Where do expectations come from?

Do you ever feel like the universe has a set of expectations for you, and whether or not they’re fulfilled seems completely out of your control? If so, you’re not alone. The concept of ‘expectations’ is complex and multi-layered; it’s influenced by everything from family history to cultural norms. But fear not – this article digs deep into understanding where these sneaky little expectations are coming from.

Nature vs Nurture

Like many things in life, the origin of our expectations stems from both nature and nurture. Our DNA may dictate some parts of our personality, but the environment we grow up in shapes how that personality either thrives or suffers. Here are a few key ways nature and nurture influence our expectations:


Expectation-driven genes? Surely I can blame my parents for once! Well…yes and no. There isn’t one specific gene floating around exclusively linked to crystal ball-esque prediction abilities (at least as far as we know), however there may be certain genetic traits that contribute to why someone might have higher or lower expectation standards.

For example, recent studies suggest that people with variation on DRD4 -a dopamine receptor- tend to weigh their future consequences more heavily when making decisions which leads them make decisions based on what entails high reward (who wouldn’t do it?). In light speed: some people’s brain simply process information about probabilities differently; anyway don’t blame it all on mom’s bad genes yet, because even if such thing existed every single individual experiences this situation uniquely due children being raised in different environments.

Childhood Environment

Ah yes, good old-fashioned childhood experiences (with matching scars). It turns out those early years really matter when it comes to building foundation belief systems regarding what “success” looks like among other unstated societal values placed upon us before taking humanity 101 classes at college (harsh truth). This is because our parents (or primary caregivers) are the first examples of what work looks like and thus we unconsciously form assumptions shaped by their beliefs. For example, if mom or dad set unrealistically high expectations when it came to grades, social success, extra curricular activities etc., you may have found yourself dealing with some overtly stressful academic performance anxiety that sticks around well into adulthood.

The Media

As much as we hate to admit it (to no one in particular), the media can get under our skin. In reality pop-culture fosters a good number of unrealistic expectations especially towards women doing everything from perpetuating body image stereotypes and unrealistic physical standards toward pushing societal norms on us through advertisements.

Pop Culture

As previously mentioned but worth repeating for emphasis:pop culture sets an often-unreachable bar when it comes to beauty-standards which persuades youngsters into buying products they don’t need-out -of despair shown in movies/tv shows since you were eight years old- even if these ads portraying said items make improbable promises (just talk about the anti aging cream FFS!) . Women starve themselves for six-pack abs made famous by gym rat superhero portrayals; men go bald and still wish to have rock solid abs without sweating off those burgers once a week at least (no judgment here guys).

Trauma & Mistakes

Finally, sometimes expectation roots sprout somewhere deeper down in town throughout events characterized by trauma or big failures that leave non-existent corners inside your soul near impossible to grip onto any hope whatsoever (more like walking with your shoes tied together while being chased up stairs by Michelin-wearing-legged horror movie monster-cringe worthy). It could be going through excruciating hardships from family deaths naturally up-to experiencing devastating professional AND personal setbacks all too many times leaving emotions parallel towards how Mount Everest feels-like trying over and over again thinking you finally get a hang of it just to learn from someone else’s post on Facebook that not only have they been there but also used the cheat codes.


So where exactly do expectations come from? As we discussed, it’s a complicated mix of many different factors. From our genetic makeup and childhood environment to the influence of media and personal experiences, things truly run all around us like spiderwebs (makes sense if you think about how often we feel trapped). But what can be said for sure is this: understanding the root cause(s) behind these expectations can help alleviate some distress arising out of feeling undervalued or underappreciated by giving framework towards acceptance & alteration techniques so changing these beliefs one-by-one based upon your unique experience in life raises overall longevity toward self-satisfaction –and who doesn’t want more satisfaction?(had to add something positive – phew!).

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