Friday, March 23, 2012

Expectations v. Reality

I'm back from a full day at Disneyland and I'm tired. Because I am tired, I am not going to come up with very meaningful or interesting thoughts. But I'd like to share with you quite quickly how sometimes reality doesn't meet expectations at all. And how sometimes that can be a good thing.

I think I over-watched the "Expectations vs. Reality" scene from (500) Days of Summer where Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) goes to Summer's (Zooey Deschanel) party to find out she's engaged when he had thought it would be an opportunity to have another chance with her. Since then I've always gone into new situations assuming the worst will occur. And no matter how many times I'm reminded that pessimism isn't always a purveyor of truth, seldom do I believe what's right in front of me.

So when I got up and readied myself to make some new acquaintances on my way to Disneyland for the morning, afternoon and evening - I expected all but happiness. I guess subconsciously I wanted to be sure I wouldn't be disappointed. I did this by getting myself in a negative mindset early. If I didn't have the expectations, then maybe the frames would be flipped.

And leave it to my logic to actually come through for once because I had an absolutely lovely time.

It wasn't exactly that I went in thinking that the people I would meet would be horrible or that I wouldn't enjoy their company. But often, when I am meeting new people who have known each other for a very long time, I feel left out of conversations and am overall alienated from the group. It's made me absolutely cling to the groups of friends that I have already established - weary to allow newcomers in and even more weary to try and meet new people.

But today reminded me that it can be really beneficial to take the plunge and meet new people. Because even if you can't anticipate how you will interact with them, if you go in with an open mind you might actually come out having had a good time.

And maybe the negative preconceptions were a part of that. As bad as it can be to visualize the worst - because it might lower your self-esteem or make you bitter prematurely - it can also be a way to convince yourself that nothing could ever compare to your own Murphy's Law pessimism.

When you run negative images over and over in your head, you start to realize how sensationalized they are. As a result, you start to debunk them in your mind. In my case, I found them unravel even more once I encountered the situation in real life.

A lot of psychologists say to boost confidence you need to develop your own line of confidence, maybe even create a mantra that keeps you feeling positive about life and your choices. But I've never been able to fool myself with that junk.

Being a logical (difficult to convince and difficult to reason with) person, I've always had trouble with the positive reinforcement and heavy breathing exercise methodology. Instead, I've felt myself improving due to feeling less at ease in the beginning, while seeing a growth in confidence as the experience goes on.

When I audition for performing groups or interview with potential employers, I've always liked to do the least intimidating and least influential things first. Because I know that my nervousness and lack of comfort tends to waiver with practice, I enjoy those later experiences once I've gathered up enough confidence that I can function normally in a pressured setting.

Today, I went in to meeting my best friend Diana's friends Nick and Brenna, while reacquainting myself with her friend Marissa (notice how I just threw everyone's name in there - no anonymous mentions for ya'll). I didn't work myself up over it too much prior to getting in the car and really starting to get to know them. But I would be lying if I said I went in feeling totally normal.

Instead, I decided to start with hesitation. I began with limited confidence, an escape plan by early evening should I feel trapped and a fully-charged phone in case I needed a refuge. If they had been inaccessible, unfriendly individuals, perhaps some or all of these preparations would have come into play. But in the end none of them did. I felt comfortable and happy - and willing to spend an entire day with people I'd even call friends.

It really hurts to go into a situation expecting you're going to get every wish you could ever desire out of it and then finding yourself completely in the wrong. When you have fanciful expectations for something out of your control, most of the time you're gearing yourself up for disappointment.

But when you go in weary - psychologically damaging as that may sound - you more than often come out a winner. Even disappointment minimizes itself in the face of lowered expectations.

While that doesn't mean you should meet new people and automatically put up a front, assuming that you will never find a good rapport with them, it does mean that when you meet people you shouldn't automatically expect them to accept you. If you're lucky enough to be placed in the right situation, everything will work itself out. And if not...well at least you didn't think much of it to begin with.

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