How Can Expectations Hurt Us?

Having expectations for ourselves and our recovery can be helpful. Expectations can help us to define goals for ourselves and to set intentions, to design plans and to create visions for ourselves. Our expectations can hurt us, however, especially when we become so consumed with trying to attain perfection that we don’t allow ourselves to live freely. Our addictions and mental health issues have been hurting us for much of our lives, and we form expectations around our sobriety in an attempt to protect ourselves from more pain. We hold ourselves to high expectations as a form of self-protection. These expectations can be counterproductive, though, when we set them so high that they become unattainable, when we’re so hard on ourselves that we start to mistreat ourselves, and when we’re so focused on the end destination that we forget to enjoy the unfolding of our lives and forget to soak up the beauty of the healing process.

We have expectations for how we will think, feel and behave, for what choices we’ll make, for our recovery and maintaining sobriety. When we falter even a little, we tend to beat ourselves up and make ourselves feel even worse about ourselves. We convince ourselves that we’re failures and that we’ll never succeed. We tell ourselves we’re worthless and inadequate. We worsen our already low self-esteem and exacerbate our already fragile, wounded sense of self. These expectations that we’ve created for ourselves to push ourselves, to motivate ourselves, to encourage ourselves to do better and be better are now backfiring. They’re making us question our ability to recover. They’re impeding our progress and keeping us from loving ourselves unconditionally.

Having expectations for ourselves is not an inherently bad thing, but we want to temper our expectations with the understanding that we’re human and that we will inevitably make mistakes. This doesn’t mean we won’t ultimately succeed, it only means there will be spiritual tests along the way, challenges to overcome, and lessons we must learn about ourselves. We want to make our expectations reasonable, taking into account that we’re still working towards recovery and that we’re still struggling with debilitating illnesses. How can we make our expectations realistic and self-supporting? How can we uplift ourselves when we falter, and resist the inclination to beat ourselves up? The more we can bring self-love, self-acceptance and self-nurturing into our recovery work, the more we can use our expectations to propel us forward rather than allowing them to hold us back and harm us.

Riverside Recovery is a drug and alcohol treatment center offering a full continuum of care for people suffering from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Call us today for more information: (800) 871-5440.