By Jerrica Ching
Farewell to the first month of 2016! Just as some of you pointed out throughout the month of January, I too am the type of person who typically will have the same resolutions year after year. I have noticed however that after each year, the expectations that I have for myself to follow through with resolutions have become much more realistic. When the expectations for myself are reasonable, I am much more likely to follow through.
As a therapist I work with many teens and young adults experiencing intense anxiety resulting from not being able to meet the expectations they set for themselves. Clients will describe being able to initially follow through with expectations, such as turning in homework on time, balancing school with part-time jobs, attending all extracurricular activities, etc. The majority of my clients describe their successes and accomplishments with sentiments such as, “I feel amazing!” “I felt so productive!” or “I’ve been feeling happier than usual!” A few sessions later however, clients will describe to me uncertainty, loss of direction, and worry, telling me things like, “I have more things to do now so I’m not sure if I can get everything done…” “I wanted to be a good friend so I offered my help but I think I should’ve said no” or “I thought I could do it, but I think I was just kidding myself – this is too much.”
A supervisor and I recently had a discussion about how people so often strive for perfection and completion, instead of striving for long-term commitment and maintenance. It feels great to check off all of the things on a daily to-do list, to cram three tasks into a fifteen-minute window, and then to share all of our accomplishments with friends. In the long run however, it is a healthier practice to accept that there will be times when the expectations that you set for yourself are not met. It’s also healthy to accept that just because expectations not met, this does not mean you are incapable, incompetent, or unsuccessful. Committing to resetting is like committing to a marathon race; there will be times when you can sprint as fast as you can, but there are also times where you will need to slow down to maintain your energy, stop on the side to retie your shoelaces, or slow down to a walk. Committing to perfection is more like committing to multiple 100-yard dashes; you need a burst of energy to get to your goal, but having to do it over and over again would most likely result in physical and mental exhaustion.
I remind my clients, as well as myself, that committing to resetting as opposed to committing to perfection can alleviate anxiety, improve confidence, and ensure long-term success. Expect that there may be times when you do not feel as productive as you were yesterday, but realize that this is part of your marathon. Expect that there will be times to reset throughout the year, and expect that you will always make it through.
Jerrica KF Ching lives in the beautiful state of Washington and works as a Mental Health Primary Care Provider serving children, adolescents, and their families at Columbia Wellness. She graduated with an MA in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling from George Fox University and is working towards becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist.