My Life Isn't Going How I Pictured It and That's Okay: Letting Go of Unrealistic Expectations

I’ve seen a trend going around for a while where people ask, “Would your sixth grade self like how you turned out?” For a while I didn’t let myself think about this question too deeply because if I was being honest with myself, the answer would be no, and I didn’t like that answer. As someone who has always put way too much pressure on themselves to be perfect since I was a little kid, I didn’t want to think about letting my younger self down. 

When I was in sixth grade, I cared about what everybody thought about me. The mere thought of anyone having a negative opinion of me stressed me out daily. I stressed over what my body looked like, my hair, my face, my friends, my crush, my athletic abilities, and my intellectual abilities. Literally anything one could worry about concerning themselves: I was worrying about it. Because of these constant worries about myself in the moment, I romanticized my future life to make my insecurities at the time seem more temporary. 

Woman in bed Photo by Kinga Cichewicz from Unsplash

When I started to get a bit older, I started panicking that I didn’t have everything I always wanted during those times in my life. I still had a lot of the same insecurities. I developed a terrible case of “F.O.M.O” (fear of missing out) for everything, even for stuff as small as not being able to get coffee with friends. This, in turn, increased my anxiety about not reaching my unrealistically high standards for my “perfect life." This drastically affected my confidence because I constantly thought I was failing myself. I kept these unrealistic standards with me when I entered college. This led me to, no surprise, the same unsatisfied place as it always had. There came a point when I got tired of letting myself down. I realized I needed to let go of the idea that I needed to have everything in my life figured out by a certain age. Here’s a few key things I realized, in the past year especially.

You’re not wasting time.

A big issue was the idea that if I was not constantly doing something productive to better myself and my life, I was wasting time. This is far too much pressure to put on yourself. No one can be productive every moment of their life. It’s okay to take a break. It’s not wasting your time if you are taking time for something that brings you happiness or peace in the moment if you need it. 

The way others treat you is out of your control.

You can’t control who’s going to prioritize you. Let people go from your life who treat your presence like it’s anything less than a gift. You don’t need to have some giant friend group to feel satisfied with your social life. It’s okay to only have a few close friends if they are the ones that value you. It’ll make you much happier in the long run. 

You deserve to be content right now.

While it’s impossible to not picture an idealized future for yourself, it’s unrealistic to place expectations on yourself that you’ll have it all figured out by a certain point in your life. Not only is it unrealistic, but it’s unfair to yourself. You deserve to be happy and content with how your life is going now, not how it should be going or how you want it to look in ten years.

The background are leaves with the hot pink neon sign Photo by Fabian Moller from Unsplash

It’s important to set goals and have dreams for what your life will look like; that’s how we achieve what we want in life. It’s the unrealistic and impossible expectations where the harm comes in. Maybe I’m not the person sixth grade me always pictured to be at 21 years old. But I’m more independent, kind, confident, educated, and liberated than I ever thought I could be. It’s time to start appreciating that now.