So, during this recent inner stormy time I’ve been enduring, I stopped to take stock of what’s been weighing me down, and was both bemused and shocked with what I found…
…I ran into my old acquaintance, shame, wearing its heavy lead boots of over-expectation.
I only really spotted it because I’d made a conscious effort to do an exercise recommended in the science of happiness course on self-compassion, where you identify something about yourself that makes you feel ashamed, insecure or inadequate and to then write a letter to yourself expressing compassion, understanding and acceptance for that part of yourself.
I haven’t got very far with the letter yet, because I’ve realised just what a long list of things I expect from myself and then am disappointed and ashamed I don’t achieve/live up to!
Many of the expectations are trivial, and most I do, or am, some of the time, but somehow I have the expectation that all of them should be for all of the time. It’s only when I started to list them all that I realised how ridiculous and scary the expectation was.
Here’s a sample:
- Wake early, feeling bright, rested and energetic.
- Drink hot water with lemon, then do sun salutations followed by 20 mins exercise.
- Prepare healthy breakfast or juice, and clear and clean everything away.
- Clear and clean up after rest of family breakfast stuff.
- Shower, dress in well laundered and ironed tasteful clothes that are both comfortable, practical and flattering.
- Clean teeth thoroughly, including flossing and mouthwash.
- Apply light makeup swiftly – again practical and flattering.
- Remain calm, cheerful and available for all of family requests and demands so they get to school/work on time, prepared and happy.
- Do all of the above in under an hour.
- Walk youngest to school having quality and meaningful, loving discussion on the way.
- Go for short, energising walk through the woods on the way home to appreciate nature and breathe in the fresh air.
- Return home, fill hot water flask to sit of desk throughout working day.
- Meditate for 30 minutes.
- Begin work – check and clear emails.
- Begin coach calls – inspire and transform every single client, every single call.
- Write up coach notes immediately, deal with all admin in the short 15 minute ‘buffer’ period between calls – oh, and somehow prepare and eat nutritious and filling lunch in the middle (still in 15 mins).
- Never, ever snack on junk during the day.
- Finish all work in time for children coming home from school, so I can give them full, calm attention.
- Maintain clean, tidy, fully maintained home (and garden) at all times, and have an especially ordered office as a working environment.
- Never cause a child to miss an opportunity, after school club, social event, etc etc because I can’t attend or am ‘busy’. Somehow achieve this for all 3 children, even though they need to be in different places and different times.
- Don’t depend on husband for anything, be entirely self-sufficient so he only has to do what he wants to, not because he has to.
- Provide tasty nutritious meals for children at times that cater for their many activities, even though they all have different dietary requirements and are rarely all in at the same time.
- Ensure all children have all the clothing/equipment they need before they need it.
- Be available at the drop of a hat for any friends to be a shoulder to cry on/give sage advice/pick up their kids as well as my own.
- Never, ever be a burden in any way to anyone else.
- Calmly arrange all dental/doctor/optician/chiropractor/car service/MOT/boiler service/piano tuning/window cleaner/hairdresser appointments at precisely the right interval and for the entire family.
- Not only go to Yoga and Tai Chi classes each week, but also practice in between.
- Go to gym, 3, but preferably 4 times a week and work damn hard when I do.
- Don’t drink alcohol during the week, and keep it moderate at the weekend.
- Cleanse skin, maintain perfect nails and shave legs so I never have spots or stubble.
- To read more books.
- To be in regular touch with old friends and close family.
- To be self aware at all times, and a perfect role model of everything I help my clients with.
- I will go to bed at 10.00 (even though I’m a night owl)…
OMG, no wonder my inner critic is so loud!
And this is just a sample – I could go on and on. I realise I carry low level guilt at all the stuff on this list I just can’t consistently do, or when I fall even a little short.
The problem is, most of these expectations are not unreasonable on their own, but put all together like this it’s a really big wake up call to what I’ve been doing to myself!
I’ve a long train journey tomorrow, and I plan to write the first of a series of compassionate letters to myself; to begin to lighten this load of expectation I’ve been continuing to carry around for so long.
So, what would be on your list?