Better With Sprinkles

The Colourful Side to Healthy Living.

Breaking Down High Expectations.


Hello and happy Tuesday! How’s yours going so far? I’m slowly working my way through a law paper…and being incredible jealous of people who are done classes/schoolwork.

On the bright side, they’re calling for 15 degrees and sunny today, so I’m thinking I may take my laptop down to the Coffee Culture down the street and do some work on their patio today. Might be nice! 

So today I wanted to talk about perfectionism and expectations. I know I’ve talked about this on the blog before, but my expectations of myself are high. Really high.

I spend a lot of time thinking about what I ‘should’ do. Whether it’s in regards to my eating habits, my workouts, schoolwork, small decisions, big decisions…I feel like I have a tendency to follow a set of rules for myself. Expectations I have to reach, rules I have to follow…I’ve been aware of and trying to break these patterns for years. I’ve made a lot of progress, but I still haven’t quite escaped from my own high standards.

For example, I realized the other day that I’m going to get a 79% in one of my classes. When I saw that, I was disappointed because I was aiming to get straight A’s this year. Which got me thinking…why did I decide I needed to get straight A’s? I’ve made the decision that I won’t be moving on after I get my MA (I have no desire to work towards a PhD) so really, as long as I pass everything, I’m fine. Who decided that I needed straight A’s? Where is this pressure coming from?

This month I’ve been taking a laissez faire, unstructured approach towards my workouts, deciding the day of what I want to do instead of following a schedule or routine. Last Friday, I was struggling with this a lot. I had no desire to work out. None. I had a busy day planned, so I didn’t really have a lot of time for it anyways. But I still had a nagging thought at the back of my mind that I should go to the gym. Because I was physically able to (I wasn’t feeling sore at all), I should work out. I knew I wouldn’t be doing myself any favours if I went, so I didn’t. But I was frustrated with myself for feeling that sense of “I should.”

Last week, veggies were not appealing to me. It was sunny and warm out (some days, anyways) which is normally when I start to want salads and fresh vegetables all the time. But…nothing. Not appealing. But because I thought I should, I made myself a couple of big salads for a few lunches. And then would end up eating all the ‘good stuff’ and throwing the leaves in the garbage. Because I expected that I would want salads, I tried to force it. Which, of course, failed (And of course, as soon as I stopped trying to force myself to eat more veggies I started craving them. I’ve had monster salads for lunch the last two days and adored them).

The perfectionist extends to social situations as well – I’m always worrying about saying the wrong thing, or coming off as unlikeable. I’m pretty sure that’s why I have a tendency towards awkwardness in a lot of social situations. I just don’t know how to act natural, because in my head I’m thinking about what I just said and how it was portrayed. That probably explains why I’m such a fan of texting…I can think about my response, write it out, think about it some more, change it if necessary. Not so much in real life situations.

I don’t really have the answers for how I can fix this…I’ve been working on it for years, first through therapy and it continues to be my own work in progress. But being aware of and expressing a desire to change is where it begins, right? I think I just needed to write this out as a reminder to myself to push past that desire for perfectionism and high expectations. Whenever I put pressure on myself to do something, to reach a certain standard, There’s a few questions I need to ask.

Why do I need to do this/reach this standard?

Who says that has to be the goal?

I’m not very good at being content. Whatever I do, I tend to think of how I could have done it better, gotten a better grade, lifted more weight, made a ‘healthier’ choice…I could go on. But, I’m going to keep working on myself and breaking down that habit. It’s ok to strive for excellence and for my personal best, but complete perfection is not part of that picture. Because I would like to think I’m pretty awesome, even with some flawed aspects Winking smile

Have a good one!

<— Do you have perfectionist tendencies?

<— Texting or calling someone? I kind of hate talking to people on the phone. Thank god for texting.

<— Do you worry about being awkward in social situations? I’m actually pretty terrible. 

image source: 1, 2, 3, 4


42 thoughts on “Breaking Down High Expectations.

  1. Woah, you read my mind on this entire post. I do the same thing. And funny enough, I’m tired of my nightly green beans. There were a few days last week where I just wasn’t feeling veggies with my dinner so I scrapped it and was much happier because of it. There was initially some anxiety over the fact that I “should” be eating vegetables at every meal but I didn’t want them so I didn’t make them and that craving came back. I do the same thing with grades. My parents are always asking me who is putting the pressure on me (knowing full well it’s me, not anybody else) to try to keep things in perspective for me. Who cares if I don’t get a good grade on an exam? Who cares if I totally bomb at my track meet? Who cares if I don’t get a certain internship? It’s all me driving myself into the ground. I think it’s great that you already started progressing with the exercise. Once you’re comfortable with one area, the rest of your life all follow.

