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Be Kinder to Yourself: managing expectations

What expectations did you have of yourself during the Lockdown? Were they realistic and were you being fair to yourself? We spoke to personal and professional coach Julia Rogers about setting reasonable goals

One of the things that makes us human is having expectations, a whole bundle of them in fact, and these constantly touch and affect every part of our waking thoughts.

The events of 2020 and the Covid-19 crisis have really brought home what expectations we have of ourselves in our roles as parents, friends and work colleagues. How many of us are now homeschooling our children while also trying to hold down a full-time job and run the house, or only socialising with friends or talking with our work colleagues over Zoom? And how many of us are perhaps expecting too much of ourselves and have unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve during what is still a stressful and difficult time?

So, I’ve been swapping WhatsApps and Zoom chats with Julia Rogers (a Personal and Professional Coach) over the last few weeks as I felt a coach would be the perfect person to talk with about this.

Julia kicked things off straight away and said, “This really taps into something that a lot of my clients are experiencing at the moment.” She went on to explain that during a recent Zoom session with one client, it became clear that her client had unconsciously set all these unspoken expectations for herself and was then using them as the metric to judge herself, her self-worth and her actions. 

Hold on, but aren’t expectations normal?

I raised this question with Julia and she said, “Absolutely, whilst setting expectations is perfectly healthy, things can easily go awry if the expectations fall into either of these three categories.”

  • they are not measurable 
  • they are not fair or achievable
  • they are not our expectations but ones set by others that we have unconsciously taken on

What can be the downside?

“Well, it means it can lead to feelings of low self-worth, unhappiness and dissatisfaction, and this was exactly what my client was experiencing,” she told me. 

So, I think we can all agree that it’s good for your emotional health to be aware of your personal expectations.

Image by Shahariar Lenin from Pixabay

Becoming Aware

So we’ve acknowledged that each one of us has expectations and that it’s good for us to be aware of them. So, how do we do that, how do we become aware?  

Here are the tips that Julia suggested: 

Write down all your expectations 

I’m not going to lie, this can be hard at times but – trust me – it is ultimately worthwhile. You’ll instantly feel a little lighter by moving them from whizzing around your head to getting them down on paper. 

Step 1 – Start with all the areas of your life where you have expectations. One way to do this is to use a mind map and you can find tips about mind maps in this Pinterest board here. What you put on your mind map is unique and personal to you.

Step 2 – Take those categories in turn and draw a new mind map for each. Write down all the expectations you have that fall into that category. See the example below for some idea starters. 


Testing, Testing

Great, now that you have got all this down and out of your head hopefully you can start to see things a bit clearer. Giving ourselves a bit more psychological space can help us manage our thoughts and get them in an order that starts to work for us.

Now that you’re aware of your expectations, you can move onto testing them. Here’s a reminder of the questions to ask yourself about each of your expectations

  • Is it measurable?
  • Is it fair or achievable?
  • Is it mine?

Giving people ownership of their expectations is a powerful thing to do, because if it’s someone else’s expectation then it’s time to give yourself permission to remove it from your list.

Tweaking Time

Now that you’ve tested your expectations you would have found the ones that don’t pass the above test. These are the ones that you can spend time ‘tweaking’. Next to the old expectation on your mind map, write down the new expectation, making sure it passes the test.

An example could be something like this:

An unrealistic expectation: I need everyone to like me.

Why is it not realistic? No one can be liked by everyone and it’s something that is out of our control. 

A more realistic expectation could be: I will focus my energy and attention on relationships that are important to me as I can control my energy, attention and what relationships are important to me.

Onwards and Upwards

I really hope you found the above valuable and that you’ll also find that by devoting some time to your expectations you can start being a bit kinder to yourself. I did it for myself a few weeks ago and found it both an enlightening and freeing experience.

And remember, we are all a ‘work in progress’ the whole of our lives, so once you’ve done the exercise you can keep adding things to it and tweaking as you need to. Julia suggests putting a reminder on your calendar or on your phone every three to six months.

Finally, if you feel you are experiencing challenges with expectations Julia offers phone and virtual coaching sessions in addition to face-to-face ones.

If you’d prefer to meet with a coach in the Hertfordshire area, you can find one of Julia’s fellow coaches here on the Life Coach Directory.

Ali Lawrence
Author: Ali Lawrence

Ali Lawrence has enormous experience in marketing, digital publishing and project management, having worked for MSN, AOL, Huff Post, Yahoo!, National Geographic and many other big name digital brands. She now runs her own business 3 Orange Whips from her Epping home providing content, social, marketing and project management services to entrepreneurial businesses. Ali is a self-confessed lifetime cinephile and is involved with Epping at the Movies, a not-for-profit community cinema run solely by it's volunteers. When she's not watching, talking or writing about film, she also enjoys writing about her other passions; food, travel, stand-up comedy and mental wellness. Ali is a regular contributor to the Happening in Herts blog and Facebook page.

Ali Lawrence

Ali Lawrence has enormous experience in marketing, digital publishing and project management, having worked for MSN, AOL, Huff Post, Yahoo!, National Geographic and many other big name digital brands. She now runs her own business
3 Orange Whips from her Epping home providing content, social, marketing and project management services to entrepreneurial businesses.

Ali is a self-confessed lifetime cinephile and is involved with Epping at the Movies, a not-for-profit community cinema run solely by it's volunteers. When she's not watching, talking or writing about film, she also enjoys writing about her other passions; food, travel, stand-up comedy and mental wellness.

Ali is a regular contributor to the Happening in Herts blog and Facebook page.

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