Is Life Giving You A Hangover?
Work + Life Balance

Is Life Giving You A Hangover?

by Kathryn Drury Wagner
Photos Ami Martin | November 26, 2014

IF YOU’RE FEELING IN A RUT, OR DISAPPOINTED, OR HAVE BEEN BLINDSIDED BY A HUGE LIFE CHANGE YOU DID NOT SIGN UP FOR, YOU’RE PROBABLY HAVING AN EXPECTATION HANGOVER. READ ON FOR THE CURE.

Most of us envision our lives turning out in a certain way: an impressive job title, a cute guy, stylish home and a busy social life. But when things don’t go the way we thought they would—or when they do and we still feel cruddy—we get an Expectation Hangover. Just like an alcohol hangover, an Expectation Hangover has unpleasant physical and mental effects, like depression, lack of motivation, anxiety and irritability.

Expectation Hangovers are a phenomenon identified by LA-based speaker, life coach and author Christine Hassler. Hassler teaches spiritual psychology at the University of Santa Monica, frequently appears on TV, and is a contributor to Cosmo and The Huffington Post. Naturally, she’s also been featured on Career Contessa. Her new book, Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life, is a guidebook for turning life’s gut punches—like a divorce or lay off—into powerful tools for transformation. We sat down with Hassler to talk about young women in the workplace, and how common Expectation Hangovers really are.

CAREER CONTESSA: MY 20S WERE A BLUR, BUT I FEEL LIKE MILLENNIALS ARE WAY MORE SELF-AWARE. DO YOU THINK YOUNG WOMEN ARE LEADING MORE SELF-EXAMINED LIVES THAN PREVIOUS GENERATIONS?

CHRISTINE HASSLER: I get the sense that they are living their lives with greater expectations, and also with greater self-awareness. They feel like, “Life is supposed to be amazing!” A lot of that was the way they were parented, perhaps coddled a bit. They think they’re going to have the perfect job and be engaged to the perfect guy by 25. Because of that, they are suffering from Expectation Hangovers and yes, are doing more self-examination. There’s a sense of, “I don’t want to just go through the motions of my life.”

CC: YOU HAVE A CHECKLIST IN YOUR BOOK, WHERE YOU ASK READERS TO RATE THEIR LEVELS OF DISAPPOINTMENT ON THINGS SUCH AS, “IS THERE SOMETHING IN YOUR LIFE THAT DID NOT TURN OUT THE WAY YOU PLANNED?” OR, “IS THERE AN ASPECT OF YOUR LIFE THAT YOU ARE NOT ENJOYING EVEN THOUGH YOU THOUGHT YOU WOULD?” BUT WHAT IF THE ANSWER FOR EVERY SINGLE QUESTION IS A “YES!”? DOES THAT MEAN WE’RE SCREWED?

CH: No! One of the problems with the personal growth business is that there’s this idea that you are supposed to be happy and grateful all the time. That is just not the human experience. In my work, we take the shame out of disappointment. I don’t know any human being who escapes suffering. Going through difficult times is how we learn and grow. 

CC: WHY ARE JOBS SO OFTEN THE CAUSE OF EXPECTATION HANGOVERS?

CH: We’ve all been brainwashed that our life purpose exists within a job. It’s like the thing about how there’s one, perfect soul mate for you; we project that same thing onto jobs. Finding what you’re good at takes a while. It’s a process of elimination. A job should be an expression of our gifts. People think of it as a be-all, end-all of happiness, rather than thinking, “What can I learn?” or “How can I contribute?” or acknowledging that one thing is a stepping stone to another. You’ll find that most successful people, particularly entrepreneurs, have a few failures under their belts, because you can learn so much from failures.

Finding what you’re good at takes a while. It’s a process of elimination. A job should be an expression of our gifts.


CC: WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON WORK-RELATED EXPECTATION HANGOVER YOU SEE? GETTING LAID OFF? BAD BOSS?

CH: The “Dream Job” not being so dreamy. And especially with younger women, getting a job but then not feeling validated or appreciated.

CC: IT'S HARD WHEN YOU'RE YOUNG, BECAUSE YOU DON'T HAVE A LOT ON YOUR RESUME YET. HOW DO YOU BUILD CONFIDENCE WITHOUT HAVING TANGIBLE SUCCESS TO POINT TO? 

CH: Who you are is not defined by your resume. I tell employers all the time: Hire for attitude, not experience. You can train someone but you can’t change his or her attitude. So look at your life experience: What have you done that taught you confidence or taught you courage, and how can you apply that to your job? Think about the qualities that make you employable, rather than the experience you may or may not have.

CC: IN YOUR BOOK, YOU TALK ABOUT A PERFECT ZONE OF HIGH INVOLVEMENT, LOW ATTACHMENT. IT’S LIKE A YOGA CLASS, WHERE YOU ENGAGE IN A POSE, BUT YOU DON’T JUDGE HOW FAR YOU CAN BEND. HOW DOES HIGH INVOLVEMENT, LOW ATTACHMENT WORK IN A JOB SITUATION?

CH: Let’s say you are going in for an interview. You do your research, give it your all. Visualize yourself succeeding. But don’t let your wellbeing and confidence rely on if you get the job or not. You give it your all during the process, not in the outcome. The outcome isn’t the meaning.

CC: IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WISH YOUNG WOMEN KNEW? 

CH: They think that an effective way to push themselves is to be hard on themselves. Negative self talk… a decade of self talk like that is really damaging. You have to motivate yourself in a loving, compassionate way. Be patient and make good choices, let’s really mother ourselves instead of being a harsh boss. We’re planting a lot of seeds in our 20s. You have to let them grow.

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Visit her website to order Expectation Hangover or read more about Christine Hassler and her retreats, events and workshops.