Battling Expectations

by Jennifer Haynie @JenniferHaynie1

On the way back from a daylong conference, I had a conversation with my coworker, Marie.* Marie is a few years older than I, in her mid-fifties, and has been in graduate school while working full time. This entails not only studying but also heading out of town each weekend to attend class. I truly admire her for considering the next steps of her life after she retires from the State.

I also know that stretching herself to accomplish her Master’s Degree can weigh on her, especially at this point in the semester when the work piles up not just at the office but also at school.

During our trip home after a daylong conference, she gave voice to the strain. “I know I should exercise more, and my chiropractor is after me to do that. I’m already doing what I can. I’m doing my best to get some sleep. I come home from work, then right after supper hit the books to work on my next paper. And I’m not getting all of my reading done. I know I should exercise. And I feel horrible about not getting all of my work done.”

In essence, I think she felt as if she were failing a lot of people: her doctor, her professors, maybe even herself.

Expectations. We feel those from others and ourselves. They can be good to motivate us in setting up good habits and accomplishing things. But when taken too far, they can raise our anxiety levels.

The problem is, some only see tiny snapshots at our lives. Our doctors may hear about our complaints related to aches and pains. Or notice a weight gain. They tell us what we already know. We need to exercise, get our rest, and eat better. What they don’t see are the piles of laundry to be done, the children that need attending, or the traveling related to our jobs.

We also place high expectations on ourselves, and when we don’t meet them, we feel like we’ve failed someone, especially ourselves. I’m certainly guilty of this. During October, I had the expectation of painting our recently renovated craft room so we could move all of the furniture back in. That would enable me clean up my office.

Then came my mother’s unexpected hospitalization and some other things (good, fortunately) that popped up. I fell behind. Cue the feeling like I failed. Steve, my husband, offered to finish off the painting. Meaning that once more, he did the lion’s share of the work. Double the feeling like a failure.

But Steve made a good point. Other things were going on that needed my attention. It was okay to let the craft room slide a bit.

Life can be like that. Should we keep pushing things off for forever? No, absolutely not. But sometimes, we need to give ourselves some grace. Sometimes, things have to slide, and we can either rely on others to help us (which is community) or pick them back up later.

As for those on the outside like doctors who only see narrow slivers of our lives? They mean well, and we need to take what they say to heart. But we also need to realize that we’re finite humans with the same amount of time as everyone else. We’ll get to it when we can.

Marie has already done something to kick-start her return to fitness. She’s registered for a 5k that will happen after classes finish. And that craft room I mentioned? We’re still working on it. This weekend (I hope), we'll finish it.

Having expectations can motivate us to set up good habits and accomplish goals. They can also raise our anxiety levels. #authenticity #encouragement Click To Tweet

*Name has been changed.

Question: When have you felt stretched to the point where you felt like you were failing either others or yourself? How did you get beyond that?

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