Yesterday, I got the “I hate you and everything you stand for” face from a barista. I asked for a 3/4 latte. I got a half pour so asked for a tiny top up. She gave me the face.
This woman is not my local barista. I will never see her again. She will not feature in the movie of my life and, if hadn’t got the face, I would never have given her a second thought post 3/4 latte.
So why did I spend the rest of the day replaying our milk-based passive aggression over and over in my mind?
Because everyone has to like me. Everyone. Even the people I don’t like. Because if I’m not likeable, I am a failure.
I know this is absolutely ridiculous. And this is just one of the many unrealistic expectations I place on myself.
Other self-imposed expectations include a Branson-like career trajectory, Buddha-like patience, JK Rowling’s bank balance, Zen Habits-style blog success, a model-esque appearance and perfect parent status. What could possible go wrong?
A few weeks ago, I talked about letting go of the great expectations we have of others. Self-imposed expectations are even more dangerous, so here are my top tips for getting rid of those unrealistic little suckers.
Drop the word “should” from your vocabulary
Do you start sentences with “I should really…” and end them by feeling shit because you haven’t, didn’t, won’t?
Should is the most dangerous word in the English language. I should be thinner. My salary should be higher. I should be married by now. I should be exercising/meditating/eating healthy/drinking less.
Should makes you feel bad. Should translates to “I am wrong. I am not good enough.” Try using “could” instead. Could is a choice word. Unlike should, could isn’t shrouded in shame and guilt. It allows you space to think about why you’re not [fill in blank here]. Perhaps it’s simply because you don’t want to. Perhaps your shame and guilt has been defeating you. Should is an obstacle. Move it out of your way.
Be realistic about change
Change is hard. It takes time. Be patient with yourself. Instead of berating yourself for not finishing the chapter of your novel, pat yourself on the back for those few incredible paragraphs you did write. Rather than feeling like a failure because you didn’t get to three yoga classes this week, congratulate yourself for getting to one and focus on how much your body and mind has benefitted.
Risk disapproval, then embrace it
As you may have guessed by the barista experience, this is a tricky one for me. But usually when others disapprove of you, it’s their issue. Push the envelope. Live your dream. Hit a nerve. The other option is you don’t do anything and they won’t care either way. And that’s much more scary.
Stop comparing yourself to other people
Yes, I’d love Wellbeing bites to be as big as Zen Habits. But it’s not Zen Habits. Yes, I’d love to look like Eva Mendes. But I’m not sure I could cope with the pressure of being Mrs Gosling anyway (well, maybe I could live with it). It’s so easy to compare yourself to others. But you will never be others. You will always be you. Perfect, flawed and fabulous you. You are epic. Go be you. Go be epic.
Today I went back to my usual barista. He gave me a 3/4 latte with a perfect little heart on top. And a smile. It was unexpected. And I think that’s why it felt so good.
What unrealistic expectations do you place on yourself? Any tips on how to manage your self-expectations? Please leave me a comment — I need all the help I can get.
Image by Ryan McGuire from www.gratisography.com
What a brilliant article. A long time ago you told me your dream job would be to be a writer for a magazine. You then went through a period of massive self doubt and panic that you weren’t good enough/ never going to make it / blah blah. I knew this was bollocks. I read your well being bites all the time and I spit in the face of your self doubt. PAH! Good stuff.
It took me a while to realise the dangers of ‘should ‘ and it has done me the world of good putting it in the bin.
Thanks Kaveh. Your comments have cheered me right up. Funny how I became a magazine editor and features writer but didn’t feel like I’d found my calling until I started writing about wellbeing. I also love the love in your spit – my self doubt has been put in it’s place!
Yep, should is a nasty little word. Good work on binning it. Im still struggling with it. Taking baby steps… x