Do you have expectations that are unrealistic? The late psychologist, Albert Ellis, said, “there are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy." These expectations may look reasonable enough. However, if you hold them too tightly they really can hold you back.
Some people have unrealistic expectations of what they can achieve. It is like they have an inner-rule book that says, “I must never make a mistake”, or “I must do a perfect job in everything I do.” But, unfortunately we are all fallible creatures. Paradoxically, people who are more tolerant about occasionally messing up tend to be far more successful and certainly less stressed.
It is also reasonable to want people to treat us well. However, in the real world, this doesn’t always happen. Some people unload their negativity on to others. Learning to accept this can also be very liberating. You might choose to challenge them on their negative behaviour. Alternatively, you might decide to let them go off and spread their negativity somewhere else. Life is too short to accept every invitation to an argument.
Finally, many of us have an expectation that life should be fair and ‘the world must be easy’. And of course, we all know it isn’t. But truly accepting that life can be tough and sometimes unfair can also be tremendously empowering.
Where possible, aim to soften your unrealistic expectations. You can do this by turning the rule into a preference. So, rather than saying, “I must do well”, we can soften this to, “I would like to do well, but occasionally I may make mistakes. And if I do, I will learn from this.” Increasing the flexibility in our expectations can significantly reduce our stress.
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