Are High Expectations for Yourself Causing Your Anxiety?

If you have high expectations for yourself, chances are those expectations are causing at least part of your anxiety. When we expect too much of ourselves, we push ourselves to "do" beyond what the human brain and body are supposed to be reasonably capable of. Maybe we sleep less. Or don't take the time to prepare and sit down to a healthy meal. Exercise might go by the wayside, and who has time to relax and read or enjoy a hobby? Sacrificing physically and mentally healthy living to meet demands and high expectations can cause significant anxiety and stress. 

Are Your Expectations for Yourself Too High? Ask Yourself These 4 Questions

Are your expectations for yourself too high? Knowing what's driving your decisions and thoughts can help you determine if you're expecting too much of yourself and inadvertently causing anxiety. Ask yourself these four questions and answer them thoughtfully.

  1. How much are you led by "shoulds," perfectionism, or a need to perform better than everyone else?
  2. Do you make decisions out of guilt, to make up for ways you think you're not good enough?
  3. What is your sense of purpose? Does it involve going non-stop in your long-waking hours, trying to be perfect in all that you do?
  4. Where are your thoughts? Are they in the present moment or are they largely in the future?

Cultivate a Life Without High Expectations, Anxiety

Your answers to the above questions will help you know if you need to change your expectations and in what areas to do so. This often involves more reflection so you can lead a values-driven life that makes you feel both accomplished and peaceful. Mindfulness is a helpful tool in shifting the expectations you impose upon your self. Focus your mind on the present moment, the moment you are in, and allow yourself to live fully and freely in that moment. Work to accomplish your goals, but do one thing at a time only in your here-and-now.

You'll still have responsibilities and expectations, but you don't have to let them be so high that they control your life. If you're worried that adjusting your expectations means lowering your standards below a level that you consider acceptable, know that that's not the case. I invite you to tune into the video to learn why adjusting your expectations doesn't mean reducing your standards. Discover, too, how to keep your expectations mentally healthy and reduce stress and anxiety,  

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, June 27). Are High Expectations for Yourself Causing Your Anxiety?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Frank Dudis
December, 2 2020 at 8:47 pm

Can a person's anxiety be over stimulated by thoughts of the expectation of others?

December, 3 2020 at 5:50 pm

Hi Frank,
Absolutely! External pressures expectations from others most definitely contribute to anxiety. Sometimes, expectations might be unrealistically high. Other times, they might clash with what you want for yourself and your life. Other times, we think that others expect certain things from us and we conclude that we can't or don't want to meet them. This can contribute to a host of anxious thoughts and feelings about yourself, others, and your life. It can lead to excessive worries about the future and what might happen in your relationships, career, finances, or general life satisfaction. Everyone's anxiety in this area is unique, so your experiences might be slightly different than what I've mentioned here. Do know, though, that outside expectations (whether they're actual expectations or your own assumptions and thoughts about them) can definitely cause anxiety. It can often be helpful to work with a therapist to explore what, exactly, is going on, why it's happening, what you want to do about it, and how to go about reducing this anxiety.

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