Start getting real – stop trying to meet impossible expectations.

-Authenticity is working with your limits, not against them.

I’m the first to admit I have very high standards for myself. So high that I had to do everything by myself for a while, just to be sure that anything that had my name on it would meet my perfectionist standards.

It didn’t help that I was often congratulated and singled out for being outstanding and reliable to a fault. As Abraham Lincoln purportedly said, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Trying to live up to impossible expectations is stressful and unrealistic. It’s called burnout. It’s also unhealthy and potentially damages your mental and physical health.

So why do we do it?

(Don’t miss a post! Subscribe as a newsletter.)

Social pressure about how we should look, live or excel in our careers. Unrealistic goals that we believe will make us happy or successful. Ideals of perfection and excellence to validate our self-worth or prove our abilities.

The answer isn’t to go to the other extreme and become a slacker. It’s to recognize that you want to be the best you can be, not the best that others can be.

Here are some tips on how to get out from under impossible expectations and pivot toward your authentic best:

Identify expectations: What are you trying to live up to? Why are you trying to live up to them in the first place? Where did these expectations come from, you, others or society?

Evaluate expectations: Are these expectations realistic and attainable for you? What assumptions are they based on? Are these assumptions truthful and fair?

Give up comparing: Comparison is the end of authenticity. Trust your uniqueness, both in your strengths and limitations. The secret to a fulfilling life is doing the best with what you have, not with what others have.

Set realistic goals: Instead of overwhelming yourself with impossible expectations, underwhelm yourself with realistic ones. Give yourself the gift of attainable goals broken down into smaller, achievable steps to work towards. Make it easier to win.

Have compassion for yourself: Accept your limitations lightly. Who said you had to be good or great at everything? Focus on what you do well. Most likely, it’s what gives you the most joy and satisfaction anyway.

Take care of yourself: Nobody can be their personal best without time to rest, relax and recharge. Do things you enjoy and maintain your health as much as you can.

Lean on others: No one can do anything alone for too long. Get support from friends, family or professionals. Talking with people you trust is a great way to gain perspective and find solutions.

Letting go of impossible expectations is the best thing I ever did, but it’s an ongoing battle. I still have to fight the urge to defy my limitations. I use the rocking chair perspective, thinking about when I’m an old lady in a rocking chair on my front porch at the sunset of my life.

How much will I care about how excellent or perfect I was? I won’t care at all. I will care about the people I loved, the challenges I overcame and the difference I made. You know, real meaty and meaningful things.

What will you care about?

You only have so much time in a lifetime. Be careful about how you spend it. If impossible expectations are getting in the way of your authentic best, maybe now is a good time to get real and let them go.

Til next week,

Work Your Authentic Genius.
Flourish with your own intelligence!

  1. What’s the most unrealistic expectation you’ve ever had for yourself?
  2. If you let it go, how did it feel? Were things better or worse?
  3. If you haven’t let it go, what’s the worst that could happen if you did? Would that worst-case scenario be worth the gains?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: