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  • The Expectation Trap: How Your Own Expectations Can Set You Up for Failure

    We all have expectations for ourselves and for the people around us. Sometimes, these expectations can motivate us to work hard, be better, and achieve our goals. However, when our expectations are too high or unrealistic, they can become a source of stress and disappointment. In fact, high expectations can often set us up for failure.

    Why do we set high expectations?

    There are many reasons why we set high expectations for ourselves and others. We may believe that we have to be perfect to be accepted or valued. We may want to prove ourselves to others or gain recognition. We may also feel pressure from society, family, or cultural norms.

    The problem is that when we set high expectations, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and others. We become more critical, judgmental, and rigid in our thinking. We start to focus on what’s not working, rather than what is working. This can lead to feelings of frustration, disappointment, and even resentment.

    How do high expectations lead to failure?

    When our expectations are too high, we may set ourselves up for failure in a few ways:

    1. Unrealistic goals: We may set goals that are too ambitious or impossible to achieve, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and failure.

    2. Negative self-talk: We may be overly critical and harsh with ourselves, which can damage our self-esteem and motivation.

    3. Comparison trap: We may compare ourselves to others and feel like we’re not measuring up, which can lead to feelings of envy and insecurity.

    4. Stress and burnout: We may push ourselves too hard and neglect our own self-care, which can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion.

    How to let go of high expectations and find more balance:

    1. Recognize and challenge your expectations: Start by identifying your expectations and questioning whether they are realistic and helpful. Challenge any negative self-talk or beliefs that are keeping you stuck.

    2. Practice self-compassion: Be kind and understanding with yourself when things don’t go as planned. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend.

    3. Set achievable goals: Break down larger goals into smaller, more manageable steps. Celebrate small victories along the way.

    4. Focus on effort, not just outcomes: Acknowledge your hard work and progress, even if you haven’t achieved your desired outcome yet.

    5. Let go of comparison: Recognize that everyone has their own journey and timeline. Focus on your own growth and development, rather than comparing yourself to others.

    By letting go of high expectations, you can find more balance and peace in your life. Remember that progress is not always linear, and that setbacks and challenges are a natural part of the journey. With self-compassion, patience, and perseverance, you can move forward with greater ease and joy.


    Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about empowering women to take control of their mental health by finding balance and inner peace in the midst of perfectionism and anxiety. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a concentration in Behavioral Health. Her proudest accomplishment is following her dream of opening up a practice focused on helping high-achieving, goal-oriented women. She currently serves women in California and Oregon (CA LCSW# 66634 and OR# L13328).