Breaking Up With a Piece of Yourself
When I was in my early twenties, I remember something my dad said to me … “Shelly, why are you always so hard on yourself and others?”
If you knew my father, you’d understand the importance of this statement because my dad rarely gave me advice, nor did he ever criticize me. His words certainly stuck in my mind, but I can’t say they caused me to alter my behavior. I thought my high standards were justified. They kept me on track, led me to become a better version of myself, and helped me from falling on my face.
However, as I’ve grown older and life experiences have shed more light on this matter, I’ve come to realize the wisdom in his words. My expectations were holding me back, keeping me small, preventing me from evolving.
Maybe you, too, have discovered how a part of who you are has been dragging you down or preventing you from shining your light. If so, do you think you may be ready to break up with that aspect of yourself?
As we begin to emerge into a new world, one hopefully not ruled by COVID and all of the fear it has caused, it may be time to wonder if there are any pieces that no longer fit with the person we want to be. Could old aspects of ourselves—elements that were once necessary but no longer benefit us—be causing us more harm than good?
Perhaps it’s a belief about who we are supposed to be. While at one time this quality or trait might have described us, maybe it no longer applies. We’ve grown, shifted, evolved ... and this piece doesn't fit into the puzzle of who we’ve become.
Or maybe it’s a habit that's become outdated. Is there too much of something—coffee, wine, tv, sugar, salty carbs—that we’d like to cut back? Of course, we might be craving more in our lives—sleep, time for self, quiet, time in nature. Adding this aspect may enhance our outlook, invigorate our spirt, or inspire our attitude.
For me, I’ve come to realize that if I truly want to grow and expand into the individual I hope to become, it’s best I break up with those relentless expectations I have for myself and others.
When I finally paused and allowed myself to investigate these expectations at a deeper level, I discovered they were more based on my wants than anything else. Often, I’d turn what I wanted to happen into an expectation, instead of recognizing it as a desire, something which may or may not occur. That’s why so many of my expectations became somewhat unrealistic. And if I clung to them, they might even become harmful, as my fear of them not coming true would result in frustration, disappointment, and sometimes anger. These are all emotions I do not like to feel. So instead of embracing these sensations, I’d dismiss them. But they never left. Often, they would morph into guilt and shame, as I was unable to justify why my expectations failed to come true.
Now here is where it gets interesting … because I don’t like to fail, when I sensed my expectations might not come to fruition, I’d often resort to “fixing” or trying to control myself, others, or the situation. Of course, you can guess how that usually ended.
This internal analysis prompted me to ask some questions.
What if I released these expectations, break up with what I thought should be?
Could surrendering to the fact that I have absolutely no control over most of what occurs in life stop this unhealthy cycle?
Sadly, I cannot remember ever not having high standards for myself or others. While at one time they helped me accomplish various things or achieve certain goals, I now realize these expectations are hurting more than helping. And regarding my expectation of others, well they are not mine to have. In fact, releasing them is non-negotiable.
And so, I know what lies ahead. This shift won’t be easy, and I’m sure to trip, fall, and make mistakes. But I will try because that is what it means to do the work.
As difficult as it may be, I am committed to breaking up with the expectations I’ve clung to. I suspect doing so will lighten the load I feel. But more importantly, it may help me see the world differently, have more compassion for those in my life, and allow myself a bit of grace as I travel my path.