How to Stop Expecting Too Much From Yourself

July 28, 2015 Fay Agathangelou

If you expect too much from yourself, you can harm your self-worth and confidence. Learn how to stop expecting too much from yourself and build self-esteem.

Expecting too much from yourself is damaging to your self-esteem and overall wellbeing. It's good to have high standards, but it's important to be reasonable with yourself. Expecting too much from yourself can be associated with disappointment, burnout, anxiety, and depression, as well as low self-esteem. It's therefore in your best interest to stop expecting too much from yourself.

Signs That You're Expecting Too Much From Yourself

  • Perfectionism -- setting standards that are unrealistic or unattainable; feeling that you're never good enough.
  • Not allowing yourself to make mistakes -- expecting to get it right the first time, or expecting to be good at everything you do.
  • Being overly critical of yourself -- focusing too much on your imperfections and mistakes; being hard on yourself, putting yourself down or overlooking your positives.
  • Setting goals according to other people’s expectations -- setting goals just because it's what's expected, without taking into account your own abilities, interests, and needs.
  • People pleasing -- putting other people's needs before your own, or trying to be everything to everyone; expecting to be liked by everyone, or trying to please particular people.
  • Excessive comparison to other people -- focusing too much on what others are doing and basing your worth in comparison to others.
  • Taking on too much -- wanting to do everything and needing to be constantly busy; not allowing time for rest, relaxation and leisure. This carries a real risk of burnout.
  • A constant need for achievement -- being dependent on achievements for a sense of worth.
  • Expecting to be 100% all the time -- expecting that you'll always be at your best.

How to Stop Expecting Too Much From Yourself

  • Let go of the need to be perfect. Set goals that are realistic and set a reasonable standard for "good enough." Allow yourself to make mistakes, and realize that these are part of the learning process. Everyone makes mistakes. Know that you don’t have to be good at everything, and it does take time to become good at something new. Just like learning to walk.
  • Stop comparing yourself to other people. Everyone has their own unique strengths, abilities, and journey in life. Stop basing your own worth in comparison to other people. Instead, embrace your individuality and be true to yourself.
  • Question your expectations. Ask yourself whether your expectations are in line with your own values, needs and who you are as a person. Or are they simply to please others.
  • Realise that you’re not superhuman. Trying to do everything for everyone is a recipe for disaster. Learn to prioritize, have appropriate boundaries and learn to say no. Do those things that are most important and give yourself time to rest and recuperate. Learn to delegate or drop those things that are a lesser priority and have more reasonable standards. It all comes back to letting go of perfection.
  • Understand that you're not the same all the time. We all have good and bad days. When you're unwell or going through a rough time, you naturally won't at your best. Even when you are well, your energy levels will fluctuate. If you're unwell, focus on recovering.
  • Let go of the need for constant achievement. Achievement can be a good thing; however, it’s important not to depend on it for your sense of self-worth. Look at how far you've come, rather than focusing too much on the destination. Enjoy the journey. Remember that self-worth is who you are inside regardless of externals such as achievements.
  • Challenge your inner critic. Fight the negativity and instead, focus on the positives about yourself and your life.
  • Learn to love yourself for who you are as a person. That’s what true self-worth is all about. Be kind to yourself because you are worth it.

Having reasonable and healthy expectations of yourself are important for a healthy self-esteem and fulfilling life. As always, there is help available and don't be afraid to get the help you need. You can learn to stop expecting too much from yourself, and build self-esteem.

You can find Fay Agathangelou on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and her website.

APA Reference
Agathangelou, F. (2015, July 28). How to Stop Expecting Too Much From Yourself, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Author: Fay Agathangelou

November, 29 2023 at 9:11 pm

This issue is that this is basically just saying to change your perspective on things, but it doesn't say how. I literally cry when I answer a question wrong, even if it's something we're actively learning. I can't just unlearn it like that. How??

