Expectations - What’s Up with Them?
Expectations are a part of life that keeps us grounded. They help to keep us from living in constant uncertainty and fear. For example, every morning, I expect the sun to rise. When I push start on my coffee maker, I expect the morning coffee I love. When I turn on my shower, I expect hot water. Why? Because those things have happened consistently and repeatedly over a long period of time, I can realistically expect the outcome. Can you imagine living without some degree of certainty that certain things will or won’t happen? Life would be unbearable and desperately difficult.
It’s when my expectations are unrealistic that things get messed up. See if you can identify with any of these statements:
- If I never let you see the authentic me, then you’ll never see I’m really a fearful person.
- If I constantly limit my food and run all those miles, I, undoubtedly, can make my body look a certain way.
- If I always say things to agree with you, then I never have to deal with conflict.
- If I always push away hurt and pain, I’ll never have to deal with my anxiety and depression.
I’ve thought and lived by each one of these statements. I’ve been wrapped up in the highlighted black-and-white words above. It happens when my perfectionism consumes me. This is where my unrealistic expectations thrive. I now understand that I used all of this to gain a sense of control in my very chaotic world growing up; and try to hide my shame and deep pain.
What helps me avoid perfectionism, black-and-white reasoning, and unrealistic expectations? It’s acceptance. Acceptance of all my feelings, acceptance of all that happens around me. It’s not assuming I know the thinking and intentions of others. It’s being humble enough to hold with open hands the reality of what’s around me and within me and render no judgment.
Today, I am much better at realizing when I’m beginning to build unrealistic expectations of myself and others. Sometimes I still need help from those close to me to see it happening and gently remind me of what acceptance looks like. But that’s the beauty of my recovery journey. I don’t have to expect myself to have it all together---that would be an unrealistic expectation.
Kelli Evans is a Recovery Ambassador for ERC/Pathlight who lives in recovery from an eating disorder, anxiety and depressive disorders. She loves sunrises, strong coffee, and hot showers, in addition to hiking in the mountains, playing with her family, and reading historical fiction.