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Time to Move On From Our Unrealistic Expectations

Ambition can breed both success and dissatisfaction. On one hand, your ambition can drive you to reach complex goals, but on the other hand, the inability to reach such goals can push you into a spiral of negative self-talk.

Before I start, I’d like you to ask yourself a few questions: Am I a perfectionist? Am I too hard on myself? And most importantly, are the expectations I set for myself unrealistic? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, keep reading. 

If you’re allergic to failure (or to mistakes), you aren’t being kind to yourself. Even more, you aren’t treating yourself like a human being; you’re trying to be some kind of otherworldly creature who gets everything right the first time around. And that’s not realistic. 

Woman sitting on top of mountain at sunrise
Photo by Denys Nevozhai from Unsplash

If you’d like to take this moment and chill with me for a bit, I might be able to convince you to treat yourself with a little more patience, appreciation, and love. You deserve to feel like you’re doing an incredible job, even if you stumble a little bit in the process.

We can make our lives much more fulfilling once we let go of the crazy, unrealistic expectations we set for ourselves on the daily. Once we step back and separate ourselves from these expectations, we give ourselves the space to laugh at them. When we laugh at these expectations, we’re able to let go of some of the daunting weight tied to them and invite light into our minds instead. I’ll say it now and I’ll say it time and time again, being human is not synonymous with being perfect, and that is totally okay. Instead of idealizing the ‘perfect outcome’, let’s appreciate the process. Let’s appreciate the mistakes, the growth, the moments, and the laughs. Be you, unapologetically, and let go of the unrealistic standards that you’ve been conditioned to value above all else. 

As a perfectionist myself, I find it difficult to come down to earth sometimes. I set my goals extremely high because I feel like if I achieve a seemingly out-of-reach goal, no one can shame me, and in turn, I can’t shame myself. I can also be overwhelmingly embarrassed by totally normal, microscopic, insignificant mistakes. I recently realized that being human is a lot more fun than being perfect and here’s why. 

You will run behind buses that have missed you at the stop.
You will walk into the wrong classroom and have everyone stare.
You will wave at someone who wasn’t waving at you.
You will trip on air while walking on the sidewalk.
You will push pull door.

These will all happen because they’re a part of life. And that’s precisely what life does, it happens. Every waking moment is filled with the possibility of error. But mistakes don’t make you any less human. Frankly, they make you more human. And human is awesome! We are all complex, exquisite, beautiful creatures who have the ability to learn, reflect, and grow through every experience in life. So why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to get it right the first time? Take a moment to reflect and laugh at silly moments in life, try not to dwell on the embarrassment or the discomfort attached to them. The fact of the matter is that we’re all in this together, so let’s make it into a fun journey.  

Next time you miss the bus, breathe. There will be another one in a few minutes.
Next time you walk into the wrong classroom, smile. You aren’t interrupting a court hearing.
Next time you wave at the wrong person, keep waving. Maybe you’ll make a friend.
Next time you trip, stand up and move along. Keep going where you were going.
Next time you push pull door, find the right way to open it and enter the building. You have somewhere to be.

A couple making a heart at sunset
Photo by Mayur Gala from Unsplash

Like I said before, humans are complex. We fail, sure. But we also learn, teach, grow, laugh, love, and so much more. And really, what’s more important? Being able to laugh at yourself –and not in a self-deprecating way, but I mean in the “sh*t happens kind of way– is incredibly empowering, and once you learn to distinguish the stretch goals from the unrealistic ones, you’ll reap the benefits.

You might be wondering: “What’s the difference between a stretch goal and an unrealistic goal?”. I’ll preface my explanation with one simple statement: most of the goals we set for ourselves are good, valuable even. So, really, the goal itself is rarely the issue; the issue lies in the time frame we set for ourselves or the assumptions we have when we create these goals. 

Setting expectations for yourself is totally acceptable, and I think that’s what makes a person prosperous in some ways. It’s safe to agree that setting a goal and reaching it is a pretty great feeling. However, setting unrealistic goals is a whole other story. 

Would you ever tell someone else that they couldn’t fail or make mistakes? No, of course not. That would be silly! You can laugh at those kinds of expectations because they really are ridiculous. So why do we set them for ourselves?

Now, I have some words of wisdom for you (from a 21-year-old, I know…), but here it is:

“Treat yourself with the same kindness and patience that you would your best friend.”

Look in the mirror and say “It’s okay if I don’t get it perfect the first time around. It’s irrational to believe I’m going to succeed at every single thing I do. There’s no harm in trying, but I shouldn’t beat myself up if I try and make a mistake. Errors don’t make me a failure; they just make me human”.


Hi there :) I'm a fourth-year student at uOttawa pursuing an Undergraduate Degree in Communications. My passion for writing goes far beyond my academic and professional career – I love art, poetry, storytelling, and everything to do with creative writing. I hope you enjoy my work!
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