Nevaeh B.
March, 30 2023 at 5:10 pm

In my head I lost out the things I want to do, or think I need to do in order to be healthy, fit, pretty, acceptable. But, when it comes to doing those things, I feel I don’t have the energy to do them. I come home from school and tell myself, “I’m going to do a workout!”. I get home and i look up a workout video to go along with, but never press play. Instead, I get a lump in my throat and a pit in my stomach because I know I should do it, but I just don’t want to. I feel exhausted the moment think about doing it after a long day of what feels like constant pressure, anxiety, and people pushing me to be something I don’t really want to be. But my voice is buried in the lump in my throat, so I do what they want, tire myself out, and leave no energy left for what feels right to ME.

March, 6 2023 at 11:23 am

I don't know who I am without these expectations.
I am so all or nothing too, it feels like I either have very high expectations or I have absolutely zero.
My childhood I was constantly 'on the grind' - studying, working, volunteering, helping my family out. I wasn't happy, but I met my expectations on the whole.
I then spent a couple of years very depressed, took time out of university, and essentially expected nothing from myself after burning myself out. I slowly built myself back up - I first got a part time job, then full time, then went back to university. I knew I had to manage my expectations and knew I couldn't live how I did as a teenager.
Somehow, a few months on - I had a few bad days, a few minor health issues and suddenly I feel like I am back in the hole again. The list of expectations I have failed gets longer and everything is a reminder. the point where it feels like everything feels so wrong or is a reminder of something I failed at. I am in my apartment - I look around and see rubbish, I'm a failure, I see the pile of books I haven't read, I'm a failure, I see the clothes I haven't washed, I'm a failure. I open my laptop to files I should have read or emails asking where I am, I'm a failure. I just want to scream.
I know I need to let go of these expectations for my wellbeing but
1) how? they're so ingrained...
2) I almost don't want to.
For the latter, it's because I almost feel it is my greatest asset as well. When I do something, I do it well. I can't not. At my job, everyone says I go 'above and beyond' but that's my bare minimum. My expectations mean things that others would find a lot of effort, is easy or common sense for me. I get awards, scholarships and internships. I also attempt suicide, self harm and get addicted to drugs. I don't want to let go of my expectations and become simply mediocre- I do not want to live like that.

March, 19 2023 at 8:11 pm

I am with you. I feel your pain. My image of myself is really dependent on what I accomplish. The expectations I have for myself are always to do more and try harder. I have a chronic inability to be satisfied with the status quo.
It is hard... but I've found it helpful to focus on the future and enjoy what you have. I think composing a new narrative for yourself may also help you. Instead of labeling yourself as the person who goes above and beyond, maybe think of yourself as someone who cares about what they do, but has boundaries

February, 16 2023 at 4:40 pm

I rarely ever have confidence and always have such high expectations for myself when playing basketball. Any time I have a bad day, I feel like quitting but I don’t because I don’t know what I would do without basketball.

Jamie S.
January, 14 2020 at 3:33 pm

I have only recently became aware and honest with myself that this is a big problem for me and is a cause of a lot of my depression and anxiety. Is there any good books perhaps workbooks even on this?

January, 14 2020 at 3:43 pm

Hi Jamie,
Thank you for reaching out with your comment. For resources and ways to get help, please see our list of recommended mental health books: In addition, since you mentioned this tends to cause you to feel depressed and anxious, here is more information on both anxiety and depression that could be useful to you:… and….
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
Blog Manager

January, 15 2019 at 8:36 pm

Funny thing...past 18 months or so I have been struggling with stress, anxiety and depression. This period has cooincided with me starting to learn the guitar. I have set the bar so high for myself that I've been in this perpetual state of anxiety around the prospect of failure. I've now recognised this and am in the process of nutting out a strategy to be able to play guitar without having to be the next jimi Hendrix. I must say this is a repeating pattern for me in everything that I do.

