We all experience moments when we feel the weight of expectations pushing us to achieve specific goals, conform to certain behaviors, or even fit a particular image. And hey, some of these expectations can actually be a positive force, pushing us to challenge ourselves and strive for greatness. It’s all about that motivation, right?
But let’s keep it real. Unrealistic expectations can be a whole different story. When those expectations go overboard, they can mess with our thoughts, feelings, and actions in a not-so-great way. They can make us doubt ourselves, feel inadequate, and even lead to negative outcomes.
Where do expectations come from?
Expectations and pressure can come from different sources, including:
- You. Sometimes the expectations you put on yourself can be the most unrealistic and hardest to meet.
- Family. Family expectations can vary, and might include how you behave or dress, what sort of person you can date, your grades, or what career you choose.
- Peers. Sometimes your friends or partner might expect you to dress or act a certain way. Check out our Peer Pressure article for more information on this specifically.
- School. Your school or teachers might expect you to get high grades, sit through class obediently, and get to class on time.
- Teammates or coaches. You might experience pressure from your teammates or coach to participate and do well. Even expecting you to do well academically, regardless of how much time you spend in practice.
- Work. Some managers or employers might set unrealistic goals and targets for your work performance or how you present yourself.
- Society. Society has a way of throwing expectations our way through media and advertising, trying to make us fit into specific molds or buy certain products. It can feel like there’s this constant pressure to look a certain way, behave in particular ways, or keep up with the latest trends.
Why place expectations on yourself?
Everyone has goals and expectations for themselves. Here are some reasons why you might have the expectations you do:
- Seeking approval from others can make you believe that meeting high expectations is the sole path to gaining their validation.
- Believing that happiness solely relies on achievements can lead you to think that success is the only route to finding joy.
- By setting high expectations for yourself, you challenge and motivate yourself to reach greater heights and accomplish remarkable things.
- Intentionally setting yourself up for failure, also known as self-sabotage, might occur when you fear success more than failure or genuinely expect to fail.
Why do others place expectations on you?
There are many reasons why people might put expectations on you. Here are a few:
- Well-meaning individuals who care about you may overlook the fact that you already possess the knowledge of what’s best for yourself.
- Certain individuals might seek to live vicariously through you, aiming for you to have experiences they themselves missed out on.
- Some individuals may assume that what worked for them will work for you, disregarding the fact that everyone’s choices and paths can differ.
- People with different cultural backgrounds or values may unintentionally impose their principles on you, without realizing that their expectations may not align with your own preferences and choices.
How Expectations Affect You
Although reasonable expectations can be a positive pressure in your life, too much pressure can cause you to burn out. Depending on how much pressure is placed on you, and for how long, expectations can affect you negatively in the following ways:
- Stress or anxiety
- Feeling helpless, overwhelmed or powerless
- Feeling down or depressed
- Feeling guilty
- Experiencing a sense of failure or low self-esteem
- Family problems, like fighting or poor communication
- Problems at school or work, like difficulty concentrating or poor performance
- Relationship or friendship problems
- Abuse of drugs or alcohol
- Poor eating habits, like overeating, undereating, or eating food that doesn’t make your body feel very good the next day
- Feeling super tired
- Not getting enough sleep
- Feeling run down and sick
Managing Expectations & Pressure
Embracing your individuality, even when you’re part of something bigger than yourself, is all about making choices that serve your best interests. It’s about taking ownership of your actions and thoughts. Trust us, it ain’t always easy to resist those unrealistic expectations, even when you know deep down they don’t align with who you are. But fear not, fam! We got some sick suggestions to help you handle the pressure and expectations like a boss:
Talk to Someone Outside the Situation
Reaching out to someone who’s not caught up in the whole mess, like a friend, your folks, or even a counselor, can seriously do wonders for your emotional well-being. They’ve got this outside perspective that can help you figure out your expectations and come up with strategies to handle them. When you spill the tea on your situation to someone else, they often bring a fresh perspective that can be way more forgiving and understanding than what you’re seeing on your own.
