I have always struggled with the way I handle the expectations I put on myself. I’m a very hyper-motivated person with an intense fear of failure. If I’m going to do something, I want it to be awesome. If it can’t be awesome, I beat myself up about it and sometimes I give up totally. I’ve always had a little of this in me but it came on full force in college. The anxiety that it produced actually brought on some very serious health issues. I’ve since got some of that anxiety under control but it still rears its ugly head every now and again. Who am I kidding?? Like almost weekly… meh… daily. Well I guess I can say it’s not to the same severity but let’s just say that, to this day, I can really only drink decaf coffee because my heart does enough racing on it’s own. I wanted to pinpoint some of the areas where I am really struggling and some areas where I’ve made some progress. I am going to be totally honest in this post, in hopes that someone who also has ridiculous expectations for themselves, can be encouraged.
Areas I Struggle:
Social Media- This is the definition of a love/hate relationship for me. I love the connections you make, the networking possibilities, the inspiration and encouragement, and I love seeing life through pictures. BUT I hate the pressure I feel sometimes from it, the insecurities that come out when people don’t like a sign I’ve worked hard on, when follower counts don’t grow, the time it steals from my day, and the fakeness of it that sucks you in and makes you fall HARD into the comparison trap with the 1,000 other perfect small businesses, houses, and cool stuff.
Ambitions- I have a million things in my mind I want to do! Have a small business making signs, have a legit blog, build a platform, end world hunger, save all the babies, stop human trafficking, protect all of the women and children that are victims of violence, and the list goes on. Then I look at that list, get super overwhelmed, have no idea where to start, feel like a failure, then say to myself, “maybe tomorrow.” I feel like the laziest, most motivated person in the world. Does that make any sense to you? Because in my mind it does. I want to do BIG things. I want to have a BIG impact. I want to leave a legacy to my children in more ways than one. But wow that sounds exhausting and overwhelming and I lack resources, time, and money. EEK! Butttttt then I’m like oh wahhhh Dana! Just do something! Do you see the battle I face in my mind. You don’t want a day in this brain HA!
Parenting- I’m a teacher for crying out loud, so there should be projects, and reading activities, and sensory integration happening all over my house right?? Well um no. Sometimes, yes. But not as much as I think I should. We do lots and lots of play and reading and all kinds of stuff but none of it is really planned out. Maybes it’s the teacher in me that makes me feel like I should have some sort of lesson plan set up for my kid but I don’t. Because that’s not real life. Rowan has had physical and occupational therapy since he was 9 months old because of some leg/ankle/hip issues and some eating issues. Now, 6 months later he has made great progress but now we are facing what could be some speech issues. He’s super talkative with babble and has great cognitive skills but zero words. Yes he’s only 16 months old and yes we are just being very proactive but still. It hurts my mommy/ teacher heart. I feel like I should be able to fix it and I want him to have every opportunity to learn and grow.
Body Image- I am so unbelievably hard on myself when it comes to working out and eating right. But the thing is, I’m hard on myself mentally but I don’t really ever make big changes or strides to do something about it. I meal plan, I try diets, I try workout plans. I say TODAY IS THE DAY I WILL START!!! (which is pretty much every Monday) But then I eat pizza or Chick-fil-a and EVERY Milky Way from the Halloween candy and beat myself up about it because to me that it being a total failure. I know I’m not overweight, but I do like to be fit, and I never really had to work hard at it. Que pregnancy (aka death by puking for me) and I stopped working out completely AND I ate whatever I could hold down (aka hot fudge milkshakes). What they say about not bouncing back as well weight wise after a c-section is no joke! I can still feel my abs like hit me in the throat when I touch my toes. At this point, I’m at a now or never crossroads so I can be somewhat in shape before holding the toilet 15 times a day. AND NO I’M NOT PREGNANT. It’s just in the back of my mind. But still, I need someone to stand in my living room and yell at me while I work out, so I actually DO IT!!
Areas I’ve Come a Long Way:
Marriage- I was a hot. freaking. mess. I had no idea what I was doing. Add in a new state, new job, no friends, and residency and you get the perfect storm for a disasterous first year of marriage. Josh will say it too, so it’s not new news. We went to war a few times. Unhealthy yelling, words you don’t mean, doors slammed, storming out. The whole enchilada! But I’m here to say that after those first 11 months, when we decided it was time to GET IT TOGETHER, we did. We found our jam. And it was loving unconditionally, being more available in every sense of the word (josh), and not being such a spazzy psycho person (me haha). Josh refers to me now as a “transformed woman.” I’m still nowhere near cool, calm, and collected, but surprisingly enough sometimes it feels like I’m headed in that direction.
