I heard a good quote the other day: “Assumptions is the mother of all screw ups.” At least that’s the polite version.
And I completely agree with this. But in my life, expectation has played a more central role. It’s led to very real screw ups, along with so, so many screw ups that only ever occurred in my head, but were often more upsetting and lengthy than the actual ones.
Years ago, when I had my course of CBT, my therapist and I worked out that the root of many of my issues was my own unrealistic expectations of myself. I’ve written before about the dangers of turning your role models into superheroes. Through my discussions in therapy, I realised that not only was I doing this to people around me, but I was also trying to be someone/something that didn’t exist.
I didn’t just want to be a good teacher; I wanted to be this kind of superwoman educator who never lost her cool, no matter what or whom she was dealing with; delivered a TED-style presentation every time she spoke; was loved and adored by staff and students; and was basically a teaching-version of Mary Poppins…. ‘practically perfect in every way!’ And I wondered why I felt like an impostor?!
This mindset that I’m either perfect or utter rubbish still haunts me, but I’m aware of it now and I don’t buy into it anymore. I can laugh at it from an objective view, because it’s pretty ridiculous, but I still have to manage it, especially if I’m feeling particularly anxious at the time. By no means am I cured – but I am more realistic. I know that I can learn to be better at certain things, but I’ll still be me underneath.
And that’s OK.
I am OK.
Expectations have also messed with my relationships, either because I expect something from someone that they don’t live up to; or because I think that someone will expect me to do something that I don’t really want to do, and then I either end up doing it against my own judgement, or not doing it and feeling anxiety in my gut for days as a result. This is the inner (or outer?) people-pleaser at work. I often seem to have that conflict – either I let myself down, or I let down someone I care about.
Years ago, I remember Tony Robbins saying that so much of conflict in life is because people have completely different values and mindsets, and as a result have completely different expectations of how they and others should behave. Keeping this in mind allows me to be much more forgiving of others – now I just need to work on applying this to myself.
For now, I’m just going to attempt to approach myself and others with no expectations at all. And let’s just see what happens.
Are you a tragic people-pleasure like I am? Do you have insanely high expectations of what you need to do/be/say/accomplish, just to feel like you’re good enough? Have you found ways to manage this? Guidance welcome: