False Expectations, Mass Shootings, the Obesity Epidemic and Chronic Unhappiness

The Land of Opportunity

I recently read that false expectations were one of the reasons why we have mass shootings in the US. The article pointed out that the United States is the “The Land of Opportunity” and that the rhetoric here is that we are capable of achieving “The American Dream” if only we work hard enough.

The article cited a survey of young adults on their expectations for the future. All of them believed that they had what it took to lead successful, happy and prosperous lives. Many of them also believed that they would be famous or very well-known due to their accomplishments.

In contrast, young adults in every other industrialized country believed that they would fight poverty, become ill, face war or extreme political conflict and would not necessarily achieve career satisfaction. Very few believed that they would be famous or well-known for their accomplishments. Regardless of this dour view of life, the overall life-happiness rating of these other countries was higher than that of the US.

The article concluded that unrealistic expectations of what one’s life resulted in feelings of extreme failure and disillusionment, causing a myriad of psychological problems, including the “need” for some to commit mass murders as an outlet of their feelings of disillusionment and as a surefire path to fame.

Happily Ever After…

It reminded me of advice we were given when we were newly married. That marriage was about learning how to be miserable, so get used to it. We were told to expect good times, but to know that a lot of times our marriage was just going to be mediocre and sometimes we were going to be downright miserable.

We were warned that fights or disagreements weren’t always resolved by bedtime and that there would be weeks, months or even years where we didn’t like each other. It didn’t mean it was over, it just meant that we were living a normal life; and that the good parts would be sweeter because of our struggles.

At the time we thought “our love” was better than that, but it wasn’t. In hindsight, we probably stayed married because of that advice. We didn’t freak out during the weeks and months of being disgusted and irritated with each other because we expected it and we knew it was a normal.

What if we knew that we were supposed to spend a life time working to keep their bodies and minds fit and healthy? What if we knew that depression and frustration were normal? What if we expected to sometimes hate our job or be treated unfairly or not know what to do with our kids or aging parents? What if we knew that staying healthy and fit was a life-long commitment that we would constantly have to work at?

Realistic or Cynical?

Cynical? Maybe, but I think we’d all be happier and healthier that way. Comparing ourselves to fitness models and photo-shopped celebrities is cruel. 90% of diet and exercise videos, classes and books fill us with false expectations that set us up to fail. Wouldn’t it be easier to know what to expect? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that falling off the wagon periodically is normal and expected and the only thing that matters is climbing back on again?

I know I’d be happier and better prepared if I knew what to expect.

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