Do you ever have unrealistic expectations of yourself or others? For many years I misunderstood the whole concept of why it was important to give to myself myself (and others) a break. A break in terms of, high expectations and resting and refuelling .
Many years ago, as a mother in amongst the crazy chaos of three children under two years, trips to hospital, and endless chores to do, I was often kindly told by friends - “you need to take some time out to look after yourself’. But how could I do that, there was so much I needed to do, responsibility I needed to take and standards I had to maintain? Can you smell the burning martyr? A few somewhat whacky beliefs I had, that now thankfully, I am more aware of included
Somehow I thought I should be able to do it all myself without asking for help. It is great to ask for help from that spot of anticipation rather than expectation. If we ask without the demand of expectation, this frees the other person to respectfully say no, if they are not able to help. It is important to do that little stock take of resources and time to decide if it is possible to give assistance without resentment. I am sorry I can’t do what you have asked is ok too. Both for others and myself. It is so easy and unhelpful to slip into that habit of thinking we have to do it all.
Asking for help gives others the opportunity to give to me. As we know giving from that wise spot always feels good and is the condition of possibility for our own true happiness.
When others kindly offer help, I can at times be critical of their efforts. Maybe they have not done it the way I would have. Acceptance, understanding and gratitude help here. I know how yucky it feels, when others redo or criticize what I have done, because it is not up to their standard. Much better to be grateful to ourselves and others and let the need for perfection go.
“ Don’t be in such a hurry to condemn someone because he or she does not do as you do or think as you think. There was a time when you did not know what you know today”. I also like to remember to apply this to myself as well. We are all doing our best, with what we know. We can do a better best when we know some more helpful stuff. Malcolm X
I also, now realise how this unhelpful habit denies others the opportunity to help and give, or makes them feel fearful about letting me down if they do not meet the high expectations I have for myself and them too.
I can be so hard on myself, often harsher than with others, when I make a mistake or fail to meet some expectation I have for myself. I seem to have a somewhat over developed sense of responsibility and when I fail to meet my often, unrealistic expectations or make a mistake, I can be unkind to myself. This is never a good idea. I try to remind myself that we are all doing our best with what we know at the time and to be a kind encouraging friend to both myself and others.
Of course at times we can all be lazy, selfish and irresponsible and maybe during these times we need to be a bit more proactive to get things done, be more ‘other focused’ or take more responsibility. But, at other times it is important to take a break, in order refuel to be able to keep giving to others and be available to them. With this understanding, it is neither lazy nor selfish to take time out and ask for help too. And it is much more fun as well. More about this next week.
I had a beautiful reminder of this when our three boys were around two and three years old. I wanted to attend a funeral, some distance from our home. The baby sitter I had organized rang in sick on the morning of the funeral, and subbed in her brother Matt. Being the responsible, organized mother I was, I had prepared everything, including lunch, activities and a very long list of instructions and expectations, which included a plan for the day, prepared lunch in the fridge and nappy change and sleep routine.
I arrived home from the funeral some hours later to find the boys well and happy. Surprising there was dog in the house. How did the dog get here I asked curiously? Slowly the picture of how they had spent the day emerged. Matt had left the house unlocked, taken the boys in his car (complete with P- plates and no child restraints) to McDonalds for lunch, and then home to his house to collect his dog. They had had a great day riding around in the car, eating McDonalds and playing in the park, no sleeps or nappy changes necessary. My mind was racing to the, ‘what if’s’ and ‘oh no’s’ – but stop I had three, well actually four including Matt, happy, healthy boys in front on me. They had all had the best day ever, much more fun than the one I had planned. And I had had a break and done what I wanted to do too. So what had I learned
So if like me, you are tempted to go to that ‘what about me’, ungrateful, resentful spot full of judgment and expectation of myself and others, instead do your best to remember, we are all doing our best and to be that kind encouraging friend to both yourself and others.
Have fun doing your best to be a giver all year around.
Wishing you all a happy, peaceful, safe and healthy Festive Season and New Year.
Love Maree xx