With our ever-increasing digital marketing world, we find ourselves blasted on all fronts with advertisements, movies, commercials, TV shows, and social media posts with ideas of what the holidays are supposed to be like.  The holiday season is a time for family, joy, delicious food, amazing friends, bright Christmas lights, perfectly decorated trees, volunteering, caroling, buying the perfect gift…

It’s a lot to keep up with.  We find ourselves expecting everything to be beautiful, just like in the movies.  We compete to get the perfect picture to post on Facebook.  We desperately strive throughout the season to be happy because that’s what we’re “supposed to be.”  And then, when we can’t live up to our perfect holiday expectations, we find ourselves disappointed or feeling guilty for failing.

We just finished Thanksgiving and are looking towards Christmas already.

I hope you had an amazing Thanksgiving.  But if you were disappointed, and now you’re leery about the build-up to Christmas this year, maybe it’s time to take a look at your holiday expectations.

2 ways our expectations can cause unhappy experiences:

1.  Unrealistically high expectations

When we expect our real world to match the fantasy worlds we see in commercials, TV episodes, Facebook posts from friends and family, and other stories, then the bar gets set too high for reality.  We can’t be happy because our experience is never good enough to compete.  

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2. Low Expectations (Creating a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy)

After a year with negative holiday experiences, sometimes people come to believe that this time of year is never happy nor anxiety-free.  They expect it to be tiring, stressful, and disappointing.  Because that’s what they’ve learned to expect from past Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.  And when we expect this failure, then we may unknowingly cause that failure to happen.

Types of Expectations

We have expectations everyday.  Expectations of ourselves, of others, and of our circumstances.  For example, I personally expect myself to act politely.  In times where I get snappy, then I end up feeling guilty because I did not live up to the expectation I had of myself. Even if my irritability was called for!

Or I expect my dog Washburn to sit when I say so.  If he does not sit, then I feel frustrated with him for not listening.

A situational expectation that I had over Thanksgiving was that the hot caramel apple cider we brought to a party would be delicious. And it was!  But I also expected it to look amazing.  While transporting the crockpot in the car, the cider slopped out and we lost almost half our batch!  I found myself very disappointed in the situation because it did not live up to my expectations of a delicious, good looking cider.

How to Use Holiday Expectations to your Advantage

When you realize what type of expectation you have in any given situation (unrealistically high vs. poor), then you can alter those expectations to be more realistic.

When you feel like Cindy-Lou-Who, you might have unrealistically high expectations.

For unrealistically high expectations, ask yourself “How realistic is it that everything will go perfectly?”  Remind yourself that even if reality does not reflect your big dreams, that reality can still be good.  Take time to reflect at the end of every day this holiday season on the positive things that happened.  This will help you see the good in the season, whether or not reality lives up to your expectations.

For low expectations, ask yourself what is causing them to be low.  If you had a past experience that was negative, remind yourself that one bad event does not mean that every experience will be bad.  At the start of every day this season, think about all the ways the day could go well.  This will begin to alter your expectations from negative to positive.

Self-fulfilling prophecies can be very good, if you are expecting something realistically good to happen!  So try to make those expectations realistic and positive.  By doing so, you may subconsciously create the holiday season that you’re hoping for!

And finally, pay attention to whether your expectations are of yourself, others, or situational.  Recognize what is within your control to change, and what is not.  If there is something you can do to make yourself, another person, or a situation better, then do it!  But often we have little control over other people or big situations.  Sometimes it is better to change your expectations in these circumstances.


So as you take MUCH LONGER to decorate your tree than this woman just did, remember to take a step back this month and check how realistic your expectations are. Share below some expectations you have of the holiday season – and how realistic you think they are! Check back in next week for tips on self-care through the holidays.