Best Tips for Setting Realistic Expectations for Yourself
Everyone has goals for themselves. We frequently assume that these assumptions are acceptable. Many of them, though, are everything but.
We expect ourselves to labour without stopping. Every day, we expect ourselves to have the same degree of—high—energy. We anticipate feeling the same emotions—calm and contentment.
We anticipate that we will be fearless.We anticipate that difficult times will be handled like a to-do list,
according to Elizabeth Gillette, LCSW, an attachment-focused therapist in Asheville, N.C., who specialises in dealing with individuals and couples as their families develop. We’ll be as swift and efficient with our sadness as we are with email or cleaning the kitchen.
Or we become parents and maintain the same job and productivity expectations—except, as Gillette put it, we’re now
“sleep deprived and in survival mode.” Even for those who do not have children, there may be an expectation that they do everything perfectly all of the time.”
Alternatively, we form expectations based on the life of others. We compare ourselves not just to other individuals, but to a large number of other people.
Jenn Fieldman, LPCS, a life transition and recovery therapist, worked with a client who was obsessed with all the amazing things people were posting on Facebook. They were completing more tasks. They were having fantastic dinners with their significant other. They worked out every morning. They appeared to be the “ideal” parents.
But Fieldman’s client wasn’t comparing herself to just one person; she was comparing herself to at least five different people’s lives.
We have unrealistic expectations because “we idealise the ‘perfect’ outcome,” according to Gillette.
We believe that in order to feel successful, we must achieve a precise result, she explained. We must get the promotion or we will fail. We must achieve an A+ on the paper or we will fail.
This is a difficult way to live. It’s a lot of unnecessary stress. Even if we finally reach the carrot, there is always a bigger carrot just around the corner.
It never ends. We never take a break. And it’s completely exhausting.
The following suggestions may be useful.
Determine your core values
For example, Gillette asks parents the questions below to help them determine their values (which you can adjust to your environment and life):
“What do you want to demonstrate to your child?”
What memories do you want to leave them with?
What are all the different ways we can accomplish this without needing to be perfect?”
Such questions assist parents in determining where they want to direct their intention and focus in order to “produce an outcome that seems acceptable, even if it isn’t the most ideal.
Consider your expectations
Fieldman, who is also a marriage celebrant in Asheville, N.C., says he asks these questions on a daily basis:
“What has history taught me about this expectation: Has it ever worked out?” Has it altered over time? What is the source of this expectation (the dread of not being like others)? Not being sufficient?) Would I still have this expectation of myself if I didn’t care what other people thought of me?
“Do I genuinely believe this goal is attainable given my time constraints, the hours in my day, and the people in my life?”
Quiet your fears
“Fear frequently gives rise to unrealistic expectations,” stated Fieldman. She assists individuals in separating themselves from their fear-based thinking. Body scanning is one of the techniques she employs.
“We carry so much fear in our bodies and aren’t even aware of it.” Fieldman instructs her customers to breathe in and out gently while relaxing their bodies from head to toe twice a day for two to five minutes.
As you relax your body, recite the phrases
“I’m breathing in, I’m breathing out.”
Take note of where you’re retaining stress. Return to your breath when other thoughts come. “This trains the body to accept openness and calm instead of making decisions and expectations from a scared place,” Fieldman explained.
Investigate your not-enough story
Unrealistic aspirations originate from the basic assumption that we are insufficient as we are, according to Fieldman.
“When we live in this location, we never truly live in the moments of our life; we live in sadness for what we weren’t and fear for what we might never be”.
We can begin to chip away at this false notion by recognising that it is not our belief. It could be the belief of a caregiver who was also convinced they weren’t good enough. It could be a childhood bully’s belief.
Fieldman advised you to question yourself,
“Whose storey is this?”
“Realizing then that it is not our struggle to fight, our storey to end, we get to have our own storey,”
she explained. Then, locate a therapist to assist you with this process.”
Determine the most logical take away
“If this could go well (with multiple things not operating the way I want them to), how would that feel for me?” Gillette asks clients.”
She gave the following example:
“Many parents put a lot of strain on themselves for their child’s birthday celebrations or first day of school.”
In actuality, these are imperfect, frequently muddled moments:
Your child’s best buddy is unable to attend the celebration. The bounce house you requested is no longer available. The first day of school is fraught with mixed feelings and a slew of new challenges.
So, instead of focusing on perfection (i.e., unrealistic expectations), consider, according to Gillette,
“What do I want my child to take away from this?”
How can I design an experience that allows for all of these factors to be present while still considering it worthwhile?
Does the fact that it isn’t flawless add value to my life and the life of my child?”
We sometimes worry that if we don’t have high expectations for ourselves, we’ll let ourselves off the hook. We’re either sluggish or unambitious. We’re just gliding through life. We’re not living life to the fullest.
That, however, is not the case.
Setting realistic expectations allows us to grow and become more adaptable. It allows us to relish life and embrace the messy times, which often have greater meaning in the first place. And, if you have children, it prevents them from suffering unnecessarily. Because unrealistic expectations are the polar opposite of self-compassion.