I could make this a really short blog. “Controlling Expectations – You can’t”
There. Does that work? Too simplistic? And whose expectations? Ah, good question. That’s a really good place to start so I’ll start there.
Can I control my expectations of myself? Yes.
Can I control the expectations that others have of me? No.
So there we are. We have our answers. Now you might, as I might, read that and say to yourself, “Well that’s all well and good, but it’s not that simple is it?”
It is that simple. And of course it’s not really.
My focus is on self-esteem – how we feel about ourselves and the relationship we have with and to ourselves. It’s critical.
Invariably when I work with people the subject turns to expectations; and that is all about comparison. The comparison of the life we are leading to the life we feel we should be leading. The comparison of the life we are leading to the life that others feel we should be leading.
The former often shows as perfectionism. Nothing we do is good enough and there’s always more, always better, always a gap. And then there’s the all too common Imposter Syndrome. Whatever success is undeserved, and a fluke. “I’ll be found out soon…”
The latter? Well if we’re listening to what others think about how we should be leading our lives and we choose to find ourselves wanting then that’s going to have a fundamental impact – that belief that we are simply not ‘good enough’, ‘just not enough’.
Neither one is particularly helpful, even if it can for some prove to be a useful driver. I’d argue that there are more helpful drivers.
The aspect about issues with self-esteem is how that belief that we’re not enough somehow impacts so fundamentally on everything. You may argue (politely) that it doesn’t impact on everything, but I would say it does – it’s just the degree to which it impacts that may differ.
If I don’t compare myself to others then I can’t find myself wanting.
Nothing wrong with certain comparisons – they can show us where we are, or what we have left to do or achieve. So I can compare my ability to do something against somebody else to see where I am and what’s left to learn. If I am not as accomplished or as ‘good’ as that person (in terms of ability) then that doesn’t make me a loser, or a waste of space, or worthless. It just means there’s more to learn. It may even be a helpful thing, a positive thing.
But that’s not what most people do. Often it’s a stick that we pick up to beat ourselves with.
And allowing the expectations of others to determine how we feel about ourselves is accepting the stick that they’ve just handed you.
In either case – put down the stick.
So that’s all well and good. But often we want to feel better about ourselves but we don’t know how to. We try to convince ourselves but we don’t believe it. We pretend but it’s not enough.
In which case you might want to have a chat with somebody who is able to help you. It’s not that you can’t help yourself of course, however if that’s not working then do something different because…it’s not working.