Social media is constantly updating us on the lives of others: from personal tragedies to joyful celebrations. It is easy to compare ourselves to the latest highlight reel photos of other people’s vacations, family, friends, or partner, exciting new job, fashion, new pet, etc. Comparison is something we all do, and some of us do it more than others. Sometimes, those comparisons leave us feeling settled and confident that we’re on the right path. But often, those comparisons can add more uncertainty to our paths and more pressure to make our lives look like someone else’s. We all carry countless expectations with us through life, forgetting that it’s safe to put them down.
You can free yourself from the weight of expectations by reconnecting with yourself in small ways and giving yourself permission to let everything be okay. The first step in even the most miraculous transformations is choosing to pause and notice where you are now.
Let's explore how to notice the expectations and pressure we face:
1. Breathe and notice your body and thoughts. The breath is perhaps the most obvious place to begin. It is the first thing we restrict when we experience stress and overwhelm. Take a moment to inhale slowly. Feel your belly as it rises and watch the air as it flows through your body and exits your nose or mouth. Notice the flow of your breath and the quiet stillness you experience as you breathe. As your breath stills your body and your mind, notice the sensations in your body, the images you see, the feelings you experience, and your thoughts as they come and go.
2. Seek out coping skills you know are healthy and work for you. Activities like journaling, reading a book in a quiet spot, dancing, listening to music you enjoy, or asking for help can all be beneficial. Practice them regularly.
3. Step away from a confusing or negative situation to clear your mind and offer your body a chance to breathe deeply. Ask yourself, “What do I need in this moment?” Listen. You are learning as you go.
4. Make a list of what pressures you put on yourself.
5. What about the pressure's others put on you? Make a list.
6. As you write, notice the weight of those pressures on your shoulders.
7. What would you be free to do if the weight was lifted off your shoulders? Do you feel free of expectations and pressure? Some of us thrive in competitive environments. Say kind words to yourself as you reach your goals. Talk about your fears with someone you trust. Are you being too hard on yourself? You are good enough!
Doing activities (such as the above examples) can help you notice those expectations and pressures we face (that we put on ourselves or that others put on us). Once we are able to notice these, we can get more insight on the changes we could make or a next step.
If at any point this feels confusing or difficult, that’s okay. Take it at your own pace. You will learn with practice that you can bring more ease to this and all things. If this exercise offered you clarity about a change you’d like to make or a step you’d like to take, choose one small way to begin. Check in with yourself regularly as you go about that change.
If you’re not sure where to turn next, that’s okay. Repeat the kind words you offered yourself and do anything that supports your wellbeing.
Present Not Perfect by Aimee Chase (2017)