Thursday, January 8, 2009

Expectation Creation

Do you consider yourself a person with high expectations?

I never used to... but after forcing myself to take a deep, down look inside I realized my expectations were sky high... Not that I'm knocking expectations! I think expectations are great. They serve as a helpful reminder to go after your goals or to allow you to gain the respect you know you deserve. They help you strive for things in life. But, as with most things, there is a flip side to this idea.

When expectations take on a life of their own, it could mean trouble. I've often found this to be the case. Sometimes I have such high expectations for things around me I'm almost definitely setting myself up for an inevitable letdown. And let's face it, I can't control what happens around me. So why do I EXPECT that I can? I subscribe to the notion that everyone will treat me with kindness and respect, I'll get raises and promotions because I work hard, my husband will always want to spend time with me because he loves me so much, my friends will always call me first in a crisis for advice and good things will come to me if I put good things out there. Now at this point, you're probably doing one of two things: 1) nodding your head feverishly in agreement and thinking that is absolutely the way things should work or 2) rolling your eyes so far back into your head they practically disappear. I'm basing a whole lot of my feelings on the way I feel things SHOULD be and how I EXPECT them to be. You can almost see the disappointment awaiting me in the future. Now I also tend to hold myself to sky high expectations. I expect my work to always be right, I expect to know the answers to people's questions, know the right thing to do should a problem arise and I always expect to land anything I pursue.

I think it's easy to see how unreasonable expectations can set you up for disaster. And a lot of people with anxiety tend to have unrealistic expectations... perfectionism is one big one I've noticed. Anxious people want things to always run smoothly, to always be perfect. They want the world to be fair. They want praise from their bosses and kudos from friends. And they bust their butts trying to get it all. I know I did... for a very long time. I would spend hours obsessively beating myself up if I thought I said something stupid at work or incorrect at class. When I went for my yoga certification I was terrified that everyone would judge me because I couldn't touch my toes. I over analyzed every move I made (and every move everyone else made!) and caused myself immense anxiety and pain.

The reality is though... that there is no such thing as perfect. But there is such a thing as expectations being too high, too unrealistic, too unobtainable. The fact is, life is life. You can't control it. You can't predict it... and sometimes that is half the fun. Things aren't always fair and things won't always turn out the way you want them to, but what you can take control of is how you perceive it when things don't go the way you expect them to. Don't beat yourself up if you think you said something stupid because no one else even noticed. Don't get down on yourself for not losing 10 pounds in a week, celebrate the fact that you're working out or that you lost one pound or that you're doing something good for yourself! Don't expect the world... because you might never get it. Instead, try to look at things with no judgement and no expectations and look forward to whatever is thrown your way.

And if you do find yourself caught up in a high expectation... bring yourself back down. And then be proud of yourself for doing so!

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