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Expectations versus Experience

I confess. I’m fascinated by the endless contradictions we humans hold. Recently, an acquaintance was railing against politicians and religious leaders who fail to set a good example. I tried explaining that human beings are irrational, complicated creatures, but I was no match for her idealized expectations. As a disregulated eater, you, too, may become easily disappointed and end up turning to food to make yourself feel better.

Why do you do this—ignore your years of experience with the human race and instead pin your hopes on some imaginary version of reality that never was and never will be? Why did this reasonably bright woman continue to hold the conviction that leaders should be moral exemplars, when every fiber of her 70-some-year-old being told her that often they are not? In this same vein, how can you binge eat the same foods in the same quantities day after day or week after week knowing that afterward you will be filled with guilt, remorse, shame, and self-disappointment based on the fantasy that driven, desperate eating is going to bring you positive feelings about yourself?

How indeed! First off, let’s accept that we all suffer these contradictions to greater or lesser extent. If it’s not over food, it’s placing trust in the wrong people, or expecting more of ourselves than we can give, or assuming that people can read our minds or our hearts. In some ways, high expectations speak to our hopeful dreams—we want to feel better, we want to do better—and that’s all well and good. What doesn’t work is when we take our expectations more seriously than our experience. When you ignore reality, disappointment is generally right around the corner lying in wait for you.

As to my acquaintance railing against our leaders, can you see how she sets herself up for disappointment by expecting that one type of person is morally superior to another? After all, everyone is simply a mixed-bag of worthy and unworthy qualities before entering a profession or a career. Being anointed or elected doesn’t make us better people if we weren’t very good to begin with.

Back to disregulated eaters. What is it that blinds you to your experience with food and makes your expectations seem more real than the pain you’ve suffered with it? Why set yourself up to believe that things will be different this time if you are doing the exact same thing as last time? In order to get the past working effectively for you, it’s essential to understand your motivation for wishing away reality. Figuring out why you do it is the first step to basing expectations where they belong—on experience, not hope.