of focusing on things that aren’t important.

– Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. There is no shame in admitting that you can’t do everything on your own.

– Set realistic goals for yourself, and don’t try to accomplish too much at once. This will only lead to frustration and disappointment.

How to have better control over high expectations?

The truth is, you can’t always control your expectations. They’re shaped by your experiences, your assumptions, what you’ve been led to believe is possible, and the feedback you’ve received throughout your life. If you believe that something will be difficult for you, it probably will be.

But the great news is, you can control how you react to those expectations. You don’t have to be a victim of your past, or let it define who you are today or tomorrow. You can change the way you view your past experiences and the way you view yourself.

If you have a negative attitude, it will affect everything from the way you see someone at work to the way you see yourself in the mirror.

The bottom line is that we need to be more aware of our own expectations and those of others. We need to recognize that there’s no such thing as an “entitlement”. It’s just a matter of preference and convenience.

Learn to balance your expectations so that they’re reasonable and achievable

Learn to balance expectations
Learn to balance expectations – Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

There’s a difference between high expectations and unrealistic expectations. The line between the two can be blurry, but it’s this distinction that gives people the incentive to work hard and learn from mistakes.

The best way to have high expectations is to be realistic about what you can accomplish. Someone who starts working on an ambitious project with no idea how to accomplish it is probably setting themselves up for disappointment.

Know what you’re capable of; know what success looks like. You’ll feel better if you know how far you can go, how much you’ve accomplished, and what remains in reach.


I hope that this article has made you think about your own expectations. Are they too high? Do you feel like giving up because the goals you’ve set are simply unachievable? If so, then remind yourself that it’s okay to have high expectations for yourself but don’t be afraid to revise them when needed. In order to become your best self and achieve the things that you truly want in life, it is essential to develop a realistic understanding of what you are capable of achieving.

As someone I cherish very much once said, it is important to understand the fine line (balance) between having high expectations and being unrealistic.