Talk to the Person Setting the Expectations
Sometimes people set unreasonable expectations on us and they might be unaware that they are putting unfair pressure on you. When you talk to this person, it might be helpful to use a phrase like ”When you treat me like this, I feel…” so they can be aware of it’s impact on you. It might be a good start to the conversation of understanding why they feel the way they do, too.
This is a great time to check in with yourself and see if this is crossing boundaries for you. If you feel like what they’re asking for is too much or not in alignment with your well-being, it might be time to set healthy boundaries with yourself and them.
Challenge & Reset Your Expectations
When it comes to challenging your own expectations, here’s the deal: You gotta get real with yourself. Start by recognizing those crazy high standards you’ve set for yourself, and then be willing to question ’em. It’s all about being self-aware and having the guts to say, “Hold up, maybe I’m being too hard on myself here.”
Take a step back, reevaluate those expectations, and give yourself some much-needed breathing room. Remember, it’s okay to cut yourself some slack and embrace a more realistic and balanced approach to your goals and aspirations.
Have a variety of options for the future
If you don’t reach that one specific goal, it’s easy to feel bummed out or like a total failure. But check this out: there’s usually more than one path to success, my friend. It’s all about having a bunch of strategies up your sleeve to reach your goals.
And you know what’s dope? Talking it out with someone you trust, like a homie, your fam, or even a counselor. They can help brainstorm different strategies and give you fresh perspectives on how to make things happen. So don’t stress, keep your options open, and reach out to your crew for some killer advice. You got this!
Taking a breather and switching up your surroundings can be so beneficial and it’s crucial you find a way to do this regularly. Maybe you feel like going for a stroll, vibing to your favorite tunes, diving into a good book, catching a flick at the movies, or whatever floats your boat. You do you!
Find what works for you and make sure to carve out that “me time” to recharge and reset. Remember, it’s all about giving yourself that well-deserved break and doing what brings you joy. So go ahead, take a step back, and indulge in some self-care. You deserve it!
Express Your Feelings
When you’re dealing with unrealistic expectations and need some clarity, grab a journal or hit up a private online space to spill your feelings out. Trust us, it’s a game-changer! Writing it all down helps you gain a ton of insights and takes the power away from those unrealistic expectations. And get creative with it! Express yourself through art, music, or any other outlet that gets those ideas flowing. It’s all about finding alternative solutions to your problems.
Here’s the deal when it comes to venting without causing harm: we gotta find healthier outlets. Instead of resorting to yelling, punching stuff (unless it’s your mattress), or causing damage to yourself, try some safe ways to let it all out. Cry into a pillow, dance like nobody’s watching to some banging tunes, or just find an activity that lets you release all that pent-up energy.
It’s all about finding a positive and constructive way to express yourself without hurting yourself or others. So go on and unleash your emotions in a way that brings you peace and keeps the good vibes flowing.
Look After Yourself
No doubt, expectations can bring on a ton of stress. That’s why it’s crucial to carve out time for the things you love. Even when you’re feeling swamped or not in the mood, taking a moment to do something enjoyable can work wonders. And here’s the real talk: don’t underestimate the power of movement and a healthy diet in boosting your well-being. Even if it feels like a challenge, breaking a sweat and nourishing your body with good eats can seriously lift your spirits. Oh, and let’s not forget about the magic of sleep! Catching those Z’s in abundance is key to keeping yourself in tip-top shape. Check out our article on improving physical wellness if you feel like you’re slacking.
Stay Clear of Drugs & Alcohol
When it comes to dealing with expectations and pressure, we gotta be real about it. Using substances like alcohol, drugs, or even excessive amounts of caffeine or energy drinks might seem like a quick fix to feel better or escape from it all. But trust us, that feeling is temporary, and the aftermath can leave you feeling even worse.
Substances may provide a momentary escape, but they won’t solve the underlying issues or make those expectations magically disappear. In fact, they can make things way more complicated and mess with your mental and physical well-being. So, instead of relying on substances, try to find healthier coping mechanisms and support systems to navigate those challenging moments.
Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com
About Youth Era
Youth Era is a nonprofit that works with teens and young adults to become happy, successful, and contributing adults members of their communities. The organization creates solutions for communities across the country that look beyond short-term assistance for the few and toward sustainable support for the many. To learn more, visit www.youthera.org.