Timelines of Life Expectations: Where do these come from?

Timelines of Life Expectations: Where do these come from?Attention adults of all ages and stages of life: Is where you’re at right now consistent with expectations—either of yourself or others? Where did these expectations come from? Did someone pass their belief or expectation to you? If so, are they reliable sources that align with your own beliefs and values?

What is the “predominant culture” in which you grew up and how does that compare to the predominant influence in America of White, middle-class European origins and heteronormative expectations?

What are the messages and experiences I have received surrounding my friendships and relationships? What about dating, intimacy, and sex, and what this looks like? Is there any pressure to be in a certain type of relationship or meet certain “milestones” such as getting married and having children? What if you did everything “as expected” only to find that you are feeling trapped in a relationship, unhappy in a marriage, amid separation or divorce, or struggling with emotions such as jealousy, anger, or loneliness?

What are the expectations surrounding your education? How is this impacted by learning challenges, mental health, bullying, or other negative school experiences? If you did not finish high school or college, are currently unemployed or struggling with finding fulfilling work, or have struggled with maintaining work due to instability in your life, it can be hard to find the motivation and strength to keep going.

What are expectations related to jobs and careers? Is there pressure to be in a certain type of career/ field to gain approval and social status? What happens if what you want for yourself does not align with the expectations of your family? How about expectations related to your retirement and what this looks like? What if you would like to retire but are not able to be able to do so due to factors such as being a foster parent or financial limitations?

Are there other specific messages that are implied but not directly communicated to gain approval such as how much money you should make, where you be at in your career, where you live/ what your space looks like, and what you should be doing at this stage in your life? If you are a parent, are there any implied expectations about your children?

What values are most important to you? Do your choices align with these? Perhaps your values have changed over time or have remained the same while the values of others in your life have changed.

Do you feel connected to others who are accepting of where you are currently at? There is a community and supports available.

Talk therapy is a great place to explore these topics including a space to:

  • Feel seen and heard. Have someone listen to understand.
  • Explore your identity in the safety of a therapeutic safe. Our awesome admin team can help you select a therapist that would be a good fit.
  • Express thoughts, feelings, and experiences and “go deeper” to explore themes that are important to your life story.
  • Explore your values and reflect on themes such as expectations and how these align with what you do/ no not want from yourself.
  • Learn new skills (e.g., communication, setting boundaries) to implement in various settings such as work, school, and in relationships.
  • Take new steps in your life to work towards living a more authentic life.
  • Connect to additional resources/ supports.


Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC

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