We’ve recently been through some pretty significant lifestyle changes; new house, new country, new school/nursery, changes to routine, the distance from friends and family, along with career shifts has left us feeling out of sorts as a family.
All these changes have ultimately been positive, in fact we worked hard to make them happen. However, that doesn’t mean they haven’t come without roadbumps.
I’m going to talk a bit (in a non fluffy way) about how to upgrade your personal expectations.
I’m a naturally introverted person – happily so I may add, I can be the life and sole of the party when I’m with the right people, my people. Obviously moving abroad has thrown us in the deep end of meeting new people and I can’t quite explain the funk I’ve been in having to put myself out there. Nowhere is this more apparent (or horrifying for an introverted parent) than in the new school playground. This particular scenario has seen my two most dreaded questions chucked around more than ever:
- What do you do?
- What have you been up to?
My cringeworthy attempts to sound A. adult enough to know WTF I do do and B. even vaguely interesting is enough to trigger a full blown identity crisis once the exchange is over – I can’t quite shake the feeling that I’m a woman in her
mid early thirties who lacks direction, can’t enjoy her own success, is utterly lacking when it comes to her families weekend plans, clearly doesn’t get out enough…this snowballs rather quickly into having no personal style, unruly children, chunky thighs and bad hair…
Yes, I am aware that the lady in the playground was simply making chit chat and did not intend to trigger an existential crisis but hey ho – the joys of being trapped in my head!
Having lived with myself for the last 34 years I do at least understand how I tick, so to speak. Getting in a funk and then letting it spiral is something I do very well (if only I could recognise some of my more desirable traits so easily!).
So I found myself sitting in Starbucks (I quite often find myself sitting in Starbucks…) and instead of doing my final chapter planning for my next book I instead wrote a list of all the things that having been bugging me over the last couple of weeks – the niggles that were creating funk-gate:
- Lacking any time alone with my husband, we’re both feeling worn out from the move/massive lifestyle changes. Naturally we’ve been super focused on making sure the children are settled and happy but I now realise we’ve barely been alone in months.
- Seriously need to get a hair cut but can’t find the time #badhairmonth.
- I’m being chased to write blurb for the back cover of my first novel but I hate that kind of writing (akin to writing a CV or cover letter – I’d rather stick pins in my eyes).
- Having too many ideas and limited time – I end up doing nothing!
- Feeling like a total numpty every time I’m asked what I do – I should just say I’m a writer but it feels false. I end up mumbling something about my husband’s business/being a Mum and end up feeling like a twat. I have a total impostor syndrome thing going on!
- What the hell do I do for fun!?
Seeing all this written down makes me think:
- I think far too much.
- It’s nothing that can’t be fixed.
None of these beliefs/scenarios have to remain true, they just feel overwhelming to tackle whilst still swimming around in my head. Getting them out on paper makes it far easier to find a corresponding solution. It is shockingly easy to upgrade your personal expectations once you make a plan.
- The girls have never had a babysitter (that wasn’t family) and we don’t think now is exactly the right time to start. Not to mention we have a very excitable Golden Retriever puppy who can be a (major) handful for strangers. Happily we do have family coming to visit a couple of times over the next month or so and there have already been offers of babysitting. Knowing we can make some grown up plans has definitely alleviated some of the stress and given us something to look forward to.
- Make a hair appointment…just do it. Once it’s booked I’ll find the time.
- Ask for help with the blurb. I keep telling my editor ‘I’m on it’ I’m so not on it!! I need to be honest and ask for her help. It’s one email that will make me feel so much better. Sent.
- I need to stop trying to accomplish too much in not enough time. This is so obvious it’s embarrassing. I have three partial days per week, a simple schedule would create a much better balance.
- What do you do? I need an elevator speech – just trot out something coherent that I’m happy with and leave it at that. Hopefully this will not lead to further questioning…baby steps. Currently writing suggestions to try out on my no doubt bemused husband later.
- Just be honest – I like drinking skinny hot chocolates in Starbucks, generally alone whilst writing. If you see me doing that be assured I’m having a blast. If I’m feeling vaguely sociable I like walking by the beach with my family and our dog, as long as there’s no bickering (see, just be honest).
If you want to work on upgrading your personal expectations here’s how to make that all important start:
- List all your current bugbears. What are you putting off? What do you wish were different?
- See these issues for what they are – problems to be solved. There is nothing wrong with you or your life that can’t be made (even just slightly) better.
- Identify one action per issue that would help resolve the problem. For example: I can’t write the blurb for my book (because I suck at writing blurbs!) ACTION: Emailing my editor to admit that I suck writing blurbs and ask for help.
- Your first action may not solve the problem straight off, there may be more steps but you will have opened the door to moving forward. For example: I doubt my editor is going to simply write the blurb FOR me but she might offer to significantly tweak what I’ve got so far and work with me instead of expecting it to simply drop in her inbox all done.
- Create the wins you need to move forward – Clearing the decks seriously upgrades your expectations in mere minutes. Making the hair appointment, finding a hotel for our anticipated couples night away and sending the email to my editor took less than ten minutes but decimated my previously overwhelming list. I can now see the rest of the issues for what they are – troublesome but not impossible to overcome.
Writing out my list of issues is something I do fairly regularly, probably once a month, or whenever I start feeling like I can’t breath of sleep for all the things in my (ever so slightly muddled) brain.
Would this work for you?