  2. Love that last sentence, Sam, although you aren’t pretty awesome….you are VERY awesome! I think we all expect ourselves to outshine in every aspect of life and while it’s great to shoot for the moon, it’s not always realistic. The fact that you realised that complete perfection is not the “be all end all” already shows that you’re progressing! Although I haven’t blogged about it yet, I had a similar epiphany the other day with my workouts! As much as I know how great strength training is for the body, I am just mentally not feeling it lately..after a few weeks of suckin’ it up, I finally decided to call it quits and take the advice I’d give a friend: “The only perfect workout schedule is one that you enjoy doing..even if that does or doesn’t include lifting”.

    Cheers to imperfection :)!

    • Haha thanks Khushboo! ❤

      And I think that is fabulous advice…lately I haven't been feeling running more than once or twice a week, so I haven't been doing it more than that. And there's nothing wrong with that!

  3. Like Sarah said, you read my mind 😉 I’ve been doing a lot of similar thinking lately with all that’s going on in my life and the old me would be burning myself out till the midnight oil, working away, not sleeping, and ultimately running myself into the ground. The new me still gets frustrated when things don’t work the way I envision in my mind but I have a much easier time moving on…

  4. I definitely set high expectations for myself for a lot of things. I can totally relate what you mean on the school front. I just have that type of personality where I want to be the best at everything I do. I do need to work on that, because there is no such thing as perfect! I think letting go of such high expectations and just focusing on TRYING your best is really more ideal. Something I definitely need to work on, too!

  5. I totally love this. And in my opinion, you are on the exact right track, since you figured that you live by rules and you don’t want that anymore. This is the first step to losen up and free yourself. I am a perfectionist too, but I am so much more relaxed today than I was in the past, ESPECIALLY in social situations. It’s probably also because I am a few years (many :-)) older and with experience, you just start to relax. You figure out one day, that it’s a waste of time to beat yourself up with how much you failed. You start to like yourself with all the rough edges. I am still striving for perfectionism when it comes to my diet and exercise though – and I feel you on the ‘I should have gone to the gym’-frustration. It’s all a work in progress and I know you have the right approach to relax and let go those rules.

  6. Sam, this was so honest and resounded so well with myself and many others, I’m sure! The biggest step in moving on from this problem is realizing you have it, so good job 🙂 I’m the same way, and a big step for me in lessening my grip on myself is to kind of just let go completely…this year I told myself that I was going to just kinda fly by the seat of my pants and see what happened. I thought my life was going to start crumbling around me, but in fact, I am happier as well as very productive. You sound like you’re doing great too.

  7. for certain things in our life we set high expectations, which we need to stop doing that as sometimes they turn out to be failures. something we need to work on more 🙂

  8. I SO relate to this post. I have perfectionist tendencies when it comes to school, work, social situations, and most diet and workout habits. It seriously gets to be exhausting. I am not sure how to stop, though! 😦

  9. MAN this is just what I needed to see. Its so insightful! If I tried to list all the places in my life where I struggled with perfectionism this comment would turn into novel-length. Some of its ED stuff, but perfectionism started long before any of that (as I’m sure it did for you as well). This is why I think it takes SO long to work through it. Its part of who we are, who we were genetically programmed to be, and then has been reinforced through years of experiences. BUT that doesn’t mean we can’t overcome it–it just means its a loooooong long long process, and a fantastic opportunity to learn how to be gentle with ourselves in a huge array of situations. You’re doing great, and I really appreciate you sharing this!

    I’m so sorry you’re still slogging through end of semester work, I’m right there with you though! xoxo

    • You bring up a fantastic point Sloane – it did start for me waaay before the eating disorder. Hell, I think it’s one of the main contributors to having one in the first place! It does seem to be programmed into my personality, so I shouldn’t be frustrated with myself that it’s taking me years to work through. Slowly but surely, we’ll both get there.

      I love your thoughtful comments! ❤

  10. This is a great post. I can relate to a lot of it (aside from the social stuff because I tend to be a social butterfly haha) but I think this is a far too common problem these days because of the ideas instilled in our heads. We are always told to do more, be more, rather than be content with ourselves right now. One thing that I think about is that nothing is ever stagnant. Things change…so like if you are getting frustrated with yourself for eating a certain way or being in an exercise rut or whatever, it is almost guaranteed that will not be that way forever. The next week you could crave salads every day and want to knock out amazing workouts because you WANT to. Nothing ever stays the same and our bodies/needs change. That kind of mindset always helps me accept the way things are right now and realize that the ups and downs are part of life.

