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Are You Putting Too Many Expectations On Yourself?

by | Sep 24, 2003 | Self Esteem

Throughout my entire life, I have been known as the “good girl.” I always get good grades in school and now in college, teachers and professors love me, I never get into trouble and never have. I was the “quiet” and the “good” child. I was praised at a very young age for my “good manners” and my smile, and if I ever were to do something wrong, it was as if I had just irreversibly shocked and disappointed my entire family.

As I grew older, I developed very irrational and yet equally real fears of disappointing my family. I knew that my parents were having difficulties and I was always terrified of adding to their problems And if I knew that a member of my family was hurting or angry I took the blame for the problem because I would much rather have the blame be placed on me rather than have them angry at one another. Sometimes, I even invented crazy tales about how certain things were my fault, even though I had not been involved with them at all. I hid behind a masked smile and an automatic “I’m fine” reply to those people who asked if I were okay.

Eventually, the pressure to be “perfect” and to live up to all the expectations that, I felt, were placed on me and which I placed on myself, became too great for me to handle and I began to do things to myself that were detrimental to my health. I simply did not care. In perfect honesty, I didn’t even realize it because, by that time, I had become so focused on maintaining harmony in my home and among my friends and being “Miss Perfect” that my feelings were buried and I didn’t even realize hat I was acting in seriously harmful ways to myself.

I thought everyone was looking to me to keep their world in balance. I suppose now it was somewhat a selfish thought because intellectually we all know that one person cannot hold together everyone else’s life. My fiance brought it to my attention one day when he attempted to rub my shoulders and realized that I was incapable of relaxing. “Hey, listen,” he said, smiling to take the truth and the sting out of his words, “I know it’s hard for us to believe but the world will be okay if you take a moment and stop holding it together.” He is the first person, and the only person (or so I believed) in my life that has never expected me to be perfect. When I make a mistake (and I make hundreds of them) he talks to me about it and then. …it’s over. He doesn’t treat me any differently than he ever has.

A lot of us think that the people in our worlds expect certain things from us. They expect us to be perfect, to never fail and to always be calm and collected. At least, that’s what we think but you know what? I don’t believe that’s true.

We are our harshest critic: no one else expects as much out of us as we, ourselves do. If we can come to believe this as true then we can start living more joyful and fulfilling lives. When we have so many expectations on us and feel as though we must be perfect to be loved (which isn’t true at all) then every day seems to be a duty, an obligation, rather than a privilege. Some say, “I work best under pressure” and that may very well be true. I myself am one of those people. My mother says that when laced under pressure, I remind her of a bloodhound that will not quit until the task is done. But just because our work is the best then doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s when we’re at our happiest.

Life, in my opinion, has too many good surprises that we’ll miss if we only concern ourselves with reaching perfection. Not only that but no one knows better than ourselves that we fail constantly. Perfection is not attainable: we will not go one day without doing something we should not do because we are human. So when we fail, if we are perfectionists, then we must live daily with our guilt for not making that A or not being able to accomplish whatever we felt we should have.

Guilt is without a shadow of a doubt, the hardest emotion to face, so if we could look at ourselves and what we expect out of ourselves more honestly and realistically then some of our guilt could be diminished, leaving room for more happiness and joy.

Changing our belief patterns and our expectations is very difficult but it can be done. Use the determination that helps you accomplish so much perfection to say, “I’m not going to worry today. I’m going to go to the park and enjoy myself” Write a list that lists all the good things about yourself and that will help you balance your mistakes with your achievements. Talk about your emotions and fears to someone. I promise you, they would much rather you tell them how you really feel than for you to harm yourself, as I did. Surround yourself with friends that you feel comfortable with and that you don’t feel as though you have to impress. And remember that God knew you were going to fail often and He still created you. He still loves you and He’s not the only one. Relax and enjoy the gifts of life rather than attacking it. You’re loved just by opening your eyes each morning.

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