Expectations are a really great thing to have, and we need them in order to feel valued and to be treated the way that that we deserve to be treated, but there are times when having expectations that are too high can cause a lot of issues.
High vs. Low Expectations
When we have low expectations this can lead to us feeling like we are being taken advantage of, people might manipulate us and we hold ourselves back from reaching our full potential. When we have high expectations, we can see this as a stepping stone to success - that it's a sign of high ambition and drive.
However, high expectations can be a form of control and can cause more stress and unhappiness!
We deserve the best and we deserve to be treated well, with respect, and valued. But the problem with having high expectations is when we expect a specific result, rather than just a positive one. So for example, if you were giving a presentation at work, your high expectations for yourself might be that you're not allowed to make any mistakes, that you have to hold everyone's attention or that you should get a roaring round of applause at the end. If any of those aren't achieved: you make a mistake; people are looking around or distracted, or you don't get a standing ovation at the end, you then start to blame yourself and your self worth takes a hit. You start to question if you're good enough, you start to question what you've done wrong and you blame yourself.
It's the same when we have high expectations of other people. It is really important that you have high expectations, so that you're not taken advantage of, and that people treat you the way you deserve but
if you have them too high, you end up judging people or criticising them for things that might be beyond their control. For example, maybe your expectation of your partner is that if you've had a bad day or you need to talk to them about something then they should always be there to listen to and support you when you're having a rough day. That's an okay expectation to have, however if they have had a bad day themselves, if they're low on energy because they've had a really busy day and they just can't give you the attention that you need, you then end up feeling resentful to them because they've let you down. You feel like they're not there for you when really, they have their own things going on as well.
Signs your expectations are too high
You see yourself as a perfectionist
You feel guilty a lot
You experience resentment towards others or feeling let down
Something small can massively affect your day e.g. hitting every red light on your commute, a friend being late for your catch up etc.
Where do our expectations come from?
1) Low self esteem
You feel you have to prove yourself and therefore set really high expectations, but what then happens is you set them so high and make it very difficult for yourself to achieve them. It's a self fulfilling prophecy - you then feel like because you haven't achieved it, that you were right to feel useless, worthless or like you can't do anything.
2) Fear of failure
You can be so worried about failing or being seen as not good enough, that you set high expectations that you push yourself to achieve and then you end up feeling worse about yourself, feel burnt out and stressed all the time. This can then lead to your physical health deteriorating!
3) Fear of intimacy
If you have high expectations of friends, family or your partner, you might set really high expectations so that you can push them away if they don't reach them. You've got a reason not to get close to them!
You feel like you have to do everything perfectly all the time and so set yourself ridiculously high standards that no one else is expecting!
5) Limiting beliefs
You might believe that in order to be accepted or to be loved that you have to be perfect and that you have to get things right all the time or be the best. Maybe you were praised as a child for being really clever and now feel you have to live up to that or people will be disappointed in you. Or it could be that you feel like people will only let you down so you have to set really high expectations and they have to meet those in order to be worthy of you. If you've had experiences where others have hurt you, you believe that everyone will do that and you find ways to make them prove they won't.
Changing Your Expectations
Once you understand that your expectations might be too high, it's time to start thinking about how you can manage and tweak them so they don't have a negative affect on your life.
The first thing to do is to get clear on where your expectations are too high. Think about the different areas of your life: work, friends, family, finances, health, appearance, etc. What are your expectations for those different areas? For example, in your work life do you feel like your work should always be at a very high standard, even when your workload increases? Do you try to maintain exceptionally high standards above what others expect or need? Are you expecting that you do things perfectly all the time and that you never make mistakes?
The next step is to think about your day to day expectations. Where do you get frustrated, annoyed or disappointed? For example, if you forgot to respond to a message from a friend or overslept because your alarm didn't go off, do you beat yourself up and give yourself a hard time?
Now that you've identified these areas ask yourself the following questions for each one:
Where does this expectation come from?
How is this expectation holding me back?
How can I start to release this expectation?
What would I lose by letting go of this expectation? (E.g. control)
What would I gain by letting go of this expectation?
For example, one of the high expectations that I had of myself was that I thought that when I do lives or videos that I have to look at the screen all the time, and can't look at my notes. However, that was just making me stressed, and as an introvert, I don't do well just speaking off the cuff. I need to write things down and process my thoughts. This expectation came from business coaches who said it was unprofessional to have notes while presenting, however, when I thought about how I would feel if I was watching someone and they referred to their notes, I would see them as far more relatable, incredibly prepared and committed to making sure that they delivered what they set out to. So I started to release the expectation by testing out how it felt to use my notes and even make a point of saying this on my lives - and guess what? I feel more confident and calm and therefore I provide so much more value to my followers!
Take some time to assess your own life and where you may be putting too much pressure on yourself or others.