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5 Ways to Stop Expecting Too Much From Yourself

by Ali

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Key points

  • Excessive self-expectations can lead to disappointment and burnout.
  • Strategies like setting realistic goals and allowing rest are crucial.
  • Being gentle with oneself and managing expectations enhances mental well-being.

High expectations only lead to disappointment or burnout. It’s admirable to have goals and ambitions, but some have such high expectations for themselves that even the way they sneeze is tweaked to perfection. 

When we constantly expect too much from ourselves, we will eventually crash. Human beings aren’t meant to function at 100 percent all the time. We need downtime and space to grow. Our high expectations for ourselves are often developed in childhood and interlinked with our feelings of self-worth. 

This article will explore what it means to expect too much from ourselves and how we can stop this. 

What does it mean to expect too much from yourself? 

There are many symptoms of expecting too much from ourselves. Here are just a few of them:

  • Being overly self-critical. 
  • Perfectionist behavior.
  • Taking on too much.
  • Striving for constant achievement.
  • Reacting badly to mistakes.

Those who have excessively high expectations of themselves set unrealistic and unattainable goals. We are often already achieving great things, but in our minds, we are not good enough, and we must do more and improve. 

It will come as no surprise that high expectations from parents when we are young can cause us to have high expectations from ourselves as adults. The American Psychological Association highlights a link between parental expectations and perfectionism in college students. 

The damage of expecting too much from yourself

Ultimately, having high expectations of ourselves damages our self-esteem and negatively impacts our well-being. 

It stands to reason that if we have high expectations, we will rarely be happy with ourselves. Instead, when others praise us for something, we will only see the flaws. 

My husband is prone to perfectionism. He makes spectacular furniture. Everyone who sees his work gasps in awe. But he doesn’t see what we see. He points out all the faults. 

My husband’s perfectionism grinds him to a stop. Interestingly, this article in the Harvard Business Review talks about perfectionism being the enemy of productivity. 

I don’t suffer from perfectionism, but I do place enormous pressure on myself to take on too much. I was brought up to believe productivity was indicative of my worth. I expect to be able to live the life of two people. 

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5 ways to stop expecting too much from yourself

Wouldn’t it be nice to feel happy and content instead of always striving to do more or do better?

Here are our five tips to help you stop expecting too much from yourself. 

1. Set realistic goals  

We all know the acronym SMART when it comes to goals. If you haven’t heard it, it stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.   

For those who expect too much from themselves, the area they benefit from working on the most is recognizing what is realistic. 

I used to fit far too much into my day than was healthy. I believed I could sleep when I was dead. I set unrealistic goals that I rarely achieved. And if I did achieve them, this achievement came at a cost – namely, my mental health. My relentless work ethic to achieve unrealistic goals placed even more pressure to maintain this level of productivity. 

Keep your goals realistic, and don’t feel you have to over-deliver on promises and be anything short of spectacular. You don’t always have to be the brightest star in the sky to sparkle. 

2. Give yourself time to rest  

This follows on nicely from tip number one. Without giving your mind and body time to reset and the space to rest and recover, you will run rugged and increase your risk of sickness or burnout.

In my previous life, I worked at least 70-hour weeks, along with many other commitments. I tackled this with gusto. I embraced such a busy life. But it wasn’t sustainable. 

While I may not achieve the same productivity as in previous years, I am healthier, happier, and more secure in my ability to last the distance. I’ve replaced the need to be perpetually busy with the recognition that I taking time to read a book, meditate or walk will benefit me more in the long run. 

3. Reflect on your past   

If you place enormous pressure on yourself, take the time to reflect and ask where this pressure is coming from. 

As a child, was your worth based on your achievements? 

Children who are raised to believe their worth is interlinked with achievement will be likely to have high expectations on themselves as adults. 

We all know a few people who use social media as a bragging tool for their children’s accomplishments. Yes, it’s great to celebrate their successes but when the only posts are about achievement, the message children are given is that they are only worthy when they win. 

Were you made to feel that you are only worthy when you achieve something? Can you untangle from this? 

4. Be aware of your expectations of others 

Carrying on nicely from the third tip, pay attention to your expectations of others. Often, those who have high expectations of themselves also have high expectations of others and can be quick to judge or point out failures. 

Go easy on other people. No one is superhuman; we all make mistakes, and sometimes things don’t go according to plan. When you offer this generosity and humanity to others, you are more likely to offer the same dispensation to yourself. 

You can still have high standards while lowering your expectations of others. Ironically, this reduction in pressure may help maintain high standards. 

5. Be gentle if things don’t go according to plan  

How do you handle failure or mistakes? We can be unforgiving and over-critical when we expect too much from ourselves. Can you learn to be gentle with yourself and accept that when things don’t go according to plan, it doesn’t make you any less of a person, nor does it reduce your worth? 

In our article “How to handle failure,” we talk about how failing does not make us a failure. The most successful people are also those who have failed the most. Every failure is a stepping stone to success. So remember, failures are little lessons to help us correct our course, learn to accept them with dignity, and know they don’t define you. 

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Wrapping up

We already live in a high-pressure world without adding to that pressure by having excessively high expectations of ourselves. 

Yes, having goals and ambitions is great, but you also have to live. 

Remember our top five tips for how to stop expecting too much from yourself. 

  • Set realistic goals. 
  • Give yourself time to rest. 
  • Reflect on your past.
  • Be aware of your expectations of others. 
  • Be gentle if things don’t go according to plan.

How do you stop expecting too much from yourself? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Ali Hall AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Kindness is my superpower. Dogs and nature are my oxygen. Psychology with Sports science graduate. Scottish born and bred. I’ve worked and traveled all over the world. Find me running long distances on the hills and trails.

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