upset woman over dropped ice cream cone

She asked me if I was ready to let go of feeling disappointed all the time. I looked at her, blinking with disbelief. I didn’t really understand what the heck she was talking about.

“Are you ready to stop believing you’re disappointing everyone, including yourself?”

Blink. Breath.

“I’m not really sure I feel that way.”

She smiled a knowing, compassionate, loving smile. “It seems to me you’ve put a lot of expectations on yourself about what being a mother looks like, about what being a wife looks like, about all the things you SHOULD be doing in your business as an author and coach, about how your body looks and feels, and so much more. And I can see that you feel like you’re never measuring up and failing to meet your own expectations.”

Gulp.

I teach this sh*t. I write about self-love and self-compassion. I coach my clients all the time about this. Why had I missed this in myself?

Thank goodness I have my own mentors, coaches and intuitives like Brandy Gillmore, to illuminate what’s going on inside of me both consciously and unconsciously, to shine the light on my own Inner Mean Girls so that I can continue to break free from their wrath.

I got curious and leaned in.

I went deeper and discovered a pile of disappointment that I wasn’t even aware of.

I believe that keeping promises to ourselves is a building block of self-love and self-esteem. But so often we aren’t even consciously making those promises. We casually make commitments to ourselves that are completely unrealistic. From the “I will exercise 5 times this week” or the “I promise to volunteer in my child’s class and be fully present for every recital” or the “I will have hot sex with my beloved 3 times per week.”

Then we become like an inner drill sergeant demanding that we PUSH our way to the finish lines, for races we didn’t even know we were in, and when we miss the mark we end up with a gnawing, low-grade disappointment in ourselves and can’t really pinpoint why.

So the “I’m failing” story gathers momentum and becomes part of the fabric of who we think we are.

The Expectation Inventory

Once I realized this, Brandy asked me to complete what I like to call an Expectation Inventory. In this process you literally go through every area of your life and dig out any of those unrealistic expectations you are carrying around you.

Take out a journal and do this right now if you’re with me on this one.

What expectations have you been knowingly or unknowingly putting on yourself? Have you been setting yourself up for disappointment with unrealistic expectations? This is a toxic habit of the Inner Critic and Inner Mean Girl.

For each of the areas below consider “What are my expectations?” and “If I don’t do ________, I feel disappointed in myself” and “How am I ‘shoulding’ all over myself in this area?” and “I put pressure on myself to _____”

  • Your health and body (you may want to break this down to exercise expectations, eating expectations, etc.)
  • Motherhood/parenthood, if applicable (How do you measure your success as a mom? How much time do you feel you SHOULD be spending with your kid(s) etc.)
  • Friendships (Look at your close friendships and the promises you make to yourself about your social life. Do you put pressure on yourself to have a lifestyle where you drop everything for your friends?)
  • Your romantic partner (make sure to look at your expectations about time together, your sex life, connection, etc.)
  • Finances (What are your expectations for income, savings, debt?)
  • Career (Are you supposed to be “further along”? Do you put pressure on yourself and feel burnt out all the time?)
  • Spirituality (What do you feel you SHOULD be doing spiritually? Do you have unrealistic commitments about church time or meditation time?)
  • Creativity and Self-Expression (Are you SUPPOSED to be painting each day? Are you disappointed in yourself for not finishing that book or project?)
  • Home life (Do you feel disappointed about the way your house looks or the laundry that piles up?)
  • What else?

As you look at your own self-promises you may begin to realize, like I did, how insane it is. How IMPOSSIBLE it is to live up to these standards of excellence all the time.

Now let’s hit the RESET button!

Now it’s time for you to make conscious promises in each of these areas where you feel unsuccessful and need a reset. To really go within to your Inner Wisdom and ask her what the new promise can be. For years and years I’ve taught my clients about this and how you can create three levels.

Set your new commitments at the “I’m a success” level: this is the bare minimum you require of yourself so that you will feel like you’re a success and that you’re winning. This new promise must be totally doable! You refuse to be disappointed in yourself as long as you hit this mark. The attitude here is “I promise to do ________ at a minimum, and I choose to feel good about myself and my life when I hit this mark.”

For example, for me the I’m a success promise with my 7-year-old, Annabella, is that I will ask her each day what her best and worst was and be fully present with her as she answers, allowing her to process anything negative and celebrate and give gratitude for the positives. I am meeting my motherhood vision as long as I do this.

I’ve had clients who have decided the I’m a success promise around exercise is that they commit to being active for 5 minutes each day.

Or maybe for finances, you reach the I’m a success expectation when you have $200 in your savings account.

Again, this must be DOABLE

Success Breeds Success

Brandy reminded me of the truth that success breeds success (and conversely failure breeds failure.) So as you begin to feel successful, you will build on that winning momentum. All of a sudden your promise of writing your book for 10 minutes each day leads to hours of writing or your commitment to eating dessert only 4 times per week turns into releasing sugar because you feel so fabulous etc.

I’d love to hear how this exercise worked for you, dear one. Let me know below.

With unstoppable love,

-Amy

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About The Author

Amy Ahlers's picture

Amy Ahlers, the Wake-Up Call Coach and bestselling author, is on a mission to stop women from being so darn hard on themselves. Since 2000, she has been an International Certified Success Coach, the CEO of Wake-Up Call Coaching, and co-founder of Inner Mean Girl Reform School with Christine Arylo, Visionary Ignition Switch with Lissa Rankin, and Find Your Calling with Lissa Rankin and Martha Beck. Her newest passion is supporting moms to embrace the whole truth of motherhood, messiness, and magic with the Mama Truth Circle.

Amy has been a featured expert on lots of TV & radio shows, and for media outlets like ABC, FOX, The Washington Post, and The Huffington Post. She loves lighting up the stage at events where she wakes people up to the voice of their Inner Wisdom and helps them cultivate the courage to act on it. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter, inspiring women to find the everyday sacred.

Her first book, Big Fat Lies Women Tell Themselves: Ditch your Inner Critic and Wake Up Your Inner Superstar (New World Library, 2011), shot up to #1 in several categories on Amazon, including Self-Help, Happiness, and Self-Esteem. Her next book,  Reform Your Inner Mean Girl: 7 Steps to Stop Bullying Yourself and Start Loving Yourself, she co-wrote with Christine Arylo and is due out in April of 2015 from Beyond Words.

A 2010 recipient of the Women Who Dare Award from Girls Inc., she holds a BA from the University of California, earned the CPCC designation from The Coaches Training Institute, and is a Master Coach Equivalent. Amy is known best for her unconditional love, relentless enthusiasm, and kick ass truth telling. You can often find Amy in the San Francisco Bay Area holding hands with her husband, Rob, as they run after their firecracker daughters, Annabella and Evie Rose.

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