“Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.” –Brandon Sanderson
I spent a majority of my life in the juxtaposition of feeling like too much and not enough. This is such a weird place to exist because I was constantly torn between shrinking myself to fit others’ standards or trying to compensate for whatever I felt I was lacking. I realized that if I set these extreme expectations for myself, like excelling academically, being overly nice to everyone, and winning trophies, that I could level out this perpetual teeter totter in my brain.
Everything was “fine” when I was performing well, but problems happened when I did not meet my expectations. I internalized failure when someone did not give me the validation I wanted. This went unchecked for a long time because everything looked great, but I was struggling. Each new accomplishment or good grade made me feel empty and I had no idea why. I kept wondering why I was not happy when I accomplished my goals.
I spiraled when I started having mental health experiences because I was no longer able to meet my expectations. I was so angry at first that I felt like I was drowning in failure. I became bitter about all of the opportunities that were taken away from me, but I was forced to prioritize my wellness for the very first time in my life. I could no longer ignore my needs. I had to address them.
This turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me. I had to learn how to reassess my expectations to reflect where I was each day. I learned how to respect and love myself when I was at my lowest in order to heal. Without my mental health barriers, I would not have found my way to the radical acceptance I have today. It allowed me to see everything I am because of my mental health experiences rather than in spite of them.
Elizabeth is a Recovery Coach at an RRC in Newark, NC. Her passion is to provide person-centered services and empower guests through strengths-based language.