Like many people, you might have high expectations for yourself. Perhaps you also take pride in that you hold yourself to high standards.
But what happens when you don’t measure up to your own expectations? Do you take these setbacks in stride, or do they become major obstacles that cause you anxiety?
It’s okay that you have high expectations. However, when those expectations get in the way of your mental health, it’s time to pause, reflect, and treat yourself with kindness.
Let’s start by understanding the influence of anxiety on expectations and what to do about it.
Where High Expectations Originate
There are two typical sources of high expectations, including:
- Personal experiences in your life where you set for yourself a standard that you either wanted or felt obligated to meet
- Expectations set by society that you find relevant or feel you must aspire to
These expectations influence your personal and professional decisions. For example, in your personal life, you hold specific standards for qualities that you seek in a partner. Or, in your professional life, these standards influence which career field you wish to pursue. But they affect anxiety, too.
The Good and the Bad of Expectations
Let’s be honest; it’s perfectly okay to have expectations for yourself. These are the qualities with which you measure your life — everyone has expectations.
On the one hand, many individuals have relatively low or nonexistent expectations for themselves. Those situations are not always pretty. On the other hand, other individuals have near-perfect expectations.
However, the critical issue is what happens when you don’t meet those expectations? How do you treat yourself? Do you label yourself a “failure” or otherwise treat yourself poorly?
In these cases, expectations can have a negative impact. They cause you to view yourself in such a negative light that it affects your mental health, as well as how you perceive yourself.
The Influence of Anxiety, Expectations, and Failure
When you don’t meet your own expectations, it’s easy to label yourself as a failure. This behavior often happens when you put forth energy and resources toward meeting an expectation or maintaining it.
For instance, someone who is very physically fit will have a strict training regimen and diet. But what happens when intentions fall short? Perhaps they missed a few workouts or indulged in a delicious treat.
Afterward, they might feel anxious, guilty, or even ashamed of themselves. Even the thought of failure causes anxiety. Do you see the slippery slope?
Finding Balance Between Expectations and Reality
If you have found yourself in any of the situations above, it’s okay. Please recognize that not meeting a particular expectation of yourself is not a reflection of who you are as a person. Instead, perhaps it’s a sign that to find a greater balance between having expectations and reality.
Set high expectations for yourself; however, recognize that those expectations are not who you are. They don’t define you. Therefore, when you don’t meet a particular expectation, hold back from judging yourself too harshly. Know that you are still innately good and have so much to offer.
Reframing “Failure” as Setbacks
When you “fail” to meet a standard for yourself, reframe the situation. Instead, try to look at it more as a setback and learning opportunity. What prevented you from completing the expectation?
For example, perhaps you establish that it’s critical to be kind to others. That’s great! We could all use more kindness in this world. But, if you find yourself in a situation where you weren’t kind, what happens? Rather than judge yourself, use the experience as an opportunity to reflect, learn, and grow.
Countering Your Self-Talk
Often, self-talk is the reason you struggle with your own expectations. Self-talk is what you tell yourself when it comes to your own abilities. If your self-talk is negative, try to counter with a more positive voice.
Remind yourself of the qualities you possess that are tremendous. When you hear negative self-talk rising in your mind, use logic to push back. Often, our negative self-talk isn’t based on reality. Instead, it comes from perceptions of ourselves.
If left unaddressed, your high expectations will be a source of stress and anxiety — but it doesn’t have to be an influence of pressure for you.
By approaching expectations from a strengths-based perspective, you can use those expectations to improve yourself. However, if you struggle with this issue, reach out to me today or visit my Anxiety Counseling page to learn more about how Anxiety Counseling can help.