Anna Nugent

It is so easy when you are feeling at sea to start to compare your life to others. Others who are your same age or gender or in the same field or doing something altogether different than you. It is so easy to be able to look at someone else and to see what you think should be happening for you or where you should be at. Unrealistic expectations are really hard for over-achievers to come to terms with. Idealism is by definition an “unrealistic belief in or pursuit of perfection” (Oxford Living Dictionaries – English). I think I’ve always been an idealist in one way or another. At times it has caused me great pain and at other times and in other ways it has served me greatly. A lot of the illness in my life can be directly attributed to the recurrence of over-extending myself. And my positivity and go get ‘em attitude, my moving to a foreign country, all my adventures and risk-taking, can be attributed to that idealistic side, to those rose-coloured glasses.

How then do these expectations and beliefs get all out of whack? I see it in my own life particularly when budgeting anything from time to money. There is what I believe I should be able to get done, what any normal person could get done, there is what I would like to get done and what I am actually able to get done and at the same time enjoy some balance. Very rarely are all of these in alignment. Expectations, even ones we think are very realistic based on our ability, have a way of being inflated. Mostly because they are formed in the laboratory of our mind, but played out in the reality of our world. In our mind when we are weighing the possibilities we don’t see the late buses, the colds that sneaks up on you, the exhaustion from a long and productive day, the friend who needs a chat because of their break-up, the celebration of your friend’s new job, those are all conveniently left out of the equation. So then, as our expectations turn into disappointments we wonder what happened and we beat ourselves up for not being able to live up to our own expectations.

I for one would like to change this pattern. I’ve been practicing being more forgiving of myself when I do fail to meet expectations. But for real change, I need to start at the source, where the expectations and beliefs are formed. There have been multiple instances for me in the past couple of weeks that have brought this home for me and have brought me back to the drawing board and led me to withdraw from events that I would have preferred to be able to take part in. I’m still learning how to tell the difference between the different forms of resistance I have – when am I being a petulant child and when am I experiencing a reality check? If I was able to set more realistic expectations with my money and time, I would have to say “no” a lot more, but I would also feel more accomplished and in alignment with my true self and my desires. I don’t know “how” to make this shift, but I know it is necessary for my own health and sanity.

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