“What did you do this week that you’re proud of?” I asked my friend during our weekly accountability meeting.
“Not much,” she said.
“You didn’t accomplish anything this week?”
“Well, I did run nine miles.”
“You guess? I haven’t ran nine miles in my entire life!”
“Well,” she hung her head, “I didn’t find a way to push myself every day. That run was just on one day.”
“Do you think you’re supposed to have a big win every day?” I asked.
“Isn’t that what you’re writing in your gratitude journal?”
To clarify: no. Absolutely not.
Occasionally I’ll make note of my own accomplishments, something I’m proud of having done, but most often my list is about what I’m grateful to have experienced. My gratitude practice is rooted in noticing rather than achieving.
But my friend’s confusion about gratitude practices wasn’t what was most remarkable about our conversation.
What really struck me was the unrealistic expectations she had for herself and how those expectations were crushing her confidence and self esteem.
It’s not unusual. Most of the women I know who are struggling with confidence are carrying around heavy burdens of how they think they should be handling life. It’s heartbreaking to watch others do it to themselves, and yet I do it, too.
Beating ourselves up with impossible standards doesn’t help us to be happier. Instead, our perceived shortcomings lead to things like:
- Low self esteem
- Lack of confidence
- Procrastination (why bother if we can’t get it right?)
That’s good for no one.
We’re much better off working with reality, which is probably a whole lot messier than the pictures in our heads.
Do you need a perception adjustment? Here’s a closer look at some of the unrealistic expectations that might be weighing you down.
10 Unrealistic Expectations to Let Go Of
1. I will always be grateful for what I have.
There’s a reason experts recommend practicing gratitude: it’s normal to forget. It’s human to get caught up in what you wish had: more money, less fighting, more free time, less dirty laundry on the floor.
2. I will never lose my patience with my children.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the Internet it’s that every parent falls on their face sometimes. Why? Because raising another human being is as difficult as it is wonderful. Instead of striving for perfection, try to practice modeling what humility and apologizing looks like.
3. I will ____ every single day.
Exercise. Meditate. Make the bed. I don’t care what it is, at some point you can expect to fall off the wagon unless you have a whole crap load of support and assistance. (Like the “I go to meetings and have a sponsor on speed dial” kind.)
4. I will always think positive.
If you always think positive, consider making an appointment with a psychiatrist, because you’re blocking out a big chunk of your humanity. Seriously. Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, and it’s perfectly acceptable – even advisable – to acknowledge that before diving into sewing a silver living.
5. I will never waste a day.
Time is a gift that should never be squandered! Except, well, humans get tired. Try to make most days count and you’ll be doing pretty good. (And what makes a day count, anyway?)
6. I will never be unloving towards my spouse.
The only thing harder than parenting is marriage, because that relationship doesn’t have the benefit of preserve-the-species instinct. You will be an asshole sometimes. It gives you the opportunity to perfect the apology.
7. I will never be mean.
I wish this were true. I don’t understand why it’s not. But everyone lashes out once in a while – at a bad driver, a professional rival, or a poorly trained customer service rep. Try to be kind whenever possible, but be prepared to offer yourself a little compassion when you aren’t.
8. I will always do my best.
Don’t tell my kids I said this, but sometimes your best just feels like too much work. Maybe you’re tired, or you have a lot on your mind, or you just fell into the rut of taking the easy way out. It happens.
9. I will always honor my values.
And shrines and temples will be built to honor you, because surely you must be divine. Mere mortals? We’re going to get this wrong once in a while.
10. I will always keep moving forward.
Life may be a journey, but it isn’t a straight shot down the road. There are detours and backtracks and short cuts that take you to abandoned gas stations 45 miles from the highway.
You will go backwards. You will stagnate. You will fall on your face before it’s all over.
And you will probably learn more from failing than you ever do from your successes.
Do the best you can as often as you can. Every day won’t be a personal best, but you will have triumphs. When you do, celebrate.
And when you don’t, be comforted by the knowledge that you are just as human as the rest of us.