Each one of us is trying to be someone that we are not. We try to mould ourselves into an ideal image, often ignoring or turning our back on who we really are. Attempting to become this ideal image is not possible. It is like chasing a mirage. Similarly, we expect others to fit in with our image of them and meet those expectations. We tell ourselves “others owe it to me to live up to my expectations, whether I’m right or wrong.” Soon life becomes a nightmare of obligations – determined by a virtual law of conditional acceptance – one that we place on others and that others place on us.

However, if you will stop torturing yourself “for not being good enough, for not being perfect”; and instead accept that it is natural to make mistakes, feel insecure, unsure and scared, then you will be free to accept yourself and the world the way it is. Instead of focusing on your perceived weaknesses, reflect on what good is in you and nurture it.

There is a range of shoulds and shouldn’ts, ought tos and ought not tos, musts and mustn’ts that stops us from freely accepting ourselves and others. Some of these are:

  • I must be nice to everybody. Everybody must be nice to me.
  • I must not have any needs of my own. Others must sense my needs without my having to tell them.
  • I must not ask for what I want. Others must not ask for what they want.
  • Others must know what I want without my telling them.
  • I must give in to others’ needs always. Others must appreciate me when I give in to their needs. And, in turn give in to my needs.
  • I must be feminine. I must be manly.
  • I must be self-effacing. Others must be self-effacing.
  • Others mustn’t reject me.  Others mustn’t criticise me.
  • Others must understand my point, etc.

Exercise: Identify some of the expectations / conditions you place on others and that others place on you.  Ask yourself if these are valid expectations.  If yes, build on it.  If no, reject it.