Many years ago at the start of a live performance by the gifted comedians Lano and Woodley, the audience was instructed to do something that we were told would magnify our enjoyment of the evening enormously. We were told to join hands, close our eyes and…lower our expectations.
My husband adopted this very quickly as a bit of a mantra for life but I resisted for years, not really understanding the real meaning, the profound truth that was contained in this seemingly comic act. It was only after years of suffering because I didn’t conform to my own exacting standards, or not attempting stuff because it would never be good enough, that I understood how lowering my expectations makes a difference.
In a recent post, Jen Louden (and more of her later this week) explained what she means by lowering expectations and as I couldn’t do it any better myself, I am quoting her here:
Lowering your standards might sound like I’m saying “go ahead, do sloppy work” or “sure, watch another five episodes of House of Cards.” …That’s not lowering your standards. That’s resignation. Or collapsing.
Lowering your standards means removing the deadly weight of perfectionism, of standards so impossibly high you never meet them or, if you do, you raise the bar and keep going. No rest, no recognition, and forget celebration or satisfaction.
Lowering your standards is remembering that to be human means to be flawed. It is to learn to grow down into the truer shape of your real life, not the glossy fantasy life you keep thinking will arrive… someday. Nor is it to live a stunted life of less than true, less than what you desire.
Lowering your standards fosters progress in a human-scaled, mindful way. “This is what I can do right now and I’m doing it.”
She writes here about Conditions of Enoughness which is closely related. I also relate it to Brene Brown’s wise counsel to embrace self compassion rather than setting ridiculous standards of perfection. And my experience has been that practising more compassion towards myself has really helped me to be more genuinely compassionate to others.
It’s hard to know how to pictorially illustrate lowering your expectations so I am just including this photo of something that totally exceeded my expectations – our wonderful Lake Mungo National Park!