This is the awful effect of expectations

Just how does holding onto unrealistic expectations affect our mental health? Here’s a simple framework for letting go, and leading a happier life.

Today, our rates of antidepressant prescriptions are rising. The proportion of mental health sickness benefit claims more than doubled between 1995 and 2014. Of course, it’s good that it’s no longer a taboo subject. Attitudes to mental illness 50 years ago were crude. This resulted in too many people not getting the help they needed . Help that that could have transformed their lives. But now I fear that the pendulum has swung too far the other way. We’re too quick to pathologize normal responses to the trials and tribulations of life. We’re too eager to seek expert advice.

Failure to meet expectations

And lot of this, in my opinion, is from the failure of life to meet our expectations. The real problem is the expectations. And the stress that it causes when we don’t meet the expectations.

We have this ideal in our heads about how things should be, how we want to be. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all do it, all the time, but the problem comes when we hold too tightly to the expectations. It causes difficulties: we feel let down, we feel anxiety, we feel anger or resentment at ourselves, we become unhappy.

This process of expectations and then not meeting them and then less happiness … it happens over and over, throughout the day. We are constantly doing this to ourselves.

This leads to stress, unhappiness, feeling overwhelmed, feeling like we can’t change, a lack of trust in ourselves. This is the real damage. It hurts everything we want to do, making it more likely that we just give up, because we don’t trust ourselves.

This is the problem.

And the answer is ….

The answer is not to spend too much of our lives consciously obsessing about holding onto our ideals. Become aware of our expectations (of ourselves, but also of others), and cling to them less. Toss them out, if possible, and just see what happens.

The process is simple:

  • develop awareness of your mental habits over time
  • see what their harmful effects might be
  • stop believing the thoughts
  • make a loving effort to change them
  • and don’t expect perfection

For our own sake and that of the overburdened NHS, we need to be less intent on acquiring. We have to be more able to open up to uncertain expectations. An the peace that comes by not needing to achieve them.

What do you think? Leave a comment below:

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

1 Comment

  1. Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂

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