Managing High Expectations

My best friend Heather has said many times, “Well you have really high expectations…” Awkward silence ensues and before I can say, “What’s wrong with THAT?!” she quickly recovers with, “And you SHOULD!” as she shrinks in fear and covers her head for protection. I half cringe, half vehemently agree when she says this because on the one hand I’m proud of the high standards I hold in my close relationships, but on the other hand—the cringe-worthy part—I wonder if my expectations are too high…especially when I find myself feeling disappointed when they aren’t being met.

This seems to be a running theme with a few clients and friends, and it definitely came up for me this week when I ended it with that great guy who put the douchey bar manager in his place on our first date.

“Mike” was so great and really caught me by surprise. He was extremely funny, intelligent, and knew how to go toe to toe with me in such a savvy way that Heather would say “marry him!” every time I shared a new gem of how he “got” me. We were seeing each other for about five weeks and it felt like a great healthy pace and even playing field…

Up until this last week. #recordscratch

Huge high expectation of mine is for people to have awareness when they're talking on their phones!

Huge high expectation of mine is for people to have awareness when they're talking on their phones!

There was a breakdown in communication that I was so nervous to address--it was still early days. But I was conscious, calm, and clear in my approach (straight guy-friend approved!) and felt relieved to find out it was a big misunderstanding.

PHEW, right?!


What I saw as a small hiccup that was nipped in the bud, Mike saw as a reason to feel “cautious” about my “reaction,” and his level of interest and communication scaled back significantly.

Cue Alanis Morissette’s Ironic.

In fairness, you’re only hearing my side of the story but I’ll be the first to admit that there is a line-up of exes who would give Mike a run for his money in terms of what a real reaction from Mary Claire Byrne is.  I was actually PROUD of the way I approached the issue, and was taken aback by how much it threw him off.

His caution gave me caution and I thought, “If this little hiccup is too much for him, he is not my guy.”

Empowering? Absolutely. Disappointing and sad? Absofreakinlutely!

But it did make me pause and question, “Are my expectations too high?” To you they might be but ultimately, the way I saw it was that my values were different than his, and that’s ok.

ACT or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy—a tool I love to use on clients—offers a “life-changing mindset known as psychological flexibility.”

Psychological flexibility is the ability to adapt to a situation with awareness, openness, and focus and to take effective action, guided by your values. The Happiness Trap P35

Mindfulness + Values + Action = Psychological Flexibility

Using the mindfulness component, I paused. I checked in with how I was feeling over the miscommunication. My body said something isn’t right. I paused again to think about addressing the issue despite my body saying, “that’s too scary!”

But my clear-cut values helped me with the scary because I know I am looking for someone I can open up to about my feelings—yes even after knowing him for only five weeks.  I felt enough was shared between us that addressing my concern was appropriate.

So I took action by calmlystating how I felt and being honest about what was coming up for me.

Surrendering to the unfavorable outcome ended up being the hardest part, but knowing I mindfully approached the issue gave me peace that I stayed true to who I was, understanding that I might not be embraced for it.

I’ll leave you with the most beautiful gem a client offered in a recent session, “If I’m approaching the end of something and I want to manipulate it into being more perfect, I might be missing out on the true perfection of it.”

The end of this lovely short-lived dance with Mike was so not what my mind and heart wanted, but in the bigger picture I trust this was the perfect unfoldment of events.

And unbeknownst to Mike, there’s now a whole freakin’ blog post written about him-- sounds like true perfection to me:)

Perhaps I should reread, How to Stop Putting the Cray In Crazy...

Happy Claire Your Mind Monday.

What high expectations of yours have not been met? Is it because you think they’re too high? Or were you confident and clear about where you were coming from and the action you took? Comment below!


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