E is for Expectations

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had high expectations for myself. In 4th grade, little ‘ole me had completed my Outer Space project a week before the due date. Typical. It was good enough, I’m sure, and met all the necessary requirements already.

But, in the most artistic way possible, I was struck with a new wave of inspiration and I wanted to start over the night before it was due and do something way better. Except that in my 10 year old brain development, I didn’t have the capacity to realize that I would not be able to finish the project in time if I restarted the night before. It was a flurry of tears and freak outs and I’m sure my parents rushing into salvage what could be done (to my emotional state, not the project.)

This was the time my mom and I learned that I should never do that again.

My mom vowed never to let me start over in such a manner based off of a wave of new inspiration. She was right, obviously.  But, it’s a lesson I’ve had to teach myself over and over again because I find myself with the same tendency. The deeper I get into a project and the more finished it becomes, I think of something new that could be WAY BETTER. And because of my high expectations for myself, I have to go for it. Because, how could I not chase after the ever-shifting, mysterious “BEST?”

Expectations have ruled me for a long time. In my idealist brain, reality never really matches up to my idea of perfection. It was a hard road being a perfectionist child in a world full of possibilities, projects, artistry, and competition. And, it really wasn’t the competition that fueled me. Although, let’s be real, that has been a factor more often than I’d like to admit. More so, it was fueled by my own expectations for myself.

I’ve realized that it is just in my nature to be a dreamer and an achiever. Both are valuable identities to have, but they provide quite the whirlwind of experience in order to manage them.

It’s a battle of separating my identity and worth from what I can achieve.

It’s a tension between striving for excellence and understanding my limits. It’s a struggle to understand where the line blurs from dreams that I can reach to unrealistic expectations. It permeates to many areas of life, whether it’s my career, relationships, leadership, creativity, or craft.

I realize time and time again that there is often no best way. I am often frozen in shock at the start of a project because I’m trying to figure out the best way to do things. But, in reality, there are a lot of good ways to do things. There’s always going to be a “better” way. There’s always somebody doing something differently that I think could be better than what I’m doing. There’s always a new idea that strikes me when I least expect it.

And so, with many years behind me realizing unmet expectations that I have for myself – some realistic and some unrealistic – I realize that often times, I just need to pick one way and stick with it.

No second guessing myself, just being confident that all I can do is all that I can do.

And, all I can do is try my best, to offer the world the most true and honest self that I can, to be generous with kindness even when I don’t want to, and to tread lightly as I’m following the twists and turns of an ever changing creative mind that’s constantly full of way too many ideas to pick from.