It is instinctive for most people to expect others to live up (or down) to their own standards. At least, I think it is… It’s the old adage of treating others how you would like to be treated yourself. I have no idea if that’s still a common thing to teach children, although I do try and instil it in my girls.
Where that all falls apart though is when there are ‘gaps’. For example, where one person has a perceived expectation of acceptable behaviour which others don’t ‘live up to’. It doesn’t make either person right or wrong. Life is all about balance, give and take and compromise so whilst peoples standards vary, it’s crucial to be flexible. So, when does the gap become an issue?
For me, I have to be honest it is almost totally linked to my state of mind! And let’s be utterly clear here, I don’t restrict it to other people’s behaviours or standards. My failure to live up to my own standards can cause just as many problems for me!
In this post I am going to focus on not living up to my own standards. here’s an example of how my mind will deal with something on a ‘bad day’.
I’m feeling a bit vulnerable because I’m doing something WAY out of my comfort zone (swimming in this example). Then I arrive at the class and it’s a different coach. START TO PANIC.
The people who are usually in the same lane as me aren’t there. I am lane sharing with total strangers and feeling inadequate and worried that I am going to hold the others up and get in their way when I can’t swim fast enough. PANIC INCREASES
Class starts. Due to rising anxiety levels my breathing is all over the place and I can’t get into a comfortable rhythm.
Class progresses and the unfamiliar instructor starts to throw in conditioning exercises to take place poolside. Already anxious, the reality of having to do press ups or sit squats at the side of the pool in my swimsuit takes me back to every school PE lesson I hated.
That section of the class over (thank heavens!) it’s back in the water. And we are split randomly into teams of 4 for a sprint race of 2 lengths each x 2. FML, I’m back in PE – that rounders game where nobody wanted me on their team as I lack any hand-eye coordination and have honestly, NEVER, hit a rounders ball! Crack a joke about being the weakest link and offer to swim first so the other three can make up for my deficiencies. On the upside, two of the others are familiar to me from Tri and Running Clubs. The downside of that very same fact – they are both incredible athletes. One is a GB Age Grouper and the other swims like a chuffing dolphin!
We come 3rd – not last but it’s close.
Back to my own lane for the cool down. Into the shower. Physically exhausted from the class but worse, mentally and emotionally exhausted by the feelings the class brought to the surface.
Whilst changing my mind takes control. I somehow spin the emotions of the class out into a spiral of being rubbish at all sports, which in turn led to me considering that actually, I don’t excel at anything in my life. I have never excelled at sports, I am (at best) average academically, my ‘career’ has been a series of happy accidents that have somehow all worked out OK in the end but it’s been a case of more luck than judgement. I’m not even a great mummy – I shout too much and have completely unrealistic expectations of parenting. I can’t run a clean and orderly house – it’s a dusty, un-hoovered, chaotic mess that wears me down every time I walk through the door.
Crazy hey? That is me, not living up to my own expectations of what I should be able to achieve during a swim class.
On a good day I would be left thinking:
GO ME! I bloody hate swimming, I find it really hard and I only do it to complement the marathon training. But I got in the pool on a cold Monday evening in December, did the class even though I felt really ill at ease and I swam nearly 2km.
Back in the beginning I mentioned, treating others the way I would want people to me. Funny how I don’t apply that same logic to myself. I would never be as critical of others as I am of myself. In short, I am a bully – hopefully not to others – but to me.
Do you set unrealistic expectations of yourself and/or others? How do manage when those expectations aren’t fulfilled?
Have you changed a self-destructive pattern of behaviour and reaped the benefits? How did you do it?