Setting realistic expectations, and only accepting responsibility for myself and my actions is a super hard thing to do. As simple and easy as it may sound, it’s not. It is so hard letting go of expectations that have not been met, and learning to not worry and stress over things that are not your responsibility. However, learning how to do this has really helped my anxiety.
If I don’t stop myself, I can feel responsible for the actions, words, and ideas of other people. I can find myself apologizing on someone else’s’ behalf. I can wear myself out trying to correct others mistakes. I can find myself trying to write a wrong that I didn’t make. I can stress over something someone else did that I flat out can’t control or change. If I don’t work hard to only prioritize and accept my responsibilities, I can add a lot of stress, disappointment, and anxiety to myself that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
It is also so easy for people to slip into the habit of making unrealistic expectations, which leaves you constantly disappointed in how life actually plays out. I’m not telling you to not have any expectations and goals, because these are very important to have. What I am telling you, is to make sure the expectations you do make do not expect more than can be fulfilled. I feel overwhelmed most of the time, so adding other peoples’ responsibilities and unrealistic expectations, when I shouldn’t, is a sure fire way to make my anxiety worse.
What does this mean? Do not expect for your husband to roll out the red carpet and red wine when you had a bad day, if you didn’t tell him. He’s not a mind reader. Do not expect your relationship to play out like a Disney Princess love story. Real life relationships are not perfect. Do not expect to never have problems in your relationships. You will have bumps, struggles, and hard times and you will find strength and a deeper love in your relationships by working through the imperfections of your relationship together. Do not expect everyone to always like you, or always agree with you. Someone is always going to disagree with you, and there will always be someone who just doesn’t jive with your personality. That’s okay, don’t base your self-worth on others. Do not expect someone to do, say, or think something just because you would. Do not expect your child to sit quietly for a few hours just because YOU decided to take them to something that is too much to expect of their age.
Learning to make realistic expectations and understanding that I am only responsible for myself has been extremely freeing, and in turn helpful with staying on top of my anxiety. I can only ever be responsible for the consequences of MY actions, MY behavior, MY efforts, MY words, MY ideas, and MY mistakes. I work very hard not to add the weight of unrealistic expectations and others responsibilities, and it has helped me tremendously. I made a list of the 12 most important thoughts that I use to prioritize expectations and responsibilities (that help my anxiety) and listed them below:
1. Do not expect others to live, respond, and react the same way that you do.
People are all different. Yes, we would all love it if everyone just did it “our” way, but that is just not possible or realistic. Everyone has walked a different path, so everyone will live, respond, and react differently to different situations. If you walk into each day and circumstance prepared that others are not going to 100% align with everything you say and do, you will be a lot happier because you won’t feel that pang of disappointment and anxiety when you realize they aren’t thinking or responding exactly like you. Accepting that everyone is different, and not expecting otherwise, will help you stop feeling so insecure, attacked, and frustrated. Expect and plan for these differences. In turn, this will set-up you up to be disappointed A LOT less.
2. Do not expect people to treat you the way you treat them.
It would be nice to always get back what you put out there in this world, but that is not always going to happen. Do what you do because your heart tells you too, and do not expect for everything that you do to be done back for you. People are NEVER going to give you back 100% of what you give to them ALL the time. It is hard not to feel letdown when a family member, friend, or co-worker doesn’t do for you what you willingly do for them. However, I challenge you to think about what things they DO do for you. Are they doing things for your that are equally loving, giving, and helpful but just not exactly what you do for them? We all show love differently, but you will miss out on being able to see this when you expect people to treat you in the exact same way that you treat them. Do what you do for others for YOURSELF, and be grateful (not impatiently expecting) when others do back for you.
3. Accept that you are only responsible for yourself.
You can WANT as much as your little heart and mind can want that someone will make better choices and change, but you can’t make them. You are not responsible for someone else’s’ choices. Let go of feeling responsible for others, and let go of the expectation that someone will change. You are NOT responsible for the actions, choices, words, etc. of someone else. The only person you can change is yourself, so focus all of your energy on that instead. Put all the efforts you have been putting into worrying over others into worrying over yourself. Accept responsibly for the things you have done. Make yourself into the person you want to be. Who knows, in watching you work hard on improving yourself you might very well inspire the people who need inspiration and improvement to change themselves too.
4. Put aside, permanently, the expectation you have for yourself, and others, to be perfect.
I know I wrote on this last week in my self-care tips post, but let go of feeling the need to be perfect and do everything. Perfection is simply unattainable. Learn to be content doing a GREAT job-not a PERFECT job. If you focus on perfection you will only stress yourself out, feel like you have not lived up to your expectations, and you will obsess over everything. You need to let go of your need to be perfect. Do not expect it of yourself or of others.
5. Do not expect others to always understand you, your mood, what you need, or what they need to say.
You may think, in the moment, that someone should just know you well enough to understand everything from each of your moods to all your needs. However, that is TOO much to expect of anyone. Be understanding that even someone who loves your dearly and knows you very well still may not know what the right thing is to do/say given a situation. They might not be able to gauge your mood correctly, and they can’t read your mind. Instead work on clearly communicating with them about how you are feeling, what you need, and what you need to hear. Communicating with them about what you need eliminates the frustrating gray area where you wait for them to figure it out, and they wait for you to explain what they aren’t getting. Remember that the important thing is that they care because they are there.
6. Remember that people’s words, even if they may hurt your feelings, are a reflection of them NOT of you. Other peoples’ words are NOT your responsibility.
