I tend to worry a lot about doing the right thing. When I was little, this worry dominated my thoughts. There were a lot of rules and restrictions to consider. My parents, teachers, and church had a bunch of expectations for how I should act and behave. Navigating these rules was difficult, and I often felt like I missed the mark.
As I grew older and became more independent, I still struggled to make decisions, trying to incorporate the rules and expectations of others. Even though I was an adult and didn’t technically have to follow the guidelines of others, I had internalized a set of rules and expectations for myself, and I felt guilty when I fell short. Also, I experienced conflict when my own internal wants conflicted with the expectations of others. Sometimes the expectations were so strong, it was difficult for me to identify what I wanted for myself.
Maybe you can connect with this struggle. Do you find it difficult to figure out what you want to do in a particular situation? Do you experience conflict between your own wants and the expectations of others? Do you feel like following your own wants and desires are selfish, if they conflict with the wants of others?
One simple intervention that has helped me navigate these struggles is to ask myself the following question: What is in my best interests? I try to pretend like I am a counselor or close friend, observing the situation from a neutral perspective. From this perspective, what is in my best interests? What route would serve me best in regard to my own well-being and personal growth?
Asking this question can lead to different answers. Sometimes it is clear that I am being pulled in a direction that is different than what is best for me. When this happens, the right way forward is to let go of the expectations of others, and move forward on my own path. Other times, I recognize that there is some wisdom in setting aside my own immediate want for the good of a relationship, or a long-term goal of mine. When this happens, I’m able to move forward in that direction, knowing that it is ultimately in my best interests.
Discussion: Do you struggle with balancing your own wants with the expectations of others? Try to ask yourself what is in your best interest, and see what happens.