March 19 – Unrealistic Promises/Despair

Life has a funny way of giving us what we need at exactly the right time. Mick Jagger was right: We may not always be able to get what we want, but “if you try sometimes you find you get what you need.” Today’s meditation is something I needed to hear today.

Unrealistic promises not only cause us despair, they set us up for failure. Setting realistic expectations for myself and others is something I have been working on for the last several months. Being honest with myself about what I can reasonably do—not to mention what I actually want to do—takes a huge burden off my shoulders. It is an act of self-preservation and kindness.

under water photo

On the topic of unrealistic promises and despair, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:

One of the problems that we workaholics and careaholics have is that we overextend ourselves and believe that we can and should be able to fulfill the promises we make. We want to be nice. We want to be members of the team. We want to be seen as competent and dependable.

We also hate to say no when someone notices us and has the confidence in us to ask us to do something. We want to be able to deliver.

Yet, when we do not check out with ourselves whether we can or want to fulfill our promises, we end up overcommitting ourselves and ultimately feeling bad about ourselves, which just feeds our self-esteem problems.”

Ugh. Once again, Anne hits the nail on the head with this one. I do want to be nice. I want to be a good team member. More than anything though, I want to be viewed as competent and capable. This desire deep within me fueled by a lack of self-confidence has led to years of despair in which I overcommitted and drove myself crazy in attempts to fulfill promises I had neither the bandwidth nor the desire to uphold. Rather than break my promises to others though, I would often settle with neglecting my promises to myself. No wonder I was so unhappy!

This of course led me to my journey with this blog. I have had to learn how to set realistic expectations and respect myself by establishing reasonable boundaries. I have been paying more attention to the promises I make and whether I want and am able to keep them. What are my motivations in saying yes to someone? Do I just want to be nice? Am I acquiescing out of guilt? Or is my gut reaction to say yes the result of self-doubt and my desire to be seen as a hard worker and good colleague? Sometimes we might really want to say yes and for the right reasons, but we simply don’t have the capacity in time or resources to make good on our promise. We must be realistic about the promises we make lest we live in the despair of promises unfulfilled. Don’t say yes to something you don’t want to do, and definitely don’t say yes to something you can’t do! Your sanity and happiness are at stake.

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