  11. Perfectionism, sigh … It’s my downfall, really. Ever since having my ED my expectations for myself haven grown higher and higher. If it’s about writing applications, papers for class or even letters to friends: I set my expectations and – afraid of not getting things done perfectly – can’t even start. Yes, it actually keeps me from getting things done in the first place. It’s annoying and doesn’t get me anywhere. For my blog, I’ve set the rule to not proof-read posts. Or, well, not more often than necessary – else they’d never get published. That’s why I try not to re-read old posts ;). I’m afraid they might be full of typos or other errors.
    Social situations get me anxious, too. Especially if we’re talking giving presentations but also when being around many other people in general. I can be super relaxed around my friends but when there are more than a certain number of people I tend to get really awkward.
    You’re definitely awesome, Sam! Writing a great blog with insightful posts, being an inspiration in terms of working out only when you feel it – be proud of yourself! I know it’s hard but you’re right: A desire to change is a good starting point already.

  12. I think I ended up looking like one of those bobble-head toys that people put on their dashboards, because I was nodding my head throughout this entire post. I definitely struggle with perfectionism, and although it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be in a lot of areas of my life (diet and exercise being two), there are still some places where I have a much harder time not trying to do everything at a 110% level. And it’s frustrating because I KNOW that perfectionism is a stupid concept and that I’m only making myself unhappy, but letting go is still difficult. Baby steps.

    • is it weird that all I can think about it how i wish people had little bobble head versions of themselves? I’d take an Amanda bobble-head doll :-p

      It is absolutely difficult…hell, been working on it for years and it’s still a problem for me. But everyday that I’m able to let go a little bit marks a huge victory.

  13. I know this is something I struggle with too and I commend you on putting it all out there which is not always that easy to do. I think pressure can be self inflicted but a huge part of it has to do with the pressures that are put on us or messages we get from society. I always wonder if I would care that much if I weren’t being told to do this or that or worse off comparing myself to others

  14. I have always been a perfectionist. I am slowly letting go of those tendencies because a) Perfection isn’t possible and b) striving toward that goal didn’t make me a fun person to be around. I realized that I am happier and more likable when I feel free to indulge in something with friends rather than sitting on my high horse and avoiding the junk, and when I take a night off of school work to go out rather than being the perfect student. Right now, I am just striving to be the best that I can be, and hopefully I will be happier because of it.

  15. I purposefully let my voicemail fill up so I don’t have to hear them. Hate the phone!

  16. Hi twin. You have me pegged to a T with this post…the old me anyway. I’m working on this too and know that I’ve gotten better, buuuuut I still wish I was further along (how’s that for perfection haha). I think you’re doing the best thing possible girl: not forcing it and just going with what you feel. That’s my motto these days, and it usually turns out ok. I still struggle with the mental part, especially where eating/salads/veggies is concerned, but I’m noticing it’s getting easier over time as I practice and that when I do have a salad for lunch or dinner, I’m enjoying it way more. Crazy how that works 😛 Oh, and I’m texting all the way. I loathe talking on the phone…made a long distance relationship extra fun 😉

  17. UGH! I agree with setting expectations high. I drive myself crazy with it and I KNOW I do. Therefore it’s too much and THEORETICALLY I should change it. But sometimes I just can’t shake it, dude!

  18. Yup, I totally agree with everything here. I’ve always been such a perfectionist. I would get mad at myself if I got anything less than 98% in high school – seriously! Luckily I lowered my expectations for university, but I would still expect myself to get over 90’s. I knew I was putting too much pressure on myself at the time, but I just couldn’t help it. And the same goes for other areas of my life too – work, meal planning, buying birthday presents for people… I just always want to be perfect. It’s definitely something I need to work on!

    Also I’m soooo awkward in social situations too. I constantly think other people are judging me because, well, I’m kind of a dork. 😛

  19. I relate with you so much here! Especially with school, since I was always a pretty good student before college and had a decent GPA going in, but college has obviously been a lot harder and I’ve gotten C’s in a few classes and was really disappointed. But I came to realize that I did try hard and wasn’t slacking and there’s just gonna be some things we aren’t great or perfect at, no matter how hard we try, and that’s okay. I think just giving everything 100% should be more important than being perfect!

  20. Funny thing is I am just tackling this of my personality. I am learning more how to go with the flow and do what I think is best. No expectations, just living. It feels good!

  21. Omg, I swear everything you wrote describes me to a T!! I’ve been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember and I’ve always had a hard time seeing something as “good enough” instead of picking apart every minute detail trying to figure out how I could have done it better. I was always the girl in school who would obsess about getting straight A’s…and yes, I was also that girl who would cry if she made a B. Fortunately, with age has come a little wisdom and I’ve been able to give up certain things, but sometimes it hits me when I least expect it…like during this whole intuitive eating journey. I never even saw it coming when I started beating myself up over “failures” and “mistakes” that I was making. I’m SO glad that I had the support of my friends to help me see that it was my perfectionism coming out because since I’ve started lessening up on myself, I swear I’ve gotten even MORE in tune with my body and can honestly say that I’m starting to feel more at peace with food. Now the bigger step…applying that in more aspects of my life!

    Oh and I just want to say that I love the quotes you included!

    Texting > Talking…I HATE talking on the phone!

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