Jumping Off the Expectations Shame Merry-Go-Round

Up and at em’ – today is going to be a good day. Or at least that’s what I tell myself bright and early on Saturday morning, intending to be productive. I tell Alexa to play my favorite playlist and pour a large cup of coffee, ready to tackle the day and that never-ending to-do list.

But somehow, my plan for productivity goes out the window and I am no longer in control of my day.

Interruption after interruption. I find myself having to referee my children, get someone a snack, or change a diaper. I sometimes feel completely defeated before 2 PM, and I have little to show for it.

The belief that I should have accomplished more can result in a feeling of failure. I replay the day, thinking of the all the things I could have done differently. I also try to make a plan (possibly unrealistically) for how tomorrow can be better.

In other words, I am caught on an expectations shame merry-go-round.

I Don’t Want to be on this Ride!

Expectations shame is the feeling that you haven’t been productive enough. It really doesn’t matter how many tasks you complete or how many hours you work on your to-do list — it never seems to feel adequate enough. We carry around the guilt associated with the work we didn’t get done.

We feel guilty, as if spending time watching a movie, working on a hobby, or scrolling through TikTok is a bad thing, when there may be other work to be done. This merry-go-round of expectations creates a cycle of not feeling good enough. Not feeling productive enough can cause us to be less productive, which in turn results in more guilt and shame.

Associating Self-Worth with Tasks Completed

The more you get done, the better you feel about yourself. Sadly, our self-esteem and self-worth fluctuate based on how much we accomplish in a day. There will always be interruptions and distractions though, and we rarely accomplish everything that we set out to do. Does this mean we should feel a sense of shame every single day, never feeling like what we accomplished was good enough?

Setting the Bar Too High

When our to-do list is unmanageable and unrealistic, we become discouraged and overwhelmed at the lack of progress. We tend to focus on the end task instead of the daily progress we are making in order to achieve the goal. In other words, we don’t feel successful until the task is fully completed.

Social Media Dilemma: Thinking everyone else is doing more

Social media magnifies the feeling that your best isn’t good enough. We are constantly bombarded with “perfect mom” posts. It is so easy to go down a social media rabbit hole of comparing our lives with others. This behavior just sets us on a path of deep shame and envy.

So how do we stop this cycle?

Jump off the merry-go-round

Associating productivity with the number of boxes checked off the daily to-do list can definitely create the feeling that you didn’t accomplish enough. Instead, we should disconnect our self-worth from the tasks on our to-do list.

Effective, realistic goal-setting has a few simple steps. Ask yourself what you want to achieve and if it’s reasonable. What specific actions will you take to accomplish the goal? What is your reason for wanting to perform this task? If you don’t have a compelling reason, you won’t have the needed motivation to get it done.

We tend to treat productivity as a competition that has a trophy at the end. We are not robots!  Don’t expect 100% productivity every day. It is important to ignore the guilt and harmful mentality of not being good enough or not getting enough done. We must disconnect self-worth from accomplishments, set realistic goals, and appreciate the small steps instead of the final results.

Elizabeth Boudreaux
Elizabeth and her husband Nicholas have been married for 13 years. They live in Geismar with their 3 children, Addison (9), Parker (5), and Laurel (2). She is from Franklin, LA and moved to Baton Rouge after receiving her Master’s in Business Administration from Southeastern Louisiana University. She is a Budget Administrator for the Department of Public Safety. She relies on sarcasm, a dry sense of humor, and the occasional cocktail to deal with the daily demands of motherhood. She loves crawfish, clean sheets, vacuuming, and the latest crime documentary on Netflix.


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