Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Unreasonable Expectations

There are common needs in all relationships—love, support, and respect—but the types of expectations attached to each relationship differs. Our children have different expectations for us than our parents and those relationship expectations differ from that of our siblings and friends. In each relationship, we choose to meet those expectations or not. Our choice is usually made when we determine whether the expectations are reasonable.

For years I struggled with unreasonable expectations, even though I was confident that what was being asked was completely unhealthy. I muted the blaring alarms, bells, and whistles—keeping public peace while living in private chaos. I allowed family obligation and a desire to people please to repeatedly put me in unhealthy spaces. What resulted was unnecessary stress, high anxiety, and overly critical self-talk. As if that wasn't detrimental enough, my decision to meet these demands led to even more occasions for unreasonable expectations.

To distract myself from the red flags constantly in view I shifted my focus. I convinced myself that my stress, anxiety, and overly critical self-talk would diminish if those asking me to sacrifice my emotional health would acknowledge my efforts. I wanted them to say, “I know how hard you try to grant my unrealistic requests just so that I can be comfortable.” I thought that if they would admit that what they wanted from me was unreasonable then I would feel better about myself. Essentially, I wanted them to validate my self negligence because I could not.

There was nothing admirable or noble about me giving up my peace of mind. Absolutely nothing. I was accountable for my emotional health and I had been totally careless and frivolous with my most important relationship—the one I had with myself. It was no longer the fault of others for having those expectations. The problem was with me. It was my responsibility to say no. I needed to care enough for myself to stand up. All of the excuses I had—it's family, you've been doing this for so long already, you can handle it, etc.—were just as ridiculous as the requests. My life wouldn't change unless I had the courage to change. It had to begin with me.
All relationships come with responsibility, including the one you have with self. If others present you with unreasonable expectations you have a right to refuse. You may have been taught that self-care is selfish. It is not. You are worth more than willingly handing over your peace of mind. You deserve more than giving so much of yourself that there's nothing left. Your treatment of self demonstrates how you expect to be treated and indicates what you think you deserve. Be sure to set a reasonable, kind, healthy, and loving example.

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