Dealing With Your Own High Expectations
Are the expectations we have for ourselves too high?
That’s the question I’m asking myself as I melt down (on the inside and in a cranky way with my family) because I have more plans than I have hours in a day.
I’m sure the answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. But how do we figure out if any feelings of being a failure or of letting ourselves down are of our own making because our expectations are simply too high?
To be clear, I think it’s a good thing to set difficult goals that require hard work, effort, and some amount of sacrifice. Nothing great is achieved unless you’re willing to work for it.
But for anyone else who berates yourself for not doing enough, for failing, for setting impossible goals you can never meet, maybe we didn’t fail and quite possibly we do exactly enough. And maybe the real problem is that we expect way too much of ourselves.
If you think this might be you (and it’s definitely me), here are some questions to ask ourselves.
Will Anyone Else Care if It Doesn’t Get Done?
I’d like to think that readers will care if they don’t see a blog post for a while, but no one in my audience is watching the clock, sending mean DMs, or demanding content from me, either.
Yes, I believe in schedules and routines. Yes, I think it’s better to be consistent than haphazard with content. But ultimately, is anyone expecting this thing I just can’t do (but have convinced myself is the most important thing ever)? If the answer is no, sometimes the real answer is to let it go for another day.
Try again tomorrow. Or next week. Relax. Breathe. A missed blog post doesn’t come close to being a real emergency.
What Else Have You Done Already?
It’s easy to get caught up in what we haven’t done — and use it as a cudgel against ourselves. But let’s get some perspective and think about what we did get done.
If this is a day when the answer to that is, “Nothing,” that’s not automatically bad. Sometimes it’s a down day or part of our self care. But if you’re staring at a to-do list you can’t possibly complete in a single day, focus on what you did get done. Especially if something was challenging or required more effort/time than you thought it would.
Getting one major thing done deserves a pat on the back, even if the rest of your list is staring you with hurt accusation in its metaphorical eyes.
Do You Need a Reality Check?
I have a tendency to make mountains out of molehills. Across every website I run, I aim to publish 8-10 pieces of content a week (in total). That’s a lot of fucking words about sex, kink, and writing, y’all.
But if I only publish five blog posts, am I really “failing” at anything? I work full-time as a freelance writer (just like others work full-time at day jobs) so like you, I’m juggling work and blogs (and everything else!). Most of us would kill for five pieces of content in a week, right?
So why am I acting like I’m “failing” for not hitting my ideal target? It’s time for a reality check.
Your version might be that you published one piece instead of the three you planned. One is much better than none. Maybe you missed this week, but did you put content out last week? You’re not failing!
Is This a Blip or a New Pattern?
The hardest one to know, for certain, is whether this moment when you feel like a failure is a blip or if it’s part of a larger pattern. And your answer could be that it’s part of a new pattern. You’re still not failing at anything.
Once you recognize that you’re in a pattern that makes it difficult to get things done, you either adjust your behavior to correct the pattern OR you adjust your expectations to meet your new reality/pattern. Sometimes the pattern is out of our control thanks to work, family, health, or other factors.
And if it’s a blip (much of the time it is), take a deep breath and remember everything you’ve done up to this point. You’re allowed to have off days, and none of us should expect perfection — from ourselves or others. We all have blips. This isn’t your first, and it won’t be your last.
Would You Be This Judgmental With a Friend?
When you start berating yourself, it’s a toxic thing. It’s easy to get pulled into the “I suck” mindset. It’s easy, but it’s not productive.
So when you think you’ve failed at anything, step back a bit. Would you talk to a fellow sex blogger or smutlancer like this? Probably not. So why are you talking to yourself like this?
As hard (or strange) as it may be to do, pretend you’re talking to someone else, especially someone you really like. What would you say to them? Okay, now say it to yourself.
This blog post is brought to you by my melt down over not feeling like I have enough time to deal with an upcoming move, client work, five pieces of blog content, a kids school project (due tomorrow!), dinner, and all the other things that go into living life. Basically, these are the things I need to ask myself until I calm the fuck down. So if you recognize yourself in any of this, just know that you’re not alone.
Do you think you set your expectations too high sometimes? Too low? Just right? Share in the comments below or talk to me on Twitter!
Exactly what I needed to read.
I do have a hard time with the “will anyone care if it doesn’t get done” part because it often sends me into a spiral of “no one cares about my work at all” and ugh.
This is really good advice tho, I will try to keep it in mind when I become my own worst boss.
That is DEFINITELY the flip side of that particular question because imposter syndrome, fear, anxiety, pick a reason will keep you from creating content…so be careful when you ask yourself that question!
This is so me. I have a daily priority list that I try to keep manageable, but even then, I don’t always get it done. It’s hard to let myself off the hook and not feel bad, especially when I see others seemingly doing it all. I’m terrible about comparing myself.
Your points are a great reminder!
The thing I try to remember (when I compare myself) is that those people have their own hang ups, insecurities, and things they think they suck at too.