4 Practical Ways to Shatter the Weight of Expectations

Are you like me? Many times when I arrive home after a trip to the store I will try to carry in all my bags in one trip. It doesn’t matter how many bags there are. I will keep putting them in my hands attempting to carry them all. If I can just get that one last bag…and then it is one too many! The bottom of one of the overburdened bags rips open, and all that is inside spills out onto the driveway.

Photo Credit: akunamatata via Compfight cc

I liken this experience to the weight of expectations that I sometimes try to carry. I keep loading them on myself thinking only of pleasing others. I rarely stop to consider if the expectations are proper, much less realistic! I simply feel the burden to carry as much as possible.

Expectations come in all shapes and sizes. When dealing with other people I find that these expectations are usually in the form of a task someone wishes for me to perform. It is often a task that will require a commitment of time. The communication of the expectation may be direct in the form of a command. However, many times expectations are unsaid. These usually come from those closest to us.

Most often I find that expectations I am wrestling with are self-imposed. I expect perfection out of myself. I expect that I can squeeze in my whole to-do list. I expect that I can do hours upon hours of physical labor without getting weary. Self-imposed expectations can be crippling because they affect how I perceive myself.

Regardless of where expectations come from, it is important to deal with them to maintain good mental health. Here are four ideas for how to deal with expectations:

  1. Is the expectation realistic? – Is the expectation I am asked to fulfill physically possible? Am I capable of meeting the deadline to get this done? Self-imposed expectations or those from whom we are close, such as family, can be some of the most unrealistic expectations to face. It is important to determine if the standard to which I am challenged is realistic.
  2. Take a step back and evaluate: is this in line with my goals? – Expectations can provide motivation to meet a goal. They can also distract me from where I need to focus most. Evaluating expectations in light of established goals will bring clarity. This clarity can illuminate my decision making and keep me focused on what is important.
  3. How would I council a friend if they came to me in the same situation? – If a friend came to me and shared a difficulty in dealing with an imposed expectation, what would I say? It is helpful to step outside myself and look at the problem from a different angle. This can give me another prospective for consideration. I am much more likely to be fair and impartial in evaluating a friend’s situation than I am with my own. It is important to give myself some of the same grace I would extend to a friend.
  4. Talk to someone you trust – It is critically important to maintain relationships with people with whom I can be “real.” I am not talking about a casual everyday, “how’s it going? / fine” relationship. In moments of dealing with issues of life that touch my innermost being, I need someone who I can trust. If I need help in evaluating the expectations I am facing, a trusted friend can help me to see the truth of the matter. This council can be invaluable in moving forward in peace.

Dealing with expectations, self-imposed or otherwise, is a part of life. Doing so in a consistent and healthy manner will lighten the load to carry every day.

Question: How do you deal with expectations that you place on yourself? How about dealing with expectations placed on you by others? Which expectations do you find the most challenging? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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