I’ve been putting all these expectations on myself to use this time at home in a specific way, and when I don’t meet them, I feel like I am failing. I have had to let that go – or rather I’m working at letting it go.
A couple of weeks ago I shared a journal prompt on social media about releasing expectations. Little did I know how much it would resonate with so many people, or how many people needed to hear it to validate that they are doing the best they can.
I think many of us put unrealistic expectations on ourselves on this endless quest of finding perfection. We put expectations on ourselves, we put expectations on others, and we take on expectations that other people have of us.
Trying to live up to most of these expectations is nothing short of soul sucking, mentally and emotionally draining, and unattainable. We literally can’t do it because we cannot be all for all, or be everything for everyone, or do everything for everyone.
So much of our frustration comes from attachment to an outcome, and expectation, an object, an idea or a belief that is not coming the way we expected, or thinking that we need to do something in a specific way all the time, and when we don’t, we get frustrated, feel guilty or even ashamed, or feel like failures.
During a global pandemic, when business and life is definitely not as usual, we need to give ourselves so much grace. One woman said to me, “my kids are getting way more television time right now than I would normally like, or allow, and I have to be okay with that.”
Expectation hangover is the real deal. In fact, when we expect everyone and everything, including ourselves to be, do and act exactly as we forcefully plan, pray, wish and hope for, and it doesn’t happen just like we planned, prayed, hoped and wished for, we begin to feel so incredibly frustrated. We feel like we are constantly failing because we have set unattainable expectations of perfection that we have failed before we even began.
The expectations go both ways:
I’m so disappointed you didn’t say this in the way I wanted.
I’m so disappointed that I didn’t say this in the way I wanted.
I’m so disappointed you didn’t do this exactly as I wanted.
I’m so disappointed that I didn’t do this exactly as I wanted.
I’m so upset with them because that they are not dealing with this the way I am.
I’m so upset with myself because I’m not dealing with this the way they are.
I’m so frustrated because you are not giving me what I need.
I’m so frustrated because I’m not giving myself, or them what they need.
Ask yourself: How would I feel if I let go of all the expectations I have on myself, and on others right now, giving all of us some much needed grace?
How To Recover From The Expectation Hangover
To heal from an expectation hangover takes an enormous amount of grace; grace towards ourselves and towards others. We simply remind ourselves that we (and they) are only human. We practice pivoting and coming back to our own lane. We remind ourselves that we cannot be perfect in every moment. In fact, it isn’t about being perfect at all because we are ALL perfectly imperfect.
We practice allowing other people to show up as they are, not as we expect them to, while also having the courage to express how we feel to people who are not showing up the way we need them to. We practice being okay with the shakeup in our routines and know that this is temporary. We practice not taking on other people’s expectations of us, or what we think they are and remind ourselves that we are doing our best. Even if your best was you crying in the shower this morning because it was the only time alone you have had in days.
And it is all a practice because we are swimming in unchartered waters. In fact, it might feel like you are learning how to swim all over again. And I don’t mean just during this crisis, but in life. Nowhere in this practice do we expect ourselves, or others to be perfect. Instead, like Brene Brown says, we find the gifts in our imperfections.
We do what we can, when we can and tell ourselves that that is enough.
For me, I’m releasing the expectations that I have to respond and react perfectly in each moment, or know what to do in each moment, or feel the same way in each moment. Some days I’m riding the wave and feeling really good, and other days I’m irritable and frustrated and scared. I was feeling like a failure, as though I should know exactly what to do and say in each moment. And then I reminded myself that I’m a human being, experiencing something that I’ve never experienced before. So I safely release this expectation that I put on myself.
Let’s take this conversation to our journal. Write the question below in your journal and just free-write without editing or judging your response.
- What expectations have I been putting on myself, or have taken on from others, do I need to release because not being able to live up to them is causing me to feel like a failure?
For today, begin to practice releasing all the expectations that you have put on yourself. Release them knowing that it is safe for you to do so. And if you get afraid because you don’t want to disappointment anyone, here is an affirmation:
“It is safe for me to release this limiting expectation that I have put on myself, and by releasing it, it is going to open me up to new possibilities. It is safe. I am safe.”
Repeat this when you feel the discomfort of releasing the expectations comes up.