How to Spot Toxic Expectations

Expectations are a way of life.

Some expectations help us to create healthy standards so that we can build a happy life.

If we don’t have expectations of ourselves, others, or our life then we face some negative consequences.

If we don’t have expectations of ourselves, then we might not have value in morals, ethics, or integrity that we want to hold ourselves to.

If we don’t have expectations of others then we might surround ourselves with people who mistreat us, hurt us, or use us.

If we don’t have expectations for our lives, then we don’t really have goals or a direction to aspire towards and that can leave us aimless.

While some expectations are good, there are many expectations that are also very toxic.

Here are some ways to spot toxic expectations that are actually limiting you instead of building you up and setting a positive standard for a happy life.

  1. Putting everyone first.

    It’s very noble to expect some selflessness and giving to others from ourselves, but if you or the people around you expect everyone else to come before your own needs then that is a toxic expectation.

    You matter just as much as the people you want to help and you are responsible for making sure that you get the care you require, too.

    If you or someone else has convinced you that you matter less or that your needs should only be considered after everyone else is taken care of, then that is wrong.

    Help others, yes, but not at the cost of your well-being: physical, emotional, and/or mental health.


  2. Time limits.

    This isn’t talking about project deadlines or time limits for that coupon you’ve been hoarding.

    The time limits are on a much bigger scale.

    We all have goals and things we want to achieve and/or experience in life, but putting time limits on ourselves to make those things happen can be incredibly toxic.

    Yes, creating certain deadlines can be motivational but if you’re not careful, it can quickly become toxic expectations.

    Telling yourself you want to finish writing your memoir in a year is great, but you also need to be willing to move that deadline when life happens and gets you off track.

    Telling yourself that you want to buy a home by the time you’re 30 will help you set aside a savings, but you can’t control the housing market and that might not be a realistic goal.

    Telling yourself you want to be married and starting a family by your 30’s is a wonderful notion, but life has its own plan and you shouldn’t force yourself to settle or marry someone just because they asked so that you can meet that goal.Having time limits can be okay, but they need to be more of an idea that can be flexible and not a hard deadline.

    Life will go the way it will go, and in the end your time limits are pretty meaningless.

    Don’t set yourself up to fail over something you can’t control.

  3. You’re the only one.

    Feeling unique and special is wonderful, but it can quickly lead to toxic expectations of ourselves.

    The belief that we are the only ones capable of completing something, of doing something, of helping someone is a fallacy.

    In this regard, we are all replaceable—and that’s a good thing!

    If you’re swamped at work, you do not need to take on another project because there is someone else there who can do it, too.

    If your friend is having a hard time but you aren’t capable of being there for them in the capacity that they need without it taking a huge impact on your well-being, guess what?

    There is someone else out there who can help them.

    If they don’t have another friend (doubtful) then there is a professional they can see.You don’t have to take the weight of the world on to your shoulders because you are not the only one who has the strength to carry it.

    Nor should you expect that of yourself.

    Whatever needs to be done can get done if you ask others to help you.

    Distribute the load because it absolutely can be distributed.

    Of course, don’t just cast it off on to someone else without warning.

    Communication is always key but if you ask for help and express your limitations, there will be someone else who can pick up the slack.

  4. You have to be perfect.

    We all want to do our best and we want to do it the very first time.

    Making mistakes never feels good, but everyone does.

    We cannot expect perfect out of ourselves whether it’s on the first try or the thousandth.

    Would you expect perfect of someone else?

    Then don’t expect it of yourself.

    Expect your best, work toward achieving your best, but your best does not have to be perfect.

    Perfection is unattainable.

    The world is not meant for perfection.

    The world is messy, the world is unpredictable, and the world ever-changing.

    Let the idea of perfection go and just be the best you can.

Identifying these common toxic expectations we might have of ourselves is a huge part in clearing out self-imposed (or imposed upon us by others) limitations that we didn’t know we had.

There are positive expectations, but it can be a slippery slope down into those toxic ones that actually hold us back instead of allowing us to grow and move forward.