Anyone out there ever feel like you just can’t meet everyone’s expectations? Anyone?
Oh girl, I do. We can get pretty stressed out when we feel like we fail to meet others expectations for us.
We can’t volunteer for the fundraiser.
We don’t call that loved one as often as we should.
We can’t keep the house clean enough, the fridge full enough, or the calendar empty enough!
And, then there’s work. We miss a deadline, lose a memo, can’t find an email and wham! We don’t meet expectations! Expectations come in many forms but one thing they have in common is how we feel when we don’t meet them — downright lousy!
I felt like so lousy a few years ago when I called my publisher and told him, “I can’t get the Bible Study manuscript in by the deadline.” I knew this meant a big hiccup in their publishing calendar. It would affect the marketing department, and the materials that had already printed.
He tried to be gracious and understanding, asking, “When do you think you can get it in?”
My life felt too full for me to pull it off. I was forgetting appointments, neglecting my family, and feeling like a big disappointment to all who had expectations for me.
But, here’s the thing — some of the expectations were legitimate. Meeting a contractual deadline is a perfectly legitimate expectation. But, some of the pressure I felt was not mine to feel. In some areas of my life, I had let stronger people create expectations for me based on what they wanted and when they wanted it. And, I, ever the pleaser, tried to make everyone happy.
However, I also just assumed I was disappointing others — like friends and family — because, deep down, I knew I just couldn’t give 100% to them 100% of the time. While sometimes others expectations for me were unrealistic, often my expectations for myself were unrealistic. The result - lousy feelings!
So, if you’re tired of feeling like you aren’t meeting expectations, here are three ways to fight the expectation temptation:
1. Get the Facts
“Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.” Proverbs 28:26
Feeling like you don’t meet expectations is not always the same as failing to meet expectations. Feelings are not always fact.
You may feel like you aren’t meeting expectations, but is that feeling based on a fact? Ask those whom you value, “Am I meeting your expectation?” Get the facts. And then base your feelings on facts.
Once you get the facts — and if the fact is that you aren’t meeting expectations - you can encourage the people you value to adjust their expectations, or you can make a thoughtful choice to meet their expectations.
Often we get so caught up in feeling like we aren’t meeting expectations that we run on emotional default mode. We just assume we are blowing it. But, in reality, we may be exceeding others expectations or we had imagined they had an expectation when there wasn’t one. So, get the facts so you can give yourself a break.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5
Discern whose expectations you should be meeting.
Everyone will love you and have a wonderful plan for your life, but their plan may not be the best plan for you. That’s why you have to take everything to the Lord in prayer.
What someone thinks is a good idea may not be the best reality for you. Consider first whose expectations you need to prioritize - your parents, spouse, friend, boss, God or yourself?
Sometimes we need to just recognize that we will disappoint someone - it’s inevitable! So, pray about your priorities and choose who you’ll help learn how to handle not getting their way. You can’t meet everyone’s expectations. Choose whose you will and whose you won’t.
3. Be Realistic
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10
Extend the same mercy and forgiveness to yourself that you do to others. When someone doesn’t meet your expectations, do you fall apart, disown them, or decide your life is over? Of course not!
You understand that everyone has limits and no one is perfect. You too have limits and you are not perfect either. So, do your best, but give yourself grace.
Have realistic expectations for yourself regardless of what others may have for you. When you’re real with yourself and with others, it will not only help you deal with expectations realistically but it will also help someone else who may be struggling with the same thing.
Next time you feel like you are failing to meet expectations, stop to get the facts, prioritize and be realistic. Let’s be done with feeling downright lousy when it comes to expectations and feel downright liberated instead!
Jennifer Rothschild is a recovering perfectionist who has learned to live beyond limits ever since her life drastically changed at the age of fifteen, when she lost her sight. Now, she teaches women how to celebrate the ordinary as a speaker and author. She is the founder of womensministry.net and author of 12 books, including the best-selling Lessons I Learned in the Dark and her newest book, Invisible: How You Feel is Not Who You Are. Jennifer and her Dr. Phil live in Springfield, Missouri, and have two sons, Connor and Clayton, and a lovely daughter-in-law, Caroline.