Social Situations/Relationships- “ABORT! ABORT! ABORT!” Is all I hear in my mind when I’m trying to talk to someone that I’m not entirely comfortable with in like a one on one situation. Oddly enough, as much as I hate the clausterphobia of crowds, I’d rather speak to 100 people instead of 1. Probably because there’s less pressure for conversation (and less room for error and for me to say something ridiculous but seriously WHO LOVES AWKWARD SILENCES? I WANT TO KILL THE SILENCE… and I usually do with something SO ridiculous.) Basically, it boils down to- I’m scared of meeting NEW people. But that makes life hard when you live new places or try to go to new events because, well, um, IT’S ALL NEW! Que the panic attack. Josh says I’m going to have to go out to dinner with some of the surgeons he’ll be interviewing with and their wives and it seriously makes me want to vomit. BLAH! Oh wait, I put this under “making progress.” Hmm… I go to MOPS and be semi social, I’ve been talking to people I don’t know non stop about making their signs, and played outside with Rowan a few times while the neighbors were outside too. BOOM! Progress.
Finances- It’s hard to believe I can even say this but it’s true. With as much anxiety that money has always produced for me, I have actually gotten better. I used to literally be a Nazi about it. At the beginning of our marriage I cried and totallyyyyyy lost my cool because I was away and Josh bought $8 Chinese food without seeing if we could afford it first. I entered Crazy Town. I take care of all of the money in our house. I’ve always loved managing my own money, even before we were married and Josh has always hated it so it just happened naturally. Sometimes the pressure is horrible though. Especially when it’s more bills than money at times or not enough for this or that. Soooo I’m the money manager but I’m also the money spender. Josh NEVER buys anything. Very, very rarely. So when I think we need something or want something, a lot of times I’m like oh we can just make that work. When most times I just need someone in charge to say, PUT IT BACK NO NO NO!!! (Dang you, Target Dollar Spot!) My expectations mellow out when we meet goals I set for us. But truthfully, I mostly just live in money panic mode but try to let the occasional Chinese food slide. PROGRESS. I’m looking for positives here people.
What Do Unattainable Expectations Produce: fear, self doubt, anxiety, anger, sadness, and lots of other BAD characteristics.
What I’m Learning:
1. STOP IT! I’m learning that I need to stop doing this to myself. It’s as simple as that. Nothing positive comes from unhealthy expectations. I’ve always known that it’s not healthy physically but now more and more I see that mental side of it. Maybe I’m more in tune with myself or something. I’m a mom of a 16 month old, with a husband in residency, on a really tight budget, and never a minute to myself. Maybe I won’t save the world right this minute. That’s OK! Someone tell me that’s ok.
2. EASE UP! My yoga instructor read a passage last week at the end of our practice that really hit home for me. It talked about how we all need to EASE UP! We cannot let chaos, fear, and negativity control us because then we will never live in the moment or make forward progress. If I don’t ease up and stop worrying about the way things are, I’m going to totally miss what’s happening right now. These moments with just Rowan will be gone someday and I don’t want to think about to them and remember how nuts I was about life and money and trivial things.
3. FOCUS ON JOY AND GAIN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE. I need to find joy in the now. I need to find joy everyday. Even when its gloomy and dark by 5!!! I need an eternal perspective that changes my way of thinking. None of this is about me at all. It’s about helping others and leading them to Christ. It’s about giving other people eternity. I forget that daily. I think I need to find joy and contentment for myself and our family and I forget to look outside of us. And the moments when I do look outside of us and see a need, I rarely act on meeting that need. We are called to serve and to lead others to Jesus. Even if I meet every expectation I have for myself but bring no one to Christ, what have I really done. Nothing. Think eternally! Are there people you know you won’t see in heaven but you want to meet them there? Go meet with them now! I’m talking to myself mostly but I hope you will be inspired to change your way of thinking also.
4. KNOW WHAT DEFINES YOUR SELF WORTH. And it’s not any of the things that I have written about above. The only expectation that I have for myself that really matters is my relationship with Christ. And that should be my focus. You can’t fail at it either which is awesome news! You just have to pursue a God who is already pursuing you. I saw a quote the other day that said something like “Why do you care how many followers you have? God only had 12.” And He made a profound impact on those 12 and they changed the world. He made us for a purpose and though we may stumble along the way to finding what that purpose is, He will always bring us back to the path that leads where we need to go. IF we trust Him. My worth is found in Him and He tells me I am His beloved.
5. TAKE EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE. 2 Corinthians 10:5 “…take every thought captive to obey Christ.” I need to start putting my thoughts and expectations through a sieve and take them captive. If they do not obey Christ then they do not get through. THAT’S SO HARD. I start over like every day because most- READ ALL- days I fail. I simply need to ask myself, is this thought kind, will it motivate me or someone else, does it build someone up, will it let people see Jesus in me, does it move me forward or make me regress? There are so many more questions to ask about your thoughts but that’s a start. I want to glorify Christ in my thoughts and actions. Thank goodness for His grace. I need grace upon grace.
So ladies, with all that said, let yourself off the hook! Breathe! Spend quality time with your family, away from your phone. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH! Let whatever you did today BE ENOUGH! We need to take the time to enjoy the good and stop putting unrealistic expectations on ourselves and others. I’m all about raising the bar. But you have to be able to recognize small victories! Today my victory was having lunch with Josh and Rowan, accomplishing a few things on my to do list during nap time, and enjoying sunshine!! Normally I would say I should have done more “work” but today it was enough.