Counselor's Corner: Letting Go of Rigid Expectations
By Margaret Heaton-Ashby, LMFT
I am recalling a conversation I had with a client who suffers from chronic pain. She was spending a great deal of her energy doing daily household chores and keeping things around the house in shape all day. This resulted in her becoming exhausted by the time her loved ones came home. She often didn’t have energy left for things she enjoyed or that were meaningful for her.
Come to find out she was consumed by the belief that her worth was dependent upon her household chore productivity. As we explored and challenged this unhelpful belief, we worked to help the client see that she is valued for more than just her ability to clean or do chores and housekeeping. We even helped her to consider that she is valued for many other ways in which she contributes to her home and family. We continued on encouraging the client to challenge this unhelpful belief and replace it with a more realistic/helpful belief. How would her days be different? How would she choose to use her energy?
Our conversation shifted to incorporate concepts of pacing, self-care, and meaning. She expressed interest in moderating her energy output while incorporating pacing and mindfully working within her limits during the day so she would have more energy left to share with her loved ones when they returned home at the end of the day. These concepts provided her a more meaningful and self-valued use of her energy.
This was not an easy conversation to have. We had to directly face the perfectionist mentality that was running her life. We had to explore the unrealistic expectations that this mentality was forcing her to believe and consequently, how it was impacting her behaviors.