If someone says something, even if it is hurtful or untrue, that is their business. They are the ones that will have to live with any consequences their words may have. Their words are THEIR responsibility. If someone says something hurtful, remember that this shows you a lot about them as a person NOT you as a person. They may be hurting and lashing out, they might want to paint a picture of you according to an agenda they have, they may be defensive of their opinion because it is not the popular one, they may just want you to be brought down to their level, they may not even realize what they said was hurtful because they think differently, etc. and the list of reasons someone might speak hurtfully goes on. Instead of staying upset, I challenge you to instead pray for them. Embrace the chance to let go of the hurt, move on, and pass that responsibility to them. Do not dwell on their words, because they are not your own. Do not worry someone may believe something untrue, because the truth will always be uncovered with time. That person made the choice to say something, and that is NOT your responsibility.
7. Do not expect others to always agree and disagree the same as you.
It is so easy to feel attacked when someone presents a different opinion as yours. This is especially true, because we are constantly wearing the responsibility of making many different decisions and having many different opinions when we are being a wife, mommy, daughter, friend, professional, co-worked, employee, etc. Instead of getting your feelings hurt, responding defensively, or shutting down anxiously when their opinions differ from yours, I challenge you to try to see the big picture. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they are not just trying to make you look or feel bad, but they are just trying to do the same thing you are which is advocate for what they feel is best. They want to share their ideas and opinions to better the world, too. Their opinion is not a personal attack of yours if it is different…it is just simply, different. I challenge you to look at their opinion and see value. You are being presented with an opportunity to learn tolerance of differences as well as a new perspective, so embrace it.
8. Stop feeling responsible for others mistakes.
People make their OWN mistakes. Do not accept ownership of mistakes other than your own. You are not responsible for other people’s mistakes, or the consequences their mistakes may bring them. This is such a hard one for me to not do. I have a really hard time watching people I love and care about fail. Yes, I know every mistake is an opportunity for them to learn. No, it does not make it any easier to see them fail and struggle with the consequences. I hate seeing them hurt. I feel their pain, and I fight the feeling of responsibility that I could have done something differently to help them not have made that decision. I should have pushed harder, I should have tried to get through to them in a different way, and I could have helped them make a better decision by doing x, y, z. I have to constantly remind myself that if someone makes a mistake that is their fault, their responsibility, and they ALONE are responsible for the consequences. Also, remember to focus on the changeable. Things that have already happened can’t be controlled or changed, so instead focus on things that are yet to come.
9. I am not responsible for other people’s beliefs and attitudes.
Do you know someone who is always negative, and can’t seem to find the good in a situation? What about someone who, no matter what you do, is not going to be happy? It may be a family member, a friend, a colleague, or an acquaintance. It does not matter their connection to you, because it is important for you to know that their beliefs and attitudes are NOT your responsibility. Let the stress of that person roll right off your back. You do not need to be bogged down with their attitudes and ideas. If you have done everything that you can to try to help them be happy, loved, and content and they push you away then do not feel like you have let them down. Somewhere along the line they have decided not to TRY and see the beautiful, and they have given up. Somewhere along the line they have decided NOT to be happy. You are NOT going to be able to help everyone. You are NOT going to make someone suddenly positive if they have not already made the decision that they WANT to be that way. Yes, you can help them try to see the beautiful and wonderful in the world around them again, but they are responsible for making the CHOICE to want to see the world differently. Helping others is an entirely different thing than feeling like you are responsible for how that person believes and acts.
10.You can’t be in control of everything.
Being in control is something that my personality craves. However, I can not always be in control of everything. Accepting that I am not always able to be in control has been very freeing. I am not in control of my day going down the drain when I get a flat tire (who can control that happening), and I am going to have to just go with the flow. I do not need to go back and re-make the bed just because my husband left a crease in the middle of it. I do not need to have everyone on MY schedule just so that things can be done MY way. You simply can’t always be in control and the sooner you accept that, the better you will feel. Take that pressure right off your shoulders. You can’t control everything, and sometimes you just need to sit back and relax and have faith that things will all work out on its own. Let go of controlling all the small things, and allow yourself to just let life happen.
11. Life isn’t always fair.
It would be a wonderful thing if life was always fair, but unfortunately it’s not. Expecting life to be fair all the time will constantly set you up with frustration and disappointment. Sometimes I want to tap life on the shoulder and say, “Hey there, I completely understand that life isn’t fair. You don’t have to keep teaching me that lesson over-and-over.” Life is not fair when good things happen to bad people, when someone too young dies, when people are treated differently because of who they are, when you have to struggle daily with a personal battle that someone else doesn’t have, and when consequences are different even for the same crime, etc. Instead of fuming in anger. Breathe, and refuse to be upset. DO not allow yourself to feel the victim when life is not fair, instead show people how strong you are by standing tall and being the amazing person you are in SPITE of life not being fair to you. When I feel life hasn’t been fair to me, I stand TALL and I stand DETERMINED to achieve anyways.
12. Do NOT compare yourself to others.
Do not compare yourself to others, JUST DON’T DO IT! We are each unique and different with our own amazing things going on. The second you compare your relationship to someone else’s’ you find ways to be disappointed in something you were happily content with moments before. You will hold yourself back from doing things you should do by trying to be like the thing or person you are comparing yourself too. The minute you compare your beautiful curvy body to the skinny body on the cover of the magazine and pick out differences, you let yourself see flaws. Constantly comparing steals your joy and self-worth right out from under you. Don’t do it. You are AMAZING in your own way.
I hope these 12 ways to prioritize expectations and responsibility help you gain perspective, and help you let go of some of that unnecessary anxiety.
Until next week my readers,
Hey all you awesome people reading my blog. I'm Ginger and this blog chronicles how I live my life fabulously with anxiety.