How to squash morning depression

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How to stop expecting too much from yourself

Do you constantly feel like you're not doing enough?

Like no matter how hard you try, you're always failing to live up to some invisible standard?

If so, you're likely caught in an inner battle - the struggle that comes when our expectations and standards don't have a clear benchmark we can point to.

This happens a lot with moms judging themselves for having a messy home, entrepreneurs comparing themselves to unrealistic success stories, and employees killing themselves trying to impress bosses and co-workers.

The expectations feel like they come from within us, but also from everyone around us.

Wherever they come from, these unclear standards lock us in an exhausting and demoralizing fight with ourselves.

The guilt, shame, and feelings of failure seem endless. It's easy to dwell on what we haven't done versus appreciate what we have done.

And here is a strange question...

What causes people to start expectations upon themselves that don't have a clear reference point in the first place?

Why your self-expectations become unrealistic

Imagine you start life with an empty toilet roll tube. The tube represents your self, and the toilet paper you gradually wrap around it represents the expectations tyou place upon yourself.

At first, there are clear reference points - school, parents, societal norms. Each layer of toilet paper (or expectation) aligns neatly with the one below it.

Everything is neat, clean, and organized. Each layer is a clear, direct response to an external influence.

As time goes on, however, you start to add layers of toilet paper without any clear reference points.

These are self-imposed expectations that have no obvious connection to external influences. It might be related to perceived societal standards, vague notions of "success," or simply personal ideas of what they "should" be doing.

Trying to conform can result in unwarranted pressure on yourself. Similarly, internal drives like proving your worth, satisfying perfectionism, or coping with feelings of inadequacy can lead you to set unrealistic standards.

Because there's no clear reference point for these new layers, they're not neatly aligned with the others.

They might be crooked, uneven, or wrapped too tightly around the tube.

And because these new layers are wrapped over the older, neatly aligned ones, they obscure the clear reference points that existed before.

You might start to forget why you added the original layers of toilet paper, or even that they're there at all.

This uneven, chaotic wrapping can cause several problems.

You start to feel trapped by their own expectations, as the tightly wrapped layers squeeze the tube.

You feel lost or confused, as you now can't remember why you started wrapping the toilet paper in the first place. And because the layers are so uneven, you are now constantly worried about the toilet paper unraveling or falling apart.

In this analogy, the toilet roll represents the individual's life, the toilet paper their self-imposed expectations, and the uneven, non-referenced wrapping is the potential for these expectations to cause confusion, stress, and disappointment.

It's important to remember to maintain clear reference points when setting expectations for oneself, to keep the 'roll' stable and balanced.

So how can we break free from this cycle?

How do we resolve these inner battles?

The first step is to identify where these unrealistic expectations come from in the first place.

Were they imposed on us by parents, friends, society?

Or are they standards we created for ourselves? Recognizing their origin helps us release some of the blame and guilt. This wasn't all our fault.

Next, we need to let go of that guilt. Easier said than done, of course!

But give yourself permission to release the guilt, make peace with where you're at, and know that you are enough, just as you are. Lay down that burden.

Now comes the hardest work - defining new standards for yourself.

Start by identifying what reasonable expectations based on self-care and self-compassion look like. Celebrate small wins, and measure progress in how you feel versus external markers.

Slowly shape your inner dialogue to be more empowering.

Breaking this down to make it more practical...

Here is a 4-step technique for developing healthier, more realistic self-expectations:

Step 1: Evaluate your current expectations

- What specific expectations or standards do you set for yourself? Write them down.

- Do they have a clear benchmark or are they arbitrary?

- Are they achievable or unrealistic? Consider your current context.

Step 2: Understand their origin

- Reflect on where each expectation came from. Societal norms? Parents? Your own thinking?

- Release self-blame by recognizing many expectations were imposed externally.

Step 3: Release the guilt

- Get perspective. Recognize that no one meets every expectation, so guilt is an unproductive emotion. Forgive yourself.

- Counter guilt by affirming what you truly need is self-care and acceptance.

- List successes. Balance guilt by reminding yourself of what you have achieved.

Step 4: Define new expectations

- Develop 1-2 "guiding principles" for new standards e.g. self-care.

- Define specific, measurable and achievable expectations.

- Focus on progress vs. perfection. Celebrate small wins.

- Be flexible and adjust as needed. Expectations can evolve.

Finally, get comfortable rewriting patterns of negative self-talk. Actively counter those critical inner voices with positive truths about yourself. You deserve to be proud of your efforts.


How do give your expectations Clear benchmarks?

When your self-expectations become unrealistic chains, tracing their origins helps you let go of undeserved guilt.

You can then develop new standards focused on self-care, contentment, and progress over perfection.

By rewriting your negative inner voices with compassionate truths, you can redefine success on your own terms.

With mindful perseverance, you can slowly unwind the confining pressures of the past and create expectations aligned with what matters most to you.

The inner battle rages, but progress starts when you act with self-love.

One step at a time, you can break free from the uneven wrap of unclear expectations and live by your inner wisdom.

Written by Adewale Ademuyiwa


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