Unmet expectations disappoint. When we expect too much, life falls short, and we feel that life has unfairly let us down. However, if we expect too little, we settle for less than our potential. Some people believe that having no expectations is the best approach, though I’m not entirely convinced. Trust in a relationship is closely tied to what we expect from others. For instance, if we don’t expect our partner to be faithful, then their infidelity may not affect us emotionally. Like many things in life, having balanced and healthy expectations is important. It’s like following Buddha’s middle path, where we don’t have too many expectations, but we also don’t have too few. So, it’s necessary to examine our expectations and find a harmonious balance. We should have enough expectations to motivate action but not so many that our expectations depress us into inaction.
We are who we are at any given point. A feature of humanness is flaws and imperfections. We shouldn’t expect ourselves to be some super infallible person. We can expect more while still maintaining self-acceptance. Unfortunately, many children grow up in households that withheld attention and appreciation in key moments of development when acceptance was needed. As adults, we can give ourselves love when love is needed, embracing that sad and needed, lonely child. We can maintain feelings of satisfaction with ourselves despite deficiencies, past errors, and expectations for better.
“When we’re self-accepting, we’re able to embrace all facets of ourselves—not just the positive, more ‘esteem-able’ parts.”~Leon F Seltzer Ph.D. | Psychology Today
Self-Improvement and Self-Acceptance
Self-improvement demands recognition of inconsistencies between current behaviors and expectations, so we can address the differences, either by taming unrealistic expectations or modifying disquieting behaviors. Finding this harmonious balance of expectations is essential for present moment wellness. We must remember that imperfections don’t imply inadequacy; the flaws simply testify of humanness. We are who we are—ugly spots and all. Most flaws are not uncommon. If we share human qualities with billions of others, are they really ugly? Being in harmony with the present, enhances efforts to improve the future—a paradox.
“If you’re thinking that accepting all the negative aspects of yourself sounds difficult—you’re not wrong! It’s not easy to accept the things that we desperately want to change about ourselves; however—counterintuitively—it is only by truly accepting ourselves that we can even begin the process of meaningful self-improvement.”~Courtney E. Ackerman, MA | Positively Positive
Perfectionism is an ideal that is unobtainable. The perfect human is so unreachable there is no pattern—set of standards to measure against. There is no prevailing agreement of traits that the perfect person would incorporate. What is perfect compassion or justice? We must rid ourselves from using vague ideals as measuring sticks. We don’t know how to achieve these lofty pictures; all we know is we are failing. Hanging our head in disappointment bruises the soul and depresses the mind.
“We must find harmony in the middle, enough self expectations to act but not so much to depress.”~T. Franklin Murphy
Expecting More; Accepting the Present
Self-improvement begins with self-acceptance, not bitter judgments, and a harsh inner task master.
We must ease the judgement, embrace the moment, and kindly nudge ourselves forward. Perhaps, I don’t prescribe the radical self-acceptance that by passes the need for growth, ignoring signs of broken relationships and failed careers. However, I do believe we can accept ourselves even in the worst of states, embrace the hurt, understand the short-comings, forgive, and move forward.
“Self-acceptance is a crucial component for your psychological well-being; without it, it is easy to be overly self-critical, obsessing over your failures and shortcomings.”
Harsh Self Judgements
Harsh judgments are part of a hurtful cycle of self-rejection; the self never finds rest from the brutal attacks of inner judgments. Our strenuous demands scream insufficiency, projecting the harsh judgments onto others.
If we don’t like ourselves, our escape from this painful cycle is improbable; the resolution is to become more accepting, not forcing compliance. Even with improvement, the harshness continues, and insecurities remain—a fixture in our emotional landscape. We must soothe these instinctual and learned criticisms emerging from our pasts and haunting our minds. We still work to be better, improving and blessing our futures—just not perfectly.