Another thought pattern that leads to anxiety in my experience is having high expectations.
By this I don’t just mean having high standards that lead to good work, but unrealistically high expectations that often just can’t be met.
I used to label myself as a perfectionist, but now I am not sure that even accurately describes this phenomenon. Calling myself a perfectionist would explain my high expectations of myself. But additionally, I have high expectations of people around me, organizations I am involved with, and the world in general.
When life does not live up to my high expectations (which can be often), it creates tension and anxiety.
I have noticed this a lot during the past few years in my role as a mostly stay at home mom. I’ll work for hours to make the house look inviting and cook a nutritious and hopefully tasty dinner. As I await the arrival of my family, I conjure images of how lovely our evening will be together. We’ll all sit around the table enjoying our meal and each other. I’ll read a nice Psalm or devotional or maybe play some music in the background. Quality family time at its best.
And sometimes, sometimes this almost happens. But often times there are other factors at play. Someone had a bad day and is cranky. A picky child throws a fit over having to eat the meal I worked so hard on creating. There are nights when more than one of us end up in tears over the high pressure event I have created.
But you know the night when no one ever cries?
When I heat up frozen chicken nuggets and sweet potato fries in the oven and we take turns reading each other comics while we eat.
Even happier are the nights when I warm a frozen pizza and we watch Americas Funniest Videos. Super classy, I know. But it makes for a relaxed and happy night. And nights that are filled with laughter instead of tears are very good for my anxiety, let me tell you.
Honestly, I still struggle with how to deal with my high expectations. I really don’t want to raise my children on a diet of Ramen and orange cups. But I know I have got to let go of my rigid expectations of how things should go.
I need to be able to bend more. To give more grace. To others and myself.
I have got to learn that if one part of a thing goes wrong, it doesn’t ruin everything. Pretty good has got to be good enough.
As an old friend used to say, “that’s good enough for jazz.” I’m hoping I can live my life a little less Classical Bach and a little more jazz. Because there’s just got to be some wiggle room in there. Some space for things to turn out differently than I expected. Even space for mistakes (and God knows I hate making a mistake).
So tonight as I write this with homemade chicken soup simmering on the stove, I’ll try to let my expectations go. Maybe dinner will go great. Or maybe we’ll end up digging out the box of mac n cheese or calling for pizza. Who knows.
What I do know is I am going to try to focus on being relaxed and enjoying my kids instead of getting everything right. And even if I can’t do relaxed enjoyment perfectly that’s okay too. I’ll just let myself and everyone else be where they are tonight.
And if I can learn to be at peace with that, things truly would be great.