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Taming Self-Expectations

  • Try humor: Exaggerate your expectation to the point of absurdity. Make a caricature of yourself. Imagine how you would look or what you would say if you were a character in a cartoon, sitcom, comic strip.
  • Try compassion: See your self-expectation from the perspective of a very trusted and loving friend, teacher or family member. What does this compassionate person say to you? Try saying it to yourself.
      Or try seeing your expectation as if it was someone else's – someone you care about. What would you say to that person? Try saying it to yourself.
      Or have a compassionate conversation with the part of you that is holding on so tightly. Lovingly acknowledge it for trying so hard to...be more this, less that, etc.
  • Try expanding time: Ask yourself, "Will this matter 10 years from now?"
  • Try expanding space: Look, even briefly, at a star-filled night sky, or the vastness of an ocean or prairie or clear blue sky. See if your expectation loosens.
  • Try breathing: Feel where and how you are holding this expectation in your body. Imagine breathing into it, around it. Let your breath make space around the tightness, helping it to soften. Or just take three slow, deep breaths.
  • Try coming up with a reminder phrase that you can say to yourself: You might tell yourself, for example, "Don't sweat the small stuff – and it's all small stuff." Or you might say, "Que sera sera; whatever will be will be." If you can sing your phrase, all the better! Or, if you prefer more Buddhist phrasing, try these: "Things are as they are," or "This is what is."
  • Try telling yourself, "I'll still be a good person": "...even if I don't get the oven cleaned before the in-laws arrive," or "even if I go to bed and read instead of cleaning up the kitchen." Have a friend remind you that you're still a good person "even if _____________ (fill in the blank)," when you forget it or doubt it.
  • Try asking yourself, "Who says?": With a little introspection, you might trace your self-expectation to someone else (Mom? Dad? The religious or other belief system you grew up with?), or simply to one of your own internal voices. Even if you can't identify the source of your expectation, asking the question provides a pause and the possibility of choice about how and whether to meet that expectation.


Excerpted from Finding the Deep River Within: A Woman's Guide to Recovering Balance and Meaning in Everyday Life. Copyright� 2006 by Abby Seixas. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Imprint. For more information, see http://www.deepriverwithin.com.

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