Wanting to do your best, to tap into your highest potential, to challenge yourself to continuously learn and grow…
Setting high expectations is thought to be necessary if you want to succeed in your life along with developing a healthy sense of self worth. Having low expectations, on the contrary, may have you tolerate situations or behaviours that keep you small or may lead you to underachieving in life.
By setting the bar high, you challenge yourself to regularly get out of your comfort zone so
you can reach new results. As you always try to UpLevel, you become more efficient and improve the quality of your realizations while continuing to unleash your potential. Constantly balancing the level of challenge against the level of competency is an excellent way to remain stimulated and achieve mastery.
Setting high expectations is also a good way to prevent yourself from settling for less than you deserve. When you achieve the goals you set out for yourself, your self image is positively affected; you improve your self esteem and grow your self confidence. The healthier your self esteem is, the less likely you are to accept disempowering situation or behaviours.
What can potentially be wrong with that then?
Well… Too often, high expectations simply hide an irrepressible need for control which not only can be an immense source of stress but also lead to a feeling of constant dissatisfaction and self-criticism.
Ok, let’s start with an example. You’ve just started a new job after quitting the last one which started to get the best of you considering the lack of recognition you experienced despite your irreproachable commitment.
You’re doing well so far, being a quick learner but you are conscious about being on a probation period and the new environment doesn’t make it easy for you to act with confidence.
Everyone is out for lunch and you’ve just received an email from a client which you must reply to. Waiting for your manager’s return to proof-read your response would demonstrate a lack of initiative or they might find out that you didn’t know what to do which would make them doubt your competency. What should I do? What should I do?! Panic starts rising, you’re sweating, your mouth is dry and your breath is going faster.
Suddenly, a colleague comes back as they forgot their bag. They asked if you’d like to join them for lunch and you politely reply that you’ve got an email to finish. They come take a look and naturally give you that one piece of advice that you needed to switch off that inner chaos. You’d done everything right and they simply validate your decision so your email can be sent.
Thank god they didn’t realize the apocalyptic inner process you were going through. You feel silly now, it was just an email after all. You’ve sent plenty of them before ! So what happened there?
Too high expectations !
You were not simply trying to do your best, you wanted that email to be perfect dreading the simple idea of making a mistake or worse… failing !
Are you still with me?
Setting too high expectations may become a source of intense stress which may not only hinder your success but also cause profound ills.
1 - Your expectations are driven by a need for external validation
They often come with underlying issues such as toxic perfectionism, fears (of failure, of change, of intimacy, abandonment, rejection…), low self esteem,…which turn expectations into an all or nothing type of scenario:
« Eg. If I am not perfect, I won’t be loved. Or, If I make a single mistake, I will be seen as a failure and ultimately be rejected. The world is dangerous so I need to be in control…»
These core beliefs often come from patterns learnt in childhood when having a caregiver that was always expecting the very best of you or would display strong emotions when things didn’t go their way.
> Ask yourself: Is this belief true? How is it affecting my success?
is this what I really want, or is it what my family, friends, or society want from me?
2 - You're constantly pursuing more without acknowledging yourself for what you have already achieved. You feel dissatisfied.
Too high expectations are no longer a challenging goal to pursue but rather become a constant pressure to achieve the unachievable that cause a huge source of stress and a constant dissatisfaction.
When setting your goals you usually don’t aim for good results, you aim for exact results. You don’t aim for a healthy work life balance, you aim for 5K months, a promotion during your first year of employment in that new company, being top performer while buying a house and getting married before you turn 30.
They may lead to setting yourself up to fail so you can unconsciously prove your fears valid or they may prevent you from feeling satisfied and appreciative of your achievements.
Instead of celebrating your achievement, you’re jumping right away on setting up the next goal and/or focus on the small things that didn’t go as expected despite your success.
Do you often feel that your accomplishments were due to some kind of luck? Is it hard for you to accept compliments or praise on your achievements?
If subconsciously you feel that you are not worthy, no accomplishment will give you satisfaction but rather make you feel like an imposter who is afraid to be found out - « I’m not as capable as they think ».
No praise or success will have you feel that you are enough so you will keep running in vain after more.
Ask yourself > What is your « why »?
Take a moment to assess your vision of success. How is that serving you? What truly matters for you, what do you value most? How do you celebrate your successes?
Build up your self esteem & self worth.
3 - You have a very extensive list of expectations for all areas of your life.
Having a very extensive list of expectations for all areas of your life and focusing carefully on everything to go your way is a hidden attempt to resist change and uncertainty.
Unfortunately, living in the illusion that you actually control everything will position you as the only one to blame when life inevitably throws unexpected events at you.
This accumulation of guilt and shame will have you going through a very unhealthy pattern of self criticism that can ultimately lead you to severe mood swings, depression, anxiety disorder, burn out and more.
> Ask: Keep track of your emotions and determine what's the expectation behind what you’re feeling (eg. frustrated, let down, annoyed...) ?
How does this expectation hold you back? What would you lose by letting go of this expectation? What would you gain?
4 - You often feel let down by others. You have feelings of frustration or resentment.
Why do we keep thinking we’ve got to do it all by ourselves?! We pride ourselves on “not settling,” yet we also think asking for support is a form of weakness.
Did you tell anyone when you felt overwhelmed the other day? Did you ask your partner to support you more these days cause you struggle to juggle it all? Did you say « no » to that new project cause your workload is already full?…
We slip so easily into criticizing ourselves or those around us for not reaching those unreachable expectations that we no longer expect anyone to be HUMAN BEINGS.
Always on top of anyone else’s needs, you are able to suppress your own to fulfill those of others as a priority because « you can handle it ».
Can you though? Do you know your limits? Do you feel tired, stressed, anxious…? When will you know that you are at capacity and need to stop overdelivering?
What would happen if you stop overdelivering? What are you afraid might happen? Here come the fears of abandonment/rejection/intimacy…
Eg. Fear of intimacy may have you expect too much of others so you have a perfect excuse to push them away. Or, fear of abandonment may have you overdeliver so you can make yourself an indispensable element.
By making sure everyone else feels supported and taken care of, you often feel let down by others when it comes to receiving support or even annoyed by those who can’t « control it all ».
I feel you ! It’s hard when you give sooo much to note that others were not able to do that little thing you’re asking for in return. (You asked them, didn’t you?)
The thing is, giving isn’t a business transaction where what you give should be returned in equal mesure. But I take that you know that, right?
So let me ask now, how much of your self esteem comes from your relationships?
If you find yourself constantly overdelivering, it might be a way for you to compensate the feeling of not being enough. This may lead to codependent behaviours where you unconsciously help and do everything so then others have to make you feel good in return. Isn’t that a lot to put on them?
What feelings of guilt and shame that you carry, make you choose to do it all? Or are you constantly throwing yourself into toxic relationships?
Ask yourself > Do you clearly communicate your needs and ask for help when needed?
What are m
y expectations around this person? Is that reasonable?
What are you focusing on in this relationship (People are who they are, not what you want them to be….)?
What is making me feel that I have to overdeliver? When did I pick this up, was it in childhood?
Practice Gratitude & Compassion + Know your boundaries !
Isn't it time to let go of the guilt & shame so you can embrace YOUR authentic success? How about revisit
ing that notion of success all together along with raising your self esteem so you can embrace your ambition with serenity?
That’s part of what we do in our 1:1 holistic coaching programme.