If there is one thing I have found as a constant in my work as a therapist, it’s that holding on to expectations that don’t serve us leads to a lot of struggle and suffering. There is a feeling of failure that comes along with the idea that “I should be further along,” or “This isn’t how it was suppose to be.” This leads to feelings of shame, which begin to take a big toll on the joyful parts of who you are.
I know one thing for sure: NO ONE DESERVES TO SUFFER from not meeting and maintaining unrealistic expectations (since I shouted that one part, you took it in right?). These might be expectations you set for yourself or what you think others expect of you. When I had my daughter, I expected that we’d sit in a glider enjoying our time breastfeeding and falling asleep together. I thought motherhood was going to look like a diaper commercial, snuggly and amazing. I was so wrong! I remember being so angry when I realized that the diaper companies were selling an idea that if I bought their diapers than I would have this experience.
I struggled. I struggled with breastfeeding, with my health and with the idea that I had been fed a lie that no one was talking about. Feeling awful, I went on a quest to find some answers. I went onto social media groups for moms (which felt super overwhelming). I talked with my husband. I saw a therapist. I got more training in maternal mental health. Then I read And Baby Makes Three by John and Julie Gottman. The Gottmans are these amazing relationship experts who have been studying all kinds of couples for over 40 years. They are pretty much couples therapy royalty, and while I’ve never met them, they feel like grandparents who have all the right answers.
Throughout the book, the Gottman’s reinforce how unspoken expectations within a relationship can really interfere with feelings of connection and intimacy (there’s more to the book than that, so seriously, if you are pregnant or a new parent, go buy it). I made the connection that my own expectations were getting in the way of feeling connected and compassionate toward myself. What the what?! I know, total light bulb moment. I needed to grieve the loss of my expectations to move forward. I needed to let go of the ideas that didn’t serve me. I needed to forgive myself for being so hard on me. It felt like a lot, and it took time.
It is a process to reimagine expectations. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience, compassion and reflection. It’s hard to wait for new connections to be made through personal exploration, but in the long run, it is truly worth it for yourself, those you love and those who love you. I see this deep reflection as a gift you are giving yourself, a gift that will support you for many years to come.
Do you need support in reimagining your expectations? Reach out by contacting me here.
Please note that this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice from a doctor or mental health professional.