People often talk about not setting high expectations in case people fail to achieve their goals and then end up feeling badly about themselves. This especially occurs with children.
In particular, parents commonly over-praise their children and reward them for very little productivity, to ensure no harm occurs to their self-esteem. Likewise, teachers are often careful, especially when working with kids from difficult or under-privileged backgrounds, to handle them with care as though they are ‘fragile’ and their self-esteem will otherwise be irreparably damaged.
However, as a clinical psychologist who has worked with thousands of people, my experience is very different. In my work, if I want people to do well, I tell them that I expect them to do well and show them a clear pathway to achieving their goals. The higher my standards, the better they perform.
This is similar to the high expectations seen in elite schools, colleges and universities which simply ‘expect’ their students to become the next generation of leaders in our country.
On the other hand, under-privileged students or children from difficult backgrounds may be told the rhetoric that they can ‘have it all’, but this is rarely demonstrated to them by expecting them to perform at a highly competitive standard. What’s more these children are often handled as ‘fragile’ which makes them grasp early on in life that they are somehow defective and could easily break under the slightest pressure.