January, 12 2019 at 8:55 am

It's definetely true, and i had go through it, feels so good rn
Nice blog lovely to read :)

December, 29 2018 at 11:19 pm

This is important message. I have same problem where no matter how much I work hard and how much effort I put into something, I feel not enough, not good enough etc. I have these few things in life as they must not happen otherwise it’s just unacceptable. Does this sound like being too harsh on oneself and aiming for perfection? I also have tendency of comparing with others which I am working on. I understand I am smart guy but I don’t know how and why I picked up this need to be perfect need. I struggle with this issue. Thank you

October, 15 2015 at 9:33 am

"r says:
July 28, 2015 at 9:09 pm
If I didn’t set high expectations for myself and strive to achieve them I would have a mediocre life. That may be okay for some people but not for me. Self esteem comes from believing in yourself. Being able to say pooh pooh to the nay sayers. If you have a vision, I say go for it!
What if the professionals we rely on, such doctors, teachers, etc were to settle for less? Where would we all be???"
i agree a lot. I have goals for myself, there is stuff i want to achieve. I am just in a dumb circle where i try my hardest fail fall in to depression try again and fall even deeper. People just tell me to accept that i am not good at anything, give up those things, try less. They tell me to give up my dreams.. i know all this hurts me a lot. I know i am over training and over studying hurting my body but still isnt it what you must do to success?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Fay Agathangelou
October, 15 2015 at 5:53 pm

Hi Filiz, Thanks for your comment, I'm glad you raised that. Having goals is great, and it's definitely important to be challenging yourself. It's good to be trying new things.
The issue is that expecting too much can be setting yourself up for failure, or hurting yourself in the process. Falling into depression is a warning sign that you need to reconsider the way you think/do things. It's important to have goals that are realistic and attainable. You will achieve the most when you have healthy expectations. Overdoing it and hurting your body is actually counter-productive and you will end up achieving less because of it. It's a form of self-sabotage.
I would definitely reconsider how you define success. You can achieve a lot without hurting yourself.
If you are continually overdoing it and not feeling good about yourself, it might be helpful to talk to a therapist. They can help you work on the underlying issues and having healthier expectations.
A recent article on perfectionism might be helpful:
How to Stop Being a Perfectionist…
I hope that's helpful.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 18 2018 at 4:31 pm

Hey filiz
My girlfriend is having the exact same problem that you discribed. She is smart and studies at university but she has very high expectations toward herself. She expects to become a great scientist and be renowned etc and i dont even believe she cant do it, in fact i do believe she can achieve this (given time and work). But it saddens me to see her feeling down because of it. I dont know what to tell her when she is down because whatever i say or no matter how many times i say i believe in her it doesnt help. I tried to encourage her to follow her dreams but at the same time i dont want her to feel like she cant achieve anything. Did you find anything these past 3 years that could help her? From reading your comment i believe you might understand very well how she feels. Any advice is welcome

August, 4 2015 at 2:09 am

Expectation leads into black hole spiral of depression, I also realize teens are most effected from it, they live a very isolated life.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 19 2018 at 9:58 am

Today's teens have NO high expectations and have too much self esteem for accomplishing NOTHING!

January, 20 2019 at 11:34 am

That's not true. You don't know, what most teens are going through - most of them are just good at hiding.

John doe
April, 8 2022 at 4:26 pm

Are you joking. Teens, especially in today's society, with all the social media, have so much pressure from everyone, even people they haven't met! Don't even forget school, the pressure to get high scores, become popular, to fit with the trends! And trends change every week, imagine that. Social media has created this perception that you have to be loved by everyone. I really hope you don't have children. People like you are the reason that teenagers don't feel like they can talk to anyone. Today, schools give the idea that your whole life depends on how well you do on certain exams. You will never understand how hard they have it.

January, 4 2023 at 2:01 am

I appreciate this comment more than you understand. As a 17 year old it’s very comforting to see there are people who understand that being a teen in todays world isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be.

July, 28 2015 at 4:09 pm

If I didn't set high expectations for myself and strive to achieve them I would have a mediocre life. That may be okay for some people but not for me. Self esteem comes from believing in yourself. Being able to say pooh pooh to the nay sayers. If you have a vision, I say go for it!
What if the professionals we rely on, such doctors, teachers, etc were to settle for less? Where would we all be???

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Fay Agathangelou
July, 28 2015 at 5:35 pm

Hello r,
Thanks very much for your comment. It's great how you've not settled for mediocrity in your life. Setting high standards and striving for achievement are very different from expecting perfection. Having goals that are attainable, realistic and true to yourself are a good thing.
I agree with your point that "self-esteem comes from believing in yourself....etc". Having the confidence to go for your vision and believing in yourself are so important.

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