Unrealistic Self-Expectations

If you’re like me, you hold yourself to a higher standard than you hold others to. After all, it’s most important how you represent yourself in a situation rather than how others do because that is simply a reflection on them. When you continually strive for excellence this can help you excel to new heights and expand your boundaries to try new things. But other times, it can leave your eyes filled with tears and your mind questioning if what you’re doing is enough or how something could have gone better. And, let’s be real, if all these feelings have been that much more amplified by the confinement of coronavirus — we feel you.

According to Miranda Morris, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist in Bethesda, Md, she states that one of the biggest unrealistic self-expectations is that people shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations. Truly, it’s a very normal thing to hold yourself to these standards. But, this doesn’t mean that they are healthy or good for your well-being. When you or others fall short of this preconceived expectation of perfection, you can set up those around you for failure and possible negative reactions. Psychology Today said, “it takes a sturdy sense of self to be flexible enough to take life in stride. When our self-worth and value are tied to our achievements, we feel deflated or embarrassed when we fall short of our inflated expectations.”

If there is anything that I’ve learned recently is that failure is a part of being human and this doesn’t have to be a negative thing. In fact, some people argue that you learn more from failure than you do from success. And, as Forbes mentions, stretch goals are great, but remember that you can adjust your goals. Be sure to dismiss poorly designed goals as well so we aren’t too hard on ourselves. 

To help move forward and beyond feeling the need to achieve perfection, here are some things I try to keep in mind: 

  1. Catch yourself setting unrealistic self-expectations: this can be met with curiosity, acceptance or even humor, but recognizing it during the act is vital. Write down the self-expectations. This can be helpful to register where you are having these feelings and hone in on why you keep setting these impractical goals. 
  2. Practice compassion: not only with yourself, but with others. When you are speaking with kindness and understanding, people are more open to listening to what you have to say. Talk to yourself like your best friend would — with full confidence and a loving heart. 
  3. Make room for flexibility: this is one that particularly hits home. Just today I found myself crying over the fact that I didn’t have deli-ham that I could put on my sandwich for lunch. I was hungry, buried with work, and just needed a sandwich, okay!? If I was more flexible to the changing situations, like taking a quick 15 minute trip to the grocery store, I could have saved myself a lot of heartache and my boyfriend some emotional energy when tending to my temperamental emotions.
  4. Celebrate all of your successes: yes, this even means the small stuff. With large goals, comes smaller incremental goals in-between. You’ll be surprised how a little bit can go a long way. 
  5. Take breaks: take them early and take them often. I’ve found that breaks aren’t as effective if you only take them when you’re at the point of exhaustion. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. We dive into this topic a little further in our avoiding burnout article as well if you’re looking for some helpful tips for this!

So, I encourage you to find something that you’re proud of for the day, and every day that follows. Whether this is something you have already done, or it’s something you’re about to do, feel pride in all the little and big things that you accomplish. You deserve it.  

Let us know in the comments below, what are some things you use to try to combat unrealistic self-